Why the Patriot Front Marched in Boston and Tried to Disrupt Idaho Pride


Over the 4th of July weekend, more than 100 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched along Boston’s Freedom Trail, wearing uniforms and carry flags, riot shields and signs reading “Reclaim America”. A few weeks earlier, the group had attempted to disrupt a Pride event in Idaho. In Boston, the group allegedly assaulted a black passerby trying to record them with his phone. In Idaho, 31 white men have been charged with conspiracy to riot.

These are not isolated incidents. The Patriot Front’s website and social media pages, including Telegram and Gab, report that across the country it undertook 973 “activism cases” in May and June – including 78 in Massachusetts, which says the cradle of American freedom.

What is the Patriot Front and why is it important? My research on groups like Patriot Front reveals that their vague, nostalgic patriotic language works to recruit support for white nationalism.

After Charlottesville, Patriot Front worked to rebrand white supremacy

Patriot Front is a right-wing group that split from a white supremacist organization that became notorious after the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. In Charlottesville, a member of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist group Vanguard America drove a vehicle into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. Subsequently, many members of the alt-right movement worked to rebrand themselves. Former Vanguard member Thomas Rousseau helped found and lead the Patriot Front, which grew into an American white nationalist movement that has distributed a significant amount of its propaganda since 2019.

To promote its white nationalist political goals, Patriot Front uses suggestive phrases such as “Reclaim America”, “America First”, “Strong Families Make Strong Nations”, and “Not Stolen”. Conquered. Scholars use the term “white nationalism” to refer to something distinct from “white supremacy.” White supremacy claims that white people are taller than other races and cultures. White nationalism builds on this, arguing for the political goal of a separate nation-state by and for this putatively superior white culture.

How I Researched and Analyzed Right Groups

My research focuses on right-wing groups like Patriot Front, the Proud Boys, and QAnon. Since 2019, I have analyzed thousands of social media posts, forums, videos, speeches, manifestos and websites, and archived hundreds of posts, including comments and threads. discussion. I sort and compile stories about who the band members claim to be and want, drawing inspiration from platforms ranging from Twitter and YouTube to more obscure sites like Telegram, Gab, 8kun and Bitchute.

Much of my work, and that of others investigating far-right groups on the Internet, draws on the work of anti-extremism organizations, anti-racist organizations, and anti-fascist organizations, some of which have published leaked private conversations between group members. from messaging apps like Discord.

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Recruitment by nationalist nostalgia

Evidence reveals a group peddling an imaginary past to advocate for a separatist white future.

The Patriot Front’s manifesto sets out as its main mission a “return to the traditions” of the American founders. It aims to “reset the nation” by restoring an imaginary past that never existed in the way the Front describes it. The Patriot Front warns that this American way of life is under threat of “annihilation” and under attack. If the nation is threatened with erasure, then imposing and protecting its idea of ​​American national culture is necessary. This is all part of a broader trend on the radical right towards reactionary nostalgia.

Nostalgia in its simplest form is the longing for a lost home. As deployed by the purveyors of nationalism, nostalgia represents the yearning for a supposedly lost way of life, culture, traditions, and homeland. This desire can be felt even when the loss is not real. The political project of nationalist nostalgia is to create this imaginary past national home by “restoring” (or imposing) the long-awaited culture, traditions, heritage and spirit. Patriot Front promotes the idea that this involves a return to an old male-led family structure that would strengthen the nation.

The Patriot Front’s goal is to refocus white identity in American politics, or what it calls “reclaiming our role in the nation’s history.” He argues that real Americans – whites – once had political representation that they have lost, and characterizes Americanness as having emerged from “conquerors, pioneers, visionaries and explorers. … [and] the European race.

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Make white nationalism acceptable

By idealizing a blood connection to heroic European conquerors – a sign of the “blood and soil” belief that the homeland belongs to a racially defined national body – the Patriotic Front tries to make white nationalist beliefs more appealing and acceptable. But as innocent as the admiration of a white European heritage may seem, it can be a whistle for racism and white supremacy.

The Patriot Front reinforces this by using the language of “great replacement theory”, arguing, for example, that it combats “collective threats of displacement and enslavement”. To ensure that its imagined, strong and heroic “white culture” survives, Patriot Front advocates for a separate white nation-state where white people can be free and sovereign. More and more Americans openly believe in certain aspects of the replacement theory, promoted by Tucker Carlson of Fox News, among others. This idea has consequences. More recently, in Buffalo, a mass shooter cited these ideas.

Do many people believe in the “great replacement” theory?

It’s no surprise that the Patriot Front marches in Boston, and specifically on the Freedom Trail. Patriot Front tactically chooses its marching locations, claiming to march against the debasement of American culture and history. It particularly targets liberal cities and places that represent what Patriot Front sees as lost pieces of America, seeking to reclaim them — or reinterpret their meaning — as belonging specifically to white American citizens.

Patriot Front publishes videos showing training exercises and combat, making it clear that its members have been tactically trained. They march with riot shields, wearing matching tactical uniforms. The message is that they are ready to fight for their version of an American nation, born from “our founding [European] “”inherited by blood”, “ethnically linked” and “bound by a common history, culture, traditions and the desire for representation”.

The band was born out of violence, uses language similar to other violence-related bands like the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers, and shows its members fighting and training like a militaristic band. Its actions so far have been largely peaceful: stickers, banner drops and marches, though these sometimes turn confrontational and violent, as in Boston. Expect more violence from his idea of ​​a white nation.

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Candice K. Travis is a political science doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies white nationalism in American politics.

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