By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The amount of preparation a white supremacist group put into starting a riot at a LGBT Pride event in Idaho this weekend shocked law enforcement, the local police chief said on Monday.
One current and one former Cheyenne resident were two of 31 men, identified as members of the white supremacist group “Patriot Front,” who were arrested in Couer d’Alene on Saturday and accused of conspiring to riot at the event.
The 31 were riding in a U-Haul van that was stopped by police because of a tip a person had seen an “army” loading up in the vehicle. When they were arrested, the men were wearing what was described as riot gear and a smoke grenade and riot shields were found in the vehicle.
Couer d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a news conference on Monday that while law enforcement knew after receiving the tip they would be stepping into a dangerous situation, they were surprised they were surprised at how well-prepared the men were.
“We knew that we would be facing a crowd of people who might pose some difficulty for us,” White said. “I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment that was carried and worn by those individuals, along with the large amount of equipment that was left in the van when the stop happened.
“That level of preparation is not something you see every day…it was clear to us there was some ill intent there,” he continued.
He said that all 31 of the involved men are currently charged with conspiring to riot, a misdemeanor. If they do not arrive for their scheduled court dates, a warrant will be issued for their arrests.
White could not comment on whether the men would see federal charges from the incident or whether the Patriot Front had connections to other far right groups.
White said the Saturday arrest was an example of one person speaking up when seeing something suspicious, preventing a potentially dangerous situation.
“One concerned citizen can prevent something horrible from happening,” he said.
James Michael Johnson, 40, who worked as a senior auditor for the Wyoming Department of Audit as of late 2021, was one of the men charged. Johnson now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to police records.
Also among the 31 arrested was Dylan Carter Corio, 21, who resides in Cheyenne.
Both Johnson and Corio posted bond on Sunday.
Rumors began circulating online over the weekend after the arrests that the men were not actually Patriot Front members, but part of “Antifa,” a left-wing political movement that denounces fascism and has become known for violent confrontations.
White confronted the claims head-on during the news conference, telling reporters that he would be transparent about whatever group the men were members of, no matter the political ideology.
“We’re required to remain completely apolitical and neutral, and that’s what we do in our jobs,” he said. “That’s what we did in this enforcement action. Whether the van was loaded with people who are part of that far right group or Antifa, it would be handled exactly the same.”