After dozens of Neo-Nazis were arrested with riot gear near an Idaho Pride event this weekend, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown announced Monday that officials have “shored up” intelligence-gathering efforts ahead of the city’s planned festivities as he “put those who might be planning something on notice.”
Thirty-one members of Patriot Front, a neo-Nazi group that has rallied in Chicago, were arrested Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after they were found riding in a U-Haul truck that contained riot gear, shields, shin guards and a smoke grenade. Among those arrested was Garret Joseph Garland, 23, of Freeburg, a tiny village in southwestern Illinois near St. Louis.
Brown said officers on a Joint Terrorism Task Force are working with the FBI and other federal agencies to gather intelligence and monitor for individuals on watchlists ahead of the June 26 Pride Parade, the city’s premier celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We want our officers to be focused on not only the intelligence that they’re hearing about what’s happening in Chicago, [but] any potential threats so that we can have those addressed so we can have anyone who might do harm to anyone there dealt with swiftly,” he told reporters at a news conference.
Brown added that resources deployed to upcoming special events should be tied directly to any new information, which he said shouldn’t be “siloed” within that task force.
He said he had a message for anyone considering disrupting the parade: “We are going to be vigilant to ensure that this event, as well as others, go off safely,” he said. “And we’ll hold you accountable if you’re planning [and] if you’re doing anything to jeopardize the safety of others.”
Over the past two years, large groups of Patriot Front members have held flash mobs and showed up at anti-abortion events in Chicago. Most recently, dozens of members of the far-right group faced heckling in January when they gathered at the March for Life rally in the Loop. As in Idaho, they showed up wearing the group’s uniform, which includes white, face-obscuring balaclavas.
Patriot Front has also recently spread propaganda in Tinley Park, Naperville and other parts of Illinois, according to the group’s Telegram channel. And in April, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Garland was among four members of Patriot Front who allegedly vandalized a mural of famous Black Americans at Washington University in St. Louis.
He was charged with criminal conspiracy in connection to this weekend’s incident in Idaho, according to Kootenai County Jail records. He was was no longer listed as a detainee on Monday.
David Goldenberg, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s midwest office, said Patriot Front aims to “reclaim the United States as a white nation” and typically attempts to “co-opt” conservative events. Yet the targeting of the Pride event in Idaho appears to be a first, said Goldenberg, who noted that those on the far-right are baselessly attempting to associate the LGBTQ+ community with pedophilia.
“It’s fueling a recent spike in anti-Pride events and propaganda that we’ve seen,” he said. “It’s driven by hate, it’s driven by malice, it’s driven by misinformation and lies. And so it’s important to be aware of what’s occurring on the ground.”
That playbook was on full display Saturday in San Lorenzo, Calif., where members of the neofascist Proud Boys allegedly shouted “tranny” and “pedophile” during a Drag Queen Story Hour at a library. No arrests were made but officials are investigating the disruption as a possible hate crime and harassment of children, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The Proud Boys, some of whom are facing serious criminal charges for their alleged roles in the Capitol Riot, have a growing contingent in and around Chicago. In November, members of the group joined an ultimately failed effort to ban “Gender Queer” — a graphic novel by a nonbinary author — from the libraries at two high schools in Downers Grove.
Goldenberg said recent events show the group is apparently increasing it’s anti-LGBTQ push.
“We have to be aware of it, and law enforcement needs to understand it,” he said. “They need to be monitoring it, they need to be tracking it and, frankly, those who are attempting to do what occurred in Idaho need to be arrested, just like they were.”