‘It feels frightening’: Coeur d’Alene community ‘on edge’ following arrests of Patriot Front members
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene community feels anxious knowing that a group of white nationalists walked their streets over the weekend.
The Coeur d’Alene Police Department arrested 31 men that were later identified as part of Patriot Front, a white nationalist group. Those 31 men came from 11 different states across the country. Each person was arrested for conspiracy to riot.
Police Chief Lee White says they found shin guards, shields, a smoker grenade and some papers similar to an operations plan. He has reason to believe they planned to not just riot in the city park where Pride in the Park was happening, but to also go down the streets of downtown.
“As a community, we were continually on edge. It feels sad, it feels frightening,” said Blair Williams, owner of The Art Spirit Gallery of Fine Art in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Seeing those videos and pictures as well as hearing about the arrests put Williams back decades. She was in North Idaho when the Aryan Nations came through.
“It brings back those sad memories of those days gone by that I had hoped, as many had our community has long since passed,” she said.
Williams chose to participate in Pride in the Park this past Saturday. She knew there were safety concerns, knowing that the Panhandle Patriots were also holding its ‘Gun d’Alene’ event nearby.
She told her staff they didn’t have to come to the pride event if they didn’t want to. However, she did talk to her staff at the gallery where they could hide if something were to happen.
In addition to that, Williams talked with her 14-year-old daughter that morning as well, as her daughter works in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
“Before sending her out the door, [I had] the talk of – ‘If something horrible begins to happen, I need you to A, figure out the best place to hide, or B, figure out where the best place is to flee,'” she said. ” That’s a conversation I never thought I’d have to have with my 14-year-old going to work at a pastry shop.”
Since last summer, Anthony Herrera, the general manager of Blackwell Gallery, allowed his staff to carry a firearm to work if they were licensed. Last summer, Coeur d’Alene saw groups of people walking around armed, saying they’d ‘protect Idaho’ if anything were to happen while Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated.
After that, Herrera also discussed safety protocols and exit plans with his staff if anything were to happen.
“We made sure that was implemented so everybody could come to work knowing they’re safe just to be able to make a living,” he said.
Over the weekend while both events were happening, Herrera talked with his customers about what they were seeing on the streets. He tells us he wasn’t too concerned, knowing what to expect, though he was still worried for his staff and others.
“It was more or less concern for the community. I didn’t want any tension, any more risen tension on either side because they have their own beliefs and opinions, more for my customers and the community as a whole,” Herrera said.
4 News Now talked to several businesses on Sherman Avenue that did not want to comment on camera. One place said it closed down on Saturday for several reasons, including staffing shortages. However, it was also concerned about the outcome of both events. Another business owner told 4 News Now it’s tired of Coeur d’Alene making national news because of White nationalists coming to North Idaho.
4 News Now also reached out to the North Idaho Pride Alliance as well as Love Lives Here CDA and the Human Rights Education Institute. We either did not hear back from them or were told they didn’t want to put out a statement due to fear of saying the wrong thing, not wanting to interfere with any investigations or needed a break due to the weekend events.
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