On June 11, a U-Haul moving truck in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was pulled over by multiple law enforcement agencies. In the back of the truck they found 31 men, allegedly associated with the far right white supremacist group, Patriot Front.
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The men, all dressed in similar clothes — khaki pants, blue shirts and white masks that obscured their faces except for the eyes, also were carrying shields and riot gear.
All 31 were arrested on "suspicion of conspiring to riot," at a “Pride in the Park” event to be held that same afternoon.
Three of the 31 men arrested that day had come from the Denver Metro Area. They have been identified as Conor Ryan, 23, of Thornton; Nathan Brenner, 26, of Louisville and Forrest Rankin, 28, of Wheat Ridge.
According to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, the traffic stop was the result of a tip from a concerned citizen who saw the men loading into the truck. The caller said the men looked like “a little army.”
An uncomfortable truth
White nationalist groups and their members are not new to Colorado. In fact, the metro area has a long, complicated history with race.
Five-term Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan. After initially disavowing the group while running for his first term in 1923, he changed course — wholeheartedly embracing his association with them, as he was facing a tough recall election the following year.
In his book "Hooded Empire: the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado," author Robert Alan Goldberg describes Stapleton’s close ties to the group.
"On July 14, 1924, Mayor Stapleton addressed a Klan gathering on South Table Mountain and reaffirmed his commitment: 'I have little to say, except that I will work with the Klan and for the Klan in the coming election, heart and soul. And if I am reelected, I shall give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.'"
What about now?
The Southern Poverty Law Center was started in 1971 with the idea of dismantling Jim Crow era injustices that were still occurring in the South, despite passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Today, according to statements on its website, SPLC continues that mission, while also tracking white supremacist activity throughout the country. In fact, a link to an interactive map of organizations it classifies as ‘hate groups’ can be found on the SPLC website’s home page.
Colorado is home to 18 of those groups — more than Wyoming, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico combined.
One of the groups listed on the SPLC map is Lakewood-based Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform. Among other things, the group's website promotes debunked stolen 2020 election narratives and numerous tales the Great Replacement Theory — widely reported to be a motivating in the recent mass shooting in a Buffalo, NY grocery store that took the lives of 10 mostly Black victims.
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