Six members of Patriot Front pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to riot during Pride event in Coeur d'Alene

·3 min read

Jul. 19—Six members of the white supremacist hate group Patriot Front pleaded not guilty in a Kootenai County courtroom on Monday to conspiracy to riot in Coeur d'Alene during a Pride celebration on June 11.

Connor P. Moran, 23, of Watauga, Texas; Dakota Tabler, 29, of West Valley City, Utah; Derek J. Smith, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Josiah D. Buster, 24, of Watauga, Texas; Mishael Buster, 22, of Spokane; Justin M. Oleary, 27, of Des Moines, Washington, all appeared before Judge Robert Caldwell via Zoom.

Thirty-one members of the group were discovered in the back of a Uhaul truck less than a quarter-mile away from the North Idaho Pride in the Park's annual celebration, which they intended to disrupt, according to court documents. The remaining 25 members of the group are scheduled for arraignments through the end of August.

Conspiracy to riot is a misdemeanor and could mean up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine or two years probation, Caldwell said in court.

All six of the men who appeared on Monday said that they would be hiring an attorney to represent them. They did not make any additional statements during the arraignment.

Spokane connections

At least three of the men who pleaded not guilty on Monday have connections to Spokane.

Brothers Josiah Buster and Mishael Buster both graduated from Rogers High School.

Mishael Buster also has ties to former Washington legislator Matt Shea, who was expelled from the House Republican caucus after an investigation found he engaged in domestic terrorism. Mishael Buster can be seen in a live stream of Shea's church, On Fire Ministries.

Neither of the Buster brothers has an apparent criminal background.

Moran also has a background in Spokane as a student at Shadle Park High School. He appears to share a home address with Mishael Buster in Watauga, Texas. Watauga is about a 20-minute drive to Grapevine, Texas, where the group's founder, Thomas Rousseau, claims to live.

Moran does not have an apparent criminal background in Spokane except for a speeding ticket issued in 2020.

A history of hate

Patriot Front is perhaps best known for its efforts to spread racist propaganda through stickering, banner drops, and vandalism.

The group was founded after it broke off from another group, Vanguard America, in the aftermath of the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Its membership spans the country.

The group's stickers, which combine racist propaganda with hyper-patriotic slogans, have appeared in the Inland Northwest in the past.

Public records released in late June showed that Coeur d'Alene Police were aware of Patriot Front's activities in the city after a North Idaho College security officer reported seeing the group's stickers around the campus in May 2021. Patriot Front stickering was reported several more times throughout that summer, as well as in Hayden and in Post Falls, documents revealed.

Patriot Front also has a history of using Uhaul trucks in "flash-mob" demonstrations in cities throughout the U.S. (The group was most recently seen in Boston on July 2.)

'Confrontational dynamic'

Coeur d'Alene Police were tipped off by a concerned citizen who saw the group loading into the truck at the Spring Hill Suites on June 11.

Police discovered the 31 men inside the back of the Uhaul carrying riot gear, loud speakers and a smoke grenade, purportedly on their way to confront the Pride celebration.

In addition, police found a document with strategic locations, "drill times," "prep times," "observation windows," and "GPS coordinates for a drop point with two backup plans." Their exit strategy was to be implemented "once an appropriate amount of time and confrontational dynamic has been established," the document said.

Pride in the Park continued without disruption as police detained the Patriot Front members nearby.

The group had bonded out of jail on $300 each that weekend.

In one of the group's propaganda videos, Patriot Front members can be seen distributing materials in downtown Coeur d'Alene after their arrest. In the video, Rousseau said that the group would return to Coeur d'Alene.