Patriot Front

Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that broke off from Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017. 

Patriot Front is an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism. Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country.

In its own words

"The time of the Republic has passed in America as the system grows too weak to perform its duty. ... The damage done to this nation and its people will not be fixed if every issue requires the approval and blessing from the dysfunctional American democratic system. Democracy has failed in this once great nation."

— Patriot Front manifesto.

"The American Identity was something uniquely forged in the struggle that our ancestors waged to survive in this new continent. ... To be an American is to realize this identity and take up the national struggle upon one's shoulders. Not simply by birth is one granted this title but by the degree to which he works and fulfills the potential of his birth."

— Patriot Front manifesto.

"An African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora."

— Patriot Front manifesto.

"America our nation stands before an existential threat. The lives of your children, and your children's children, and your prosperity beyond that, dangle above a den of vipers. A corrupt rootless, global, and tyrannical elite has usurped your democracy and turned it into a weapon, first to enslave and then to replace you."

— University of Texas at Austin demonstration, November 3, 2017.

Background

Patriot Front (PF) is a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017. The organization broke off from Vanguard America (VA), a neo-Nazi group that participated in the chaotic demonstration. PF’s founder, Thomas Rousseau, led VA members during “Unite the Right,” including James Alex Fields, Jr., the young man accused of murdering anti-racist protester Heather Heyer after fatally driving his vehicle into a crowd of protesters.

Rousseau and his loyalists broke away from VA after a months-long feud with VA’s leader Dillon Irizarry. Excerpts from leaked internal communications that were later posted to a number of online forums, including Kiwi Farms, reveal that tensions between Irizarry and Rousseau were coming to a head as early as June 2017.

On June 20th, Thomas underhandedly and deceitfully exiled me from all of the Vanguard discord servers that HE controlled due to "security reasons".  … I logged off of discord and when I got back on an hour later I was banned from every single server, including the women's server. It was a literal coup with the guise that I left to handle family matters. So Thomas literally assumed control and is now cobbling and holding vanguard together with the fragile scaffolding of a lie and deception. He had been working out the plan for weeks, if not months, slowly taking the most miniscule steps under false pretenses such as "security" or "ease". … He had already basically assumed control over Vanguard even before the large Austin event happened. He even went so far as you tell the coordinator of the event that HE was leading vanguard which is why he gave a 10 minute speech about bullshit and when I went up there to give MY speech some people were confused. So this was all a very lengthy and elaborate plan for an 18 year old kid to treasonously assume control of a disgruntled internet group so he could accomplish....nothing. Thomas did all this of his own accord. Thomas is a traitor and should be regarded as such.  —  Dillon Irizarry, CEO/leader of Vanguard America

PF’s formal break from VA came amidst a movement-wide debate over the effectiveness of public demonstrations and the issue of optics in the wake of “Unite the Right,” which resulted in widespread condemnation from the mainstream public. In the midst of this contentious feud, Rousseau formally broke with VA on August 30, 2017, just 18 days after the rally, in an announcement posted to the VA’s southern region Discord server.

Due to the unwillingness to meet any semblance of a compromise to resolve ongoing disputes with disagreeing parties, we are rebranding and reorganizing as a new entity. Vanguard America, as you know it, will now be the "Patriots Front." ... Our website is under construction, and will be back online via the same domain. Our focus will remain much the same, as will our overal [sic] goals, this restructuring will happen alongside the creation of an extended manifesto, and a top-down reform of the entity's ranking system. ... This change comes alongside many new visuals, and a new overall look. The new name was carefully chosen, as it serves several purposes. It can help inspire sympathy among those more inclined to fence-sitting, and can be easily justified to our ideaology [sic] and worldview. The original American patriots were nothing short of revolutionaries. The word patriot itself comes from the same root as paternal and patriarch. It means loyalty to something intrinsically based in blood.

Rousseau’s conscious rebranding under the banner of PF was a direct consequence of “Unite the Right” organizers’ inability to control the rally’s presentation. Swastikas and other Nazi-era imagery was prominent among attendees who were also chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us.” PF was one of a number of hate groups that sought to recast itself as mainstream, patriotic Americans by dressing up their propaganda and rhetoric in Americana.

PF’s manifesto makes frequent reference to American historical figures, casting its politics as a revival of an allegedly authentic American identity based on “pan-European” colonizers. As Rousseau notes in his internal announcement of the organization’s split with VA, PF’s rebranding was aesthetic, not ideological. The group’s politics remain staunchly white nationalist, albeit less explicitly.

PF’s manifesto states, “Our people must learn to internalize their natural identities and come to connect that re-emerging identity with their homeland. Americans are descendants of Europeans, but at the same time they are not European. This nation is unique in its newly realized pan-European identity which has allowed it to succeed.”

The manifesto continues with a call for the formation of a white ethnostate.

“The state has long since ceased to advocate for the interests of the descendants of its creators, and thus a State which will be, above all else, a reflection of the national interest must be implemented fully and absolutely.”

PF’s manifesto is also explicit in its exclusion of people of color from its conception of pan-European identity:

An African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.

PF frequently inveighs against “replacement populations,” meaning any non-white resident, immigrant or refugee, as a direct threat to its mission. Its manifesto accuses these often vulnerable communities as a threat to so-called pan-European culture. PF asserts, “The nation will see the thin veneer of civilization begin to wane as resources are diverted from them to the replacement population.”

Roughly a dozen members of PF turned this xenophobic platform into street activism at a San Antonio, Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center on July 28, 2018. PF members marched up to an “Occupy ICE” protest encampment chanting “Strong nations, strong borders” before filming themselves vandalizing the protesters’ tents and signs. Rousseau, who is based in Texas, was among PF members filmed in the encounter.

PF’s activism typically consists of anonymously posting flyers, dropping banners off buildings or overpasses or performing miscellaneous acts of public service such as park cleanups. When PF orchestrates protests or public appearances, they are typically tightly choreographed and scripted to maximize propaganda value. Virtually all its activities are undertaken with propaganda value in mind.

Such was the case at a PF demonstration at the University of Texas at Austin on November 3, 2017, with roughly 30 members gathering around a statue of George Washington on campus with torches and flares while Rousseau delivered a speech stating, “America our nation stands before an existential threat. The lives of your children, and your children’s children, and your prosperity beyond that, dangle above a den of vipers. A corrupt, rootless, global, and tyrannical elite has usurped your democracy and turned it into a weapon, first to enslave and then to replace you.”

In a similarly theatrical performance, members of PF besieged a group of Houston anarchists at a book fair at the Multicultural Education through the Arts community center on September 24, 2017. A group attending a seminar on “refusing fascism” titled “Punching Nazis” barricaded themselves in the building while masked members of PF and local affiliates of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer and the white nationalist radio network The Right Stuff lit flares and chanted outside the building.

Rousseau maintains strict control over PF. Members are barred from holding membership with any rival organization and must regularly engage in activism — such as posting flyers in their local communities — or risk expulsion. Members’ typically mundane local activism is then distributed across PF’s social media accounts alongside ostentatious quotes from PF’s manifesto.

The group’s top-down discipline and brand consistency have found success while many peer groups have struggled to maintain relevance. The fallout from “Unite the Right” left many other white nationalist groups completely alienated from mainstream politics. PF, through its garish patriotism, has also managed to rehabilitate the explicitly fascist agenda of VA with a foothold on major social media platforms for a nationwide membership.