June 20, 2023
Their button-up shirts and chinos have prompted mockery—but experts say the far-right group is becoming increasingly violent, reports The Guardian.
At a Patriot Front demonstration in Washington, D.C., in May, more than 100 Patriot Front members marched along the National Mall wearing matching outfits of beige or brown chinos and blue button-up shirts.
The ensemble was topped off with the sort of affected accessorizing that parents subject children to at weddings: each man was required to wear sand-colored suspenders, with matching hats and sewn-on arm patches.
In their hands, the Patriot Front members carried shields that were a derivative version of Captain America’s defense system, and they had tight white fabric wrapped around their faces. The goal of their activity—Patriot Front aims to create a white ethno-state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center—is serious, but they found themselves ripe for ridicule.
“You wear Walmart khakis!” one bystander heckled. “You are sloppy! You are not even matching! You all have different types of pants on! Cargo pants are out! Reclaim your virginity!”
In the years following Patriot Front’s 2017 inception, however, they have slowly grown in influence and threat, experts say. In 2023, those who monitor hate groups say Patriot Front is increasingly moving toward public displays and violence.
“If you asked me about Patriot Front in 2017 or 2018, I’d say they’re looking for attention. They’re putting up some stickers, and doing some banner drops here and there, and it’s all about just getting in the news. But now it’s gone well beyond that,” said Stephen Piggott, Momentum Program director at Western States Center,who focuses on white nationalist, paramilitary and anti-democracy groups.
“I think the group is morphing from a solely propaganda-based outfit to a much more violent one, based on what we’ve seen over the past couple of years. They’re trending to much more violence, more in-person direct actions, versus putting up stickers under the cover of night.”
Patriot Front formed in 2017, having splintered from the white nationalist group Vanguard America in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Led by Thomas Rousseau, Patriot Front initially focused on clandestine propaganda efforts: dropping racist literature in neighborhoods and posting stickers in public places.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Front was responsible for the vast majority of “hateful propaganda” in the United States in 2019, 2020, and 2021. In the past couple of years, the group has begun to venture more into the daylight, and has held more rallies and demonstrations.
The leadership has stayed the same, under Thomas Rousseau, a Texas-based extremist. But Patriot Front has changed.
“I think it’s indicative of the movement. The white nationalist movement more broadly is getting more extreme, more hardcore, more violent,” Piggott said.
Research contact: @guardian