Rolling Stone

Patriot Front


Founded: By Thomas Rousseau, a former Boy Scout and Trump superfan, in 2017, after he attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottes­ville, Virginia.

Core beliefs: Patriot Front is a hate group that revives Italian fascist symbols and Nazi slogans like “blood and soil,” but it projects itself under a red-white-and-blue banner of “extreme patriotism,” says Friedfeld. Where the Proud Boys target men in their twenties and thirties, Patriot Front recruits disaffecte­d teenagers. Its recruits dress like preppy storm troopers, in khakis, blue windbreake­rs, baseball caps, and white neck gaiters pulled up to their sunglasses. They show up in flash mobs and use graffiti, defacing public murals celebratin­g diversity or LGBTQ pride.

The group taps into the America First imagery of the modern right, but Kriner insists that just below the surface, “it’s deeply fascistic, deeply anti-Semitic, very racist, and they don’t hide it.” (The group’s website venerates racist and bigoted Americans like Robert E. Lee, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Andrew Jackson.) Yet the overly patriotic trappings “give people a comfortabl­e platform from which to then jump into the broader pool of extremity,” Kriner says.

Approach to violence: Lots of bark, little bite. Patriot Front’s direct actions and propaganda are designed to intimidate, but the group is not known for overt violence. “Here are a bunch of teenagers who’ve had pretty easy lives,” Kriner says. “The moment they’re confronted, they tend to run away.”

Key moments: In July 2021, Patriot Front defaced a Portland, Oregon, mural honoring George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. It was far from an isolated incident. Of nearly 5,000 public hate markings cataloged by the ADL in 2021, Patriot Front was responsibl­e for 82 percent. “They’re incredibly active in plastering towns with posters and graffiti that lean into the patriot side of the ideology — but direct interested parties to their white-supremacy resources,” Friedfeld says. “If you’re not repelled and they have your attention, that’s where they can start to peel people off into their ranks.”

 ?? ?? Founded after Charlottes­ville, Patriot Front adopts blood-and-soil rhetoric.
Founded after Charlottes­ville, Patriot Front adopts blood-and-soil rhetoric.
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