Upon realizing that threatening a community gay pride event with a bunch of guns might not be the best look, officials with the far-right Idaho bikers club Panhandle Patriots are backing off somewhat, claiming that the two spokesmen who told an evangelical organizing event that they intended to “go head to head” with the annual Pride in the Park gathering in Coeur d’Alene on June 11 gave out “incorrect information.” Complaining that the media have misrepresented them, they’ve announced they’re changing the name of their event the same day from “Gun d’Alene” to “North Idaho Day of Prayer.”
But their hateful rhetoric identifying the LGBTQ community as pedophilic “groomers” is still going full roar. “We’re going to be going after the groomers,” the group’s founder recently told his comrades. Their vice president, Justin Allen, recently told another gathering that presenting LGBTQ-friendly material to children in a park setting was “unacceptable”: “I am not a violent man. But I am not a peaceful man, either.”
Two weeks ago, two leaders of the Panhandle Patriots—Allen, their vice president, and Jeff White, their “sergeant at arms”—got up before a “gameplan” organizing session to oppose “inappropriate materials in our schools and libraries” at a northern Idaho evangelical church and told the gathering their group was planning to confront the Pride in the Park event. White told them:
We are having an event the very same day. That very same day we actually intend to go head to head with these people. A line has to be drawn in the sand. Good people need to stand up. And she was talking about the repercussions. We say, Damn the repercussions. Stand up, take it to the head. Go to the fight.
However, a spokesperson for the Patriots who only identified herself as “Bear” told the Coeur d’Alene Press that those men had misspoken, claiming White was only a club member and not a spokesman: “We are wanting this to be an extremely peaceful event,” she said.
Earlier this week, the group issued a statement blaming the media for misrepresenting its intentions: “It is the media’s goal to instigate a conflict, take photos of that conflict, and then produce media stories labeling our group and everyone associated with us as violent, racist, and hateful while ignoring the antics of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and LGBT extremists,” it said.
As a result, it was changing the name of the event to the “North Idaho Day of Prayer,” adding: “The event popularly known as Gun d’Alene will be moved to a later date that is yet to be determined.”
“Gun d’Alene,” in fact was billed as an anniversary of the day in 2020 that armed “Patriots” flooded the streets of Coeur d’Alene in response to hoax rumors of the impending arrival of buses full of evil black-clad “antifa” vandals who mysteriously never showed up anywhere they were rumored to be going. Dozens of people showed up on armed patrol, toting AR-15s and wearing body armor, at a downtown shopping strip mall.
Panhandle Patriots claimed that “our event has been hijacked by extremist groups. On the Left, we have seen evidence to suggest that Antifa radicals are planning on coming to disrupt our event to provoke violence. It has also come to our attention that a White Nationalist group called White Lives Matter is also planning to attend. While these two groups are planning on causing violence, the media plans on using them to condemn and tarnish our peaceful group.”
In spite of the surface shift in tone, the statement continues in typical far right fashion, urging Idahoans to turn out in numbers “to take a stand against the progressive left-wing, which is moving into Idaho, and into our schools and libraries, with intent on grooming our children and turning them into LGBT activists.” It concludes by identifying the Pride organizers as “groomers”:
As always, the Panhandle Patriots are a Christian group that stands against violence in all its forms, and will not allow our event to be hijacked by extremists on either side of the political spectrum. We implore the Christian community to come together and show these LGBT groomers that North Idaho stands firmly against their sick agenda and that God still rules in the Panhandle.
An online media site called the Idaho Tribune helped stir the extremist pot further with an article—widely distributed on far-right social media—headlined “Antifa Coming to Coeur d’Alene for June 11 LGBT Event in CDA Park to ‘Protect Gay & Trans People.’” It claimed that “Antifa members from across the country are planning on coming to Coeur d’Alene Idaho” for the event, based on a single Twitter account urging community defense.
“Antifa and LGBT groups have taken a particular interest in North Idaho as the predominantly conservative area is viewed as a challenge to the progressive liberal groups,” it claims. It also risibly claims that “antifa” is helping to campaign for conservative Republican Gov. Brad Little.
Journalist Daniel Walters of The Inlander was unable to find any person living in the region with the name of the article’s ostensible author, “Samantha Collins.” The likely person behind the website is white nationalist David Reilly, who lost a 2021 campaign for the Post Falls school board and has been involved in attempts to secretly take over the Democratic Party apparatus in Kootenai County.
Among the Panhandle Patriots themselves and their supporters, the rhetoric has been similarly incendiary and eliminationist. Walters attended one of their gatherings, where one audience member claimed he’d seen “groomers—that’s the only word for it” distributing condoms to little kids surreptitiously at Coeur d’Alene’s Fourth of July parade.
“We’re going to be going after the groomers,” the group’s founder, Michael “Viper” Birdsong—who took an active role in the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol—told his cohorts. “Violence is the last thing we’d ever want to bring. But it doesn’t mean we’re not incredibly good at it,” he added. “Mess around with a kid and find out.”
Another northern Idaho white nationalist and notorious antisemite with a huge social media following, Vincent James Foxx, has posted modified copies of the flier for Pride in the Park, with its lines drawn to resemble a warped Star of David. He also has posted the names of every sponsor on a spreadsheet with addresses and contact information.
Panhandle Patriots say they intend to start their day on June 11 at around noon in downtown Coeur d’Alene, from where they say they plan to march through the downtown area to finish up at the waterfront park where their event is scheduled on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
However, the Coeur d’Alene city clerk told the Press that while Panhandle Patriots had a permit for their event, there has been none issued for a downtown parade or march.
“I only have the parks reservations,” Clerk Renata McLeod said. “I have not received any special event/street closure, nor parade request for that day yet.”
The waterfront space where Panhandle Patriots intend to hold their gathering, McEuen Park, is less than three-quarters of a mile from Coeur d’Alene City Park, where Pride in the Park is planned. However, the latter event is scheduled to begin at 10 AM and at end at 3 PM, while the “North Idaho Day of Prayer” is now scheduled to kick off at 3 PM after the downtown marchers arrive.
Local residents are voicing their concern. One woman whose son is involved with North Idaho Pride Alliance, the organizers of Pride in the Park, told the Press that she contacted the city parks department to voice concern about allowing two such opposing groups to hold events on the same day.
“I said, ‘This could be a big problem, and I don’t think anyone realizes,'” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of vulnerable people in the park, parents with kids who want to have a fun day. People are concerned, ‘Should I bring my kids? What if something happens?'”
The North Idaho Pride Alliance issued a statement urging everyone to remain peaceful in the face of the threats and provocations:
Law enforcement is aware of statements made about this summer’s events. We are working to make north Idaho a more inclusive and happy place to live. We will continue to take steps to support public safety. North Idaho Pride Alliance will not be intimidated or deterred from organizing community events.
Our leadership strongly encourages the public NOT to engage with protestors they may encounter outside events or online. We ask that supportive community members and partners focus on promoting events with positivity for a successful Pride Month celebration.
Noncriminal hostile online content can be sent privately to email@example.com or be reported on the Love Lives Here CDA reporting tool at https://lovelivesherecda.com/report-an-incident/. Criminal threats should be directed immediately to law enforcement.
Our highest priority is to have a fun and safe event. We have confidence that strong early interventions and keeping law enforcement aware will ensure a successful Pride month and safety for all who choose to participate.
“The threats haven’t been this bad in quite some time,” Joey Pugmire, vice president of the North Idaho Pride Alliance, told Walters. “I do think this could be like one of the more aggressive years for the far right.”
He says the planners of Pride in the Park are well aware of the threats and are working to ensure the safety of everyone at the event.
“If people are going to try to threaten us, that’s their prerogative,” Pugmire says. “That’s on their conscience, but we’re going to try to ignore the fear-mongering as best we can.”