The white nationalist hate group Patriot Front formed in 2017 in Texas and is one of the most active operating in the U.S. Over the years, numerous Hatewatch investigations have revealed the group’s racist intent and the destructive behavior of the violent young men the group attracts.
The following timeline provides an overview of Patriot Front’s most significant activities since 2017.
Led by Thomas Rousseau, of Grapevine, Texas, Patriot Front has generated national headlines by launching flash rallies, where its members show up unannounced in cities across the country, concealing their faces with masks and holding demonstrations in public spaces. Members of the group have also destroyed dozens of murals, statues and other public displays that celebrate Black culture, LBGTQ pride or commemorate victims of police murder and racially targeted violence. For instance, in Olympia, Washington, the then-leader of Capital City Pride, Anna Schlecht, woke up one morning in October 2021 to news that the group’s Pride mural had been destroyed.
“Immediately, Capital City Pride mobilized a team of painters to fully restore the mural to its original condition. This was essential, given that the mural had become one of the most beloved murals in Olympia, having been originally painted in 2014 as a statement against hate crimes across the street at a gay bar,” Schlecht wrote in an email.
Patriot Front members regularly engage in intimidation and vandalism in public. In private, Patriot Front members use racial slurs, idolize Adolf Hitler and share violent imagery about Black people, migrants, LGBTQ people, and Jews.
Hatewatch investigations have also revealed how Patriot Front’s national leadership often coordinates the group’s activities, delegating them to local chapter leaders to carry out. Patriot Front’s members also create racist flyers and stencils and drop large banners over highway overpasses bearing slogans promoting their extremist worldview. Patriot Front leverages their public activities to create propaganda videos and generate buzz online.
Patriot Front’s propaganda circulates tenets of white supremacist dogma, including the “great replacement” theory and so-called “racial realism.” The great replacement theory holds, erroneously, that white Americans and their culture are being deliberately replaced by nonwhite groups in a coordinated conspiracy. Racial realism relies on long-debunked science to claim that biological differences between racial groups exist and correlate to one’s personality and intellect.
Great replacement theory and racial realism are often used as examples of “stochastic terrorism,” – a style of extremist rhetoric that stops short of criminal incitement, according to Andrew Vitek, assistant teaching professor of political science at Penn State University. Stochastic terrorism is not criminal incitement because the rhetoric leaves out specific actions that need to be taken. Instead, stochastic terrorism strongly implies a response is needed to solve an urgent problem.
“Elements of far-right ideology are uniquely tailored for acting as stochastic terrorism … [because] it’s almost always phrased in defensive terms. For example, ‘we are under attack. The Constitution is under attack. Western civilization is under attack. We need to protect our people. We need to protect our children, our women,’ all of this stuff. It’s an ideology more easily able to prompt a kind of response pattern than other types of ideologies simply because it is phrased in such defensive terms. You get people thinking in terms of, ‘OK, we’re under attack. I need to respond. I need to actually do something about that.’ And that’s been an element of far-right extremist ideology even since the Nazis,” Vitek said in an interview.
Since 2018, Patriot Front has outpaced by 10 to 1 other groups posting racist propaganda.
In its propaganda, Patriot Front eschews imagery like the Nazi swastika and Black Sun that were popular with some of the hate groups that preceded them, instead opting for upside-down American flags and Betsy Ross’s 1777 flag representing America’s 13 original colonies.
“We fly the 13 Star of the Nation’s banner, the banner that adorned our nation before the existence of the current state, or any state we would recognize, so it then represents the people, our people,” Rousseau said in an interview on a far-right podcast.
The SPLC’s Michael Edison Hayden contributed to this timeline.
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