Like most literal fascists, the guys who run Patriot Front never miss a trick. Which is why they turned up in Washington, D.C., on Friday, staking a claim as the first far-right group to return to the city and march down the Capitol Mall since the January 6 insurrection.
ProPublica journalist Lydia DePillis observed them Friday morning marching in formation, about 100 strong, masked and wielding their organization’s banners—styled after the American flag, but featuring a fasces (an ax with a bundle of sticks, the traditional symbol of fascism) where the stars normally are—and then marching from the Jefferson Memorial up the mall to the Capitol. They apparently dispersed afterward.
In DePillis’s videos, the group can be seen marching mostly quietly, in loosely disciplined fashion, toward the Mall. The men all wear the same uniform—beige slacks, black jackets, white ballcaps, and white facial-wrap masks—and mostly carry the Patriot Front banner. A couple of larger group banners adorned with slogans such as “For the Life of Our Nation” and “Strong Families Make Strong Nations” also appeared. A police escort joined them after they marched past the Washington Monument and followed them up the Mall.
As they approached the Capitol, they broke their silence and began chanting: “Reclaim America!” while setting off red and blue smoke bombs.
Washington’s Metro Police Department issued a statement: “MPD was made aware previously that demonstrations were to take place in the District today and provided the notification of potential traffic closures as a response,” said a D.C. police spokesperson in a statement. “At this time, there have been no arrests made in connection with the ongoing demonstrations. Also, the Metropolitan Police Department does not act in the capacity of private security for any group.”
Patriot Front had attracted attention when it organized a march through Washington last February, similarly chanting “Reclaim America!”
Formed out of the ashes of the neo-Nazi online forum Iron March after the Charlottesville riot of August 2017, Patriot Front is mainly the brainchild of a young Texas white supremacist named Thomas Rousseau—who in fact had marched at Charlottesville alongside James Fields before the latter man drove a car at high speed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman named Heather Heyer and maiming dozens of others.
It’s also explicitly fascist, beyond even the fasces in the banner. Some of the discussions among the white supremacists who founded the group revolved around explicitly embracing fascism, and one of its early slogans that adorned its stickers was “Fascism: The Next Step for America.”
The organization is best known for plastering stickers with its slogans—also directing people to the “bloodandsoil” website. Southern Poverty Law Center analyst Cassie Miller told BuzzFeed that “Patriot Front is among the most prolific spreaders of “white power” propaganda in the United States, having put up flyers in over 1,000 places around the country in 2020 alone.”
It has also been preparing for advancing its agenda in a post-Trump political world. One of those methods has been to organize high-profile marches in places certain to attract both news coverage and the ire of urban liberals.
“[Rousseau] wants to really focus on spectacle, and he thinks that a performative show of strength is the most effective kind of propaganda that they can engage in,” Miller said.