Chat messages, images, and videos leaked from the server of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front purport to show its leader and rank-and-file members conspiring in hate crimes, despite their claims that they are a legitimate political organization.
Patriot Front, or PF, formed in the aftermath of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which one attendee rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 35 others. PF founder Thomas Rousseau started the group after an image posted online showed the now-convicted killer, James Alex Fields Jr., posing with members of white supremacist group Vanguard America shortly before the attack. Vanguard America soon dissolved, and Rousseau rebranded it as PF with the goal of hiding any involvement in violent acts.
Since then, PF has strived to present itself as a group of patriots who are aligned with the ideals and values of America’s 18th-century founders. In announcing the formation of PF in 2017, Rousseau wrote:
The new name was carefully chosen, as it serves several purposes. It can help inspire sympathy among those more inclined to fence-sitting, and can be easily justified to our ideology [sic] and worldview. The original American patriots were nothing short of revolutionaries. The word patriot itself comes from the same root as paternal and patriarch. It means loyalty to something intrinsically based in blood.
Turbo cans and rubber roofing cement
But a published report and leaked data the report is based on present a starkly different picture. The chat messages, images, and videos purport to show Rousseau and other PF members discussing the defacing of numerous murals and monuments promoting Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ groups, and other social justice causes.
This chat, for instance, appears to show a PF member discussing how to deface a civil rights mural in Detroit. When a member asks what the best way is to fully cover up a mural with paint, Rousseau is shown replying, “It’s in the stencil guide. Turbo cans.” The stencil guide refers to these instructions provided to PF members showing how to effectively use spray paint and not get caught. The PF member also sent Rousseau pictures taken while scouting the mural.
When a different member discussed whether rubber roofing cement could be used to cover a George Floyd memorial that had been treated with antigraffiti clear coating, Rousseau allegedly responded: “Keep me posted as to your research and practice with this substance. Orders will be given out at the event.”
The data dump also appears to document the defacing of a monument in Olympia, Washington.
The leaked data purports to show a range of other illegal activities the group discussed. They include Rousseau informing members planning a rally in the District of Columbia that one participant will call 911 from a burner phone and make a false report to authorities.
“He will cite that there is a protest, he sees shields BUT NO WEAPONS, and everyone involved appears to be behaving peacefully, waving and handing out flyers, nonetheless he is a concerned citizen and suggests the police take a look into it to ensure everyone’s civil rights are safe,” Rousseau appeared to write. “He will add that it looks like we just arrived from the metro. This will soften the police up before our big visual contact on the bridge, and provide a little confusion and misinfo that’s within the realm of honest dialogue.”
Attempts to reach Rousseau or other PF members were not successful.
Friday’s published report said that the leak comprised about 400GB of data and came from a self-hosted instance of RocketChat, an open source chat server that’s similar to Slack and Discord. It’s only the latest example of a hate group being hacked and its private discussions being dumped online. In 2019, the breach of the Iron March website revealed, among other things, that many of its members were members of the US Marines, Navy, Army, and military reserves.