Patriot Front member testifies
Staff Writer | August 11, 2023 1:08 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — A member of white nationalist group Patriot Front took the stand Thursday.
It was the last day of testimony in the trial of Kieran Morris and Wesley Van Horn, who are accused of planning to incite a riot during a Pride celebration in City Park last year. They have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to riot by disturbing the public peace, a misdemeanor.
Van Horn, 35, of Lexington, Ala., said he wanted to explain why he and 30 other Patriot Front members came to Coeur d’Alene last summer.
“My intent that day was to peacefully assemble with my brothers and stand in opposition of what was going on in the park,” he said.
Van Horn said he climbed into the back of a U-Haul truck without knowing precisely where the group was headed or what event they would protest. But he said he would help direct the group after they rolled into City Park.
There were scouts already downtown, Van Horn said, relaying information to the Patriot Front members in the van as they approached.
Upon reaching the park, the group would deploy from the truck and form ranks, with those bearing shields on the perimeter and those carrying flags in the center.
“Once we exit the van and form up, it creates a pretty big visual impact and draws attention,” Van Horn said.
The purpose of the shields was threefold, he said: to get attention from those in the park, to deter others from approaching them and to defend against physical harm.
Morris had a smoke canister, Van Horn said, which he would deploy at his discretion to create additional spectacle.
Documents seized by police described plans to form a column and “proceed inward until barriers to approach are met,” which Van Horn said could be police or physical barricades. The group would establish a “confrontational dynamic,” then leave the park and head down Sherman Avenue.
Patriot Front never made it to the park. After a 911 caller reported seeing “a little army” piling into a U-Haul truck, police detained and ultimately arrested the 31 Patriot Front members.
In court Thursday, defense counsel referred to a transcribed recording made in the back of the box truck, before police arrived.
“There’s not going to be any opportunity for getting testy with physical responses, so mind your Ps and Qs,” Morris reportedly said.
“Remember, guys,” Van Horn added. “Most importantly, remain calm at all times. Stay collected.”
“Keep your mouths shut,” Morris said.
In an audio clip not played for the jury, Morris said something more after directing the group to stay quiet.
“As Tom said, he’s got plenty of vitriol for us all,” he went on, apparently referring to Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau, who planned to deliver a speech in City Park.
Van Horn said he didn’t know the contents of Rousseau’s speech until it was entered as an exhibit during trial. Still, he testified he was willing to let Rousseau “speak for him” that day in Coeur d’Alene.
In a recent trial of five other Patriot Front members, prosecutors read from Rousseau’s speech, which reportedly decried “predatory acts of homosexuals” and “drug-addled freaks” and described the U.S. as a “deranged whorehouse.”
Patriot Front planned to use banners, chants and flyers to promote their ideology at the Pride celebration, Van Horn said.
They carried with them a banner emblazoned with the words “strong families make strong nations.” Van Horn defined strong families as ones comprised of a mother, father and children that don’t “succumb to divorce.”
Patriot Front’s publicly available manifesto argues that only people of European descent are American and all others are foreign to this country.
The manifesto features a quote written by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1921.
“There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons,” Coolidge wrote. “Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend.”
In a previous trial, one Patriot Front member testified that Black, Latino and Jewish men are excluded from the group because they aren’t of “the founding American stock.”
The prosecution and defense rested their cases Thursday afternoon. Counsel will present closing arguments in the case Friday morning.