In the early hours of June 24, 2021, four masked men in a black Jeep SUV arrived in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and parked one block away from an intersection where five days earlier, on Juneteenth, artists and politicians had unveiled a statue of George Floyd. Surveillance cameras captured the men walking toward the bust, one of them shaking what appears to be a can of spray paint with one hand and carrying a stencil in the other. A red light, possibly from a GoPro camera, glowed on the chest of another masked man.
The New York Police Department said that these men then vandalized the statue, dumping paint over the bust of Floyd and stenciling its base with the address of a website belonging to a notorious extremist organization: Patriot Front.
Minutes later, the men returned to the Jeep and drove off into the night. Locals discovered the vandalism as the sun rose over Brooklyn. By that afternoon, news headlines broadcast the cruelty of the act — the defacement of a statue of a Black man by a white supremacist group in a predominantly Black neighborhood — across the country.
“A racist, loathsome, despicable act of hate,” tweeted then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will bring these cowards to justice.”
More than six months later, the perpetrators are still at large, even as another George Floyd mural on Bowery and Houston streets in Manhattan was vandalized with a Patriot Front stencil.
And it wasn’t just in New York: From Philadelphia to Louisville to Nashville to Austin to Portland, Oregon, Patriot Front has held brazen public demonstrations and vandalizations intended to get eyeballs on its white nationalist cause. In December, about 100 Patriot Front members marched through the National Mall in Washington, D.C., all dressed in khaki cargo pants, brown combat boots, navy blue jackets, white gaiters, sunglasses and beige baseball hats. Some carried shields and wore shin guards, prepared for violence.
The name “Patriot Front” is a rebrand — a variant that evolved from America’s burgeoning pandemic of Trump-era hate groups and cross-pollinated with far-right strains originating in Europe. Patriot Front grew out of another white supremacist organization called Vanguard America, which fractured not long after a man associated with the group, James Alex Fields, drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters during the infamous 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He killed one person and injured 19 others.
In multiple photos from before the attack that fateful day, Fields can be seen standing alongside Vanguard America members, wearing the same outfit as them — khakis and a white polo shirt — and holding a shield with the group’s logo.
One photo shows Fields standing near Thomas Rousseau, a Dallas-area native who adopted white nationalism as a teenager. Rousseau formed Patriot Front after Charlottesville once it became clear that Vanguard America would be forever linked with Fields’ attack. His new organization changed its color scheme to red, white and blue and had its members refer to themselves as American “nationalists,” a euphemism often used by far-right groups in Europe to rebrand fascist ideology and iconography.
Patriot Front, per Rousseau’s manifesto, seeks a “hard reset on the nation we see today — a return to the traditions and virtues of our forefathers.” Decrying mass immigration, rampant consumerism, increasing diversity and the declining fortunes of white Americans, Rousseau espouses the renewal of a true American “volk” through racial primacy, physical prowess and the renewal of the nuclear family.
Previous estimates have put Patriot Front’s membership at about 300, though relatively few members’ names are actually known. (Anti-fascist activists claim to have identified upwards of 50.) That’s by design. In the years since Charlottesville, several other white supremacist groups have disbanded or fallen into disarray as anti-fascists have exposed their membership rolls, leading to members losing their jobs, being booted from universities or even going to prison.
But a HuffPost investigation, based in large part off information provided by anti-fascist infiltrators, has exposed the inner workings of the secretive white supremacist group, which has grown exponentially as a power vacuum has emerged in the American far right.
Whereas Patriot Front’s street activism had previously centered on promoting the group’s name and image by posting stickers and flyers in hundreds of cities and towns, projecting a strength and breadth not always matched by the group’s actual numbers, its focus recently has turned toward the explicit targeting of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A new HuffPost tally finds Patriot Front targeting statues and murals memorializing Black Americans killed by police, or other anti-racist or Black Lives Matter symbols, at an alarming rate since the nationwide racial justice protests of summer 2020 — acts designed to strike fear into the heart of communities. Rousseau, according to leaked audio from Patriot Front meetings, has directly coordinated this campaign of racial terror. But he has thus far evaded significant criminal charges or other repercussions.
Masks, Fake Names, Under The Cover Of Night
Meticulous secrecy is paramount to Patriot Front. “The enemy cannot attack you if they do not know who you are,” Rousseau once wrote.
According to internal group chats and documents obtained by HuffPost, members are forbidden from knowing one another’s real names. They choose a moniker from a list Rousseau provides to new recruits, and unlike many other far right groups, are not allowed to “cross-patch,” or belong to another organization simultaneously. New recruits are also instructed to sanitize their online footprint to make themselves difficult to track, to mask up while participating in Patriot Front “activism” and to avoid using their own vehicles for such actions.
“Understand that your license plate can be linked to your name and other information by law enforcement or other determined individuals,” reads part of a Patriot Front “Information Security” document obtained by HuffPost. “Use rental vehicles in circumstances where it is not feasible to hide the license plate during an action.”
That last bit is where the Brooklyn vandals fell short.
When they parked their Jeep Compass in front of a deli on June 24, unbeknownst to them a passing driver, suspicious of the four masked white men on the street in Flatbush at 3 a.m., started to film.
The resulting clip, which showed the vehicle’s license plate, made its way to social media, where it caught the attention of Andy Stepanian, an anti-racist activist.
Stepanian — who personally witnessed the horror of the 2017 car attack in Charlottesville — felt compelled to act. He submitted the license plate number seen in the video to New York state as a public records request and received a copy of the registration, which he shared with HuffPost. The vehicle is registered to a Queens man. HuffPost confirmed through the man’s lawyer that the NYPD seized the car after the act of vandalism, and then returned it a few weeks later. The NYPD declined to comment.
But in some cases, Patriot Front’s secrecy works. Rousseau organizes flash mob marches specifically to catch cops and anti-fascist activists off guard.
As opposed to other white nationalist groups in recent years, which loved to loudly advertise their next rally, giving communities ample time to organize a response, Patriot Front has preferred to surprise cities across the country — including Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Chicago and San Antonio — by turning up unannounced to march in formation, burn flares, chant and listen to Rousseau deliver overwrought speeches through a megaphone about reclaiming America. (Rousseau once posted a video of himself practicing a speech ahead of a rally while doing pullups shirtless, a weight chained to his waist. “Practice makes perfect,” he wrote on Telegram, a messaging app popular among fascists.)
Designated videographers film the rallies, which are often very brief and culminate with Patriot Front members scurrying back to their rental trucks to flee the city before anyone can confront them.
A highly produced video is always posted to Telegram a few days or weeks later, set to foreboding electronic music and edited in such a way to make Patriot Front look as imposing as possible.
Hate Crimes As Free Advertising
The group appears especially agitated by the historic wave of anti-racist uprisings which have swept across America over the last two years. A HuffPost review of news articles and Patriot Front’s own propaganda finds the group has defaced, destroyed or disappeared Black Lives Matter symbols at least 40 times across the country between August 2020 and August 2021. (More symbols have been targeted in the months since.)
Murals memorializing Black Americans killed by police are a favorite target. Patriot Front members defaced a large mural under the cover of night in Louisville, Kentucky, pouring blue paint over the faces of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, both shot and killed by Louisville authorities, as well as the faces of George Floyd and Sandra Bland.
“I’ve seen other murals around town being defaced,” Braylyn Resko Stewart, one of the artists who created the mural, told the Louisville Courier Journal. “I know it was a matter of time before it was going to happen.”
According to a sprawling set of private chat logs — obtained and recently published online by the independent media collective Unicorn Riot — Patriot Front members often celebrate when their acts of vandalism garner media attention. Propaganda reels posted to the group’s Telegram pages frequently include local TV news clips about its hate crimes.
For Patriot Front, the vandalism accomplishes two goals: It spreads a hateful message, and it spreads the group’s name. It’s not only a hate crime, but a calculated bit of advertising; a crude and cruel hacking of the attention economy.
“Vandalism is in some ways a perfect crime for bias-motivated attacks,” Jeanine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University who has studied hate crimes for the past 25 years, said. “It’s a low-level crime and law enforcement isn’t paying lots of attention to it, but it’s incredibly damaging to individuals.”
In Olympia, Washington, Patriot Front members filmed themselves spray-painting over the face of Trayvon Martin, a Black unarmed teenager killed in Florida by a member of a neighborhood watch in 2012.
Murals depicting Floyd — whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis cops last year helped spark thousands of demonstrations against police brutality across the country — were defaced by Patriot Front members in Canton, Ohio; Philadelphia; Manhattan; Newark, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; and Lafayette, Indiana.
In State College, Pennsylvania, they spray-painted over a mural of Martin Luther King Jr., and on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati they sliced apart a banner reading “Racism is a Sin: Black Lives Matter.”
In Houston, Patriot Front members, again under the cover of night, draped a massive banner reading, “THE UNITED STATES IS NO LONGER OF AMERICA. NOW WE ARE ON OUR OWN” over a Black Lives Matter billboard next to the highway.
But almost every marginalized group or political opponent has been a target. Patriot Front has posted fliers on a gay pride center in Vermont; defaced a gay pride mural in Pennsylvania; vandalized two synagogues in Columbus, Georgia; trashed an immigrant rights activists encampment in San Antonio; vandalized an anarchist political center in Brooklyn; and showed up to anarchist book fairs in Boston, where Patriot Front members chanted the neo-Nazi slogan “blood and soil.” At a similar event in Denton, Texas, they burned flares and waved flags.
In one disturbing video obtained by Unicorn Riot, about 15 masked Patriot Front members can be seen standing around a campfire at night, holding two “progress” pride flags, an updated version of the traditional LGBTQ flag that incorporates transgender pride colors.
“To those who destroy our nation, we will destroy your symbols and all that you worship,” one of the members said. “If you think we will lay down and perish, you are gravely mistaken.”
“Burn ’em,” he adds, as his fellow fascists toss the flags into the flames. The young men stand in silence for 30 seconds as the flags disappear, and the video ends.
Many Patriot Front members seem aware that their actions could be considered hate crimes.
One member, according to the chat logs published by Unicorn Riot, felt triggered by an FBI billboard near Austin, Texas, which read, “Protecting our communities TOGETHER. Report hate crimes.”
“I’ve been wanting to get that billboard for a while,” the member, using the pseudonym “James-TX,” wrote in a message group last month, adding: “Every time I drive by, it mocks me.”
Later, videos show Patriot Front members ascending the billboard in the middle of the night, the droning whoosh of highway traffic beneath them. After about an hour’s work, they unfurled a massive white banner over the FBI’s public service message.
“THEY WOULD MAKE OUTLAWS OF PATRIOTS, CRIMINALS OF CITIZENS,” the banner read.
Another video shows that the banner, which included the URL for Patriot Front’s website, remained visible from the highway well into the next day.
An FBI spokesperson said the agency wasn’t aware of the banner, and wouldn’t comment on any ongoing investigations into Patriot Front.
From New York To Warsaw
Up through the June vandalism of the George Floyd memorial in Flatbush, Patriot Front’s New York chapter managed to conduct a number of high-visibility propaganda actions in the area. According to internal documents of the group’s membership, the New York chapter had nine members as of February 2021. The network was run by a young man from upstate named Kieran P. Morris, who local anti-fascists identified independently in 2020. He used the alias “Patrick-NY” within the group.
In January 2020, a Patriot Front banner was dropped from a bridge in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and anti-fascists identified Morris as the owner of a pickup truck photographed participating in the drop via the truck’s license plate.
According to Patriot Front internal chats obtained by HuffPost, Morris had traveled internationally with Patriot Front in November 2019 on a trip where the group met violent, highly organized extreme right-wing groups like ONR in Poland; Casapound in Italy; NPD in Germany; NRM in Sweden; and Verrogs in Latvia. Morris was allegedly among those Patriot Front members who took part in ONR’s 2019 Independence Day march in Warsaw.
Upon returning to the U.S., Morris’ phone was apparently seized by U.S. Customs agents, according to the chat logs obtained by HuffPost, causing great concern amidst Patriot Front members about federal scrutiny.
“Delete any conversations with patrick_ny that you had over telegram and threema immediately,” a user named Scott_NC warned Patriot Front members, according to chat logs reviewed by HuffPost. “He was stopped by customs.” (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol declined a request for comment on the incident.)
But a couple of months later, in January 2020, Morris appears to have been back at it, and may have been among five masked Patriot Front members who conducted the banner drop. The action came on the heels of a sustained propaganda campaign by the white nationalist group around Manhattan and Brooklyn, with Bay Ridge seeing a heavy concentration of flyers and stickers.
No arrests were ever made in connection with the Bay Ridge banner drop or prior Patriot Front street propaganda campaign, and Morris did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story. (HuffPost independently verified that the car in the photo belonged to Morris.)
Some 250 people in Bay Ridge — a neighborhood with a large Arab-American and Muslim population — then rallied against the white nationalist group.
In early 2021, Morris moved to Texas. He is reportedly living at the Patriot Front “headquarters” with Thomas Rousseau in the town of Grapevine.
Patriot Front’s New York chapter has remained active without him. As part of a recent propaganda reel, the group posted a clip of two cadres gluing a poster to a subway car on the L train in Brooklyn. Neither the NYPD nor the Metropolitan Transit Authority issued a public request for information about the incident, as they will often do when subway cars are tagged by graffiti artists. It doesn’t appear that the Patriot Front vandalism of the L train car was even reported to MTA, according to transit authorities.
A National Campaign
The New York chapter’s vandalization campaign mirrors the nationwide Patriot Front strategy. In a post on Telegram, the group claims to have posted its “promotional materials” — flyers, stickers and banners — in 43 states between April 30 and June 29.
“Average daily instances exceeded 9, out of roughly 600 actions,” the post claimed.
In another post, Patriot Front claimed that “between July 1st and Sept 3rd,” members “placed promotional materials in 48 states. Average daily instances exceeded 16, out of roughly 1,000 total actions.”
This doesn’t appear to be just bluster. Patriot Front breathlessly broadcasts all of its actions for maximum impact, posting photos and videos of members’ street activism to Telegram and elsewhere online. The group even has its own style guide of sorts. “Take your photos horizontally in the 4:3 aspect ratio,” reads a Patriot Front manual. “Subjects should be aligned along the rule of thirds grid placed over the image.”
One of the group’s Telegram posts shows Patriot Front members passing out flyers to attendees of a rally for former President Donald Trump in Cullman, Alabama, in August 2021. This was not the first time the white nationalist group has targeted Trump rallies for recruitment — members were also spotted at rallies in Wildwood, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Murphysboro, Illinois; Panama City Beach, Florida; and Manchester, New Hampshire.
Patriot Front has also built alliances with other figures of the American extreme right. In August, Rise Above Movement co-founder Robert Rundo’s project Media2Rise released a two-part documentary on Patriot Front, embedding a Denver IT consultant, who uses the pseudonym Lucca Corgiat, in Rousseau’s group this summer during preparations for a July Fourth march in Philadelphia. In a rural Pennsylvania field, masked and uniformed Patriot Front members from throughout the country drill in formation with banners, and in pairs for hand-to-hand fighting. Corgiat — whom the Southern Poverty Law Center recently identified as a neo-Nazi named Allen Michael Goff — did not respond to a request for comment. Rundo replied that Media2Rise’s official statement was “Me ne frego,” a slogan used by Italian fascists under dictator Benito Mussolini meaning “I don’t care.”
An estimated 150 to 200 members, with a cowboy-hat-wearing Rousseau at their head, took to the streets of Philadelphia on Independence Day for a few hours after dark, retreating to a group of Penske rental trucks after being attacked by angry passersby. The Patriot Front vans were later stopped by Philadelphia Police, who detained the right-wing activists, according to an activist who shot video of the incident.
“They started engaging with citizens of Philadelphia, who were none too happy about what they were saying,” Philadelphia Police Officer Michael Crum told local media about the Patriot Front rally. “These males felt threatened, and, at one point, somebody in their crowd threw a type of smoke bomb to cover their retreat, and they literally ran away from the people of Philadelphia.”
Videos showing Patriot Front’s retreat included footage of a rental number on the side of one of the trucks. HuffPost has obtained a copy of that truck’s corresponding rental agreement on July 3. It shows that it was rented by a man named Zachary Stern, who listed an address in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, about a two-hour drive north in the Poconos, as his residence. Public records show Zachary Stern owning a house at that same address.
Stern could not be reached for comment as to why he had rented a truck to transport white supremacists to and from a rally in Philadelphia, or whether he was a Patriot Front member himself. His father, who was also listed as an owner of the Bushkill property, declined to comment.
Philadelphia has also been a frequent battlefield for the group. In September 2020, Patriot Front draped a banner reading “OUR TRADITION IS REVOLUTION AND OUR LAND IS WHERE TYRANTS COME TO DIE” over a South Philly billboard with an anti-racist message.
“This was about a 4 or 5 hour process,” a Patriot Front member going by the username “Golden Fleece” wrote in a Patriot Front Telegram group about the operation.
An anti-fascist researcher who had infiltrated the Telegram group and exchanged messages with Golden Fleece linked the persona to a Facebook page that used the name “Andrew Joseph” but featured a profile permalink of “Andrew Sciulli.” (Several years ago, Facebook allowed users to create unique urls for their profiles; the web address would not automatically change if the user later changed their profile name, as it appears Sciulli did — to his first and middle name.)
Sciulli, HuffPost has confirmed, was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard when he defaced the billboard in Philadelphia and had previously been deployed in Europe. Instagram photos show him visiting the Wolf’s Lair Nazi museum in Poland, where he wore a shirt emblazoned with the words “Revolt Against The Modern World,” the title of a book by famous fascist figurehead Julius Evola, a major influence upon modern white nationalist groups.
“Went to wolf’s lair (Hitler’s bunker on the eastern front),” Sciulli wrote in the Instagram caption. “Really cool experience to stand on sacred ground.”
Active and former military members are prized recruits for groups like Patriot Front, who can share their combat training with other members. (A recent Southern Poverty Law Center report found that one in five Patriot Front applicants claimed military ties.) The military, as HuffPost has reported extensively, does not do a great job at kicking out extremists from its ranks. “Me and William are just known as the fascist guys at my unit,” Sciulli wrote as Golden Fleece in one Telegram post. “Nobody gives a shit.”
His contract with the Pennsylvania National Guard expired in April 2021, a spokesman said, adding that the military had been unaware of his extremism, even though anti-fascist activists had published an article about it online in December 2020.
Sciulli could not be reached for comment. His family also did not respond to requests for comment.
“Once we were notified the billboard was vandalized, we had it removed,” said Courtney Richards, a spokeswoman for OUTFRONT media, which owns the Philadelphia billboard. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department said the department had no incident reports about the act of vandalism.
Sciulli’s billboard stunt in Philadelphia was filmed and featured in a video posted to Patriot Front’s Telegram, where the group frequently posts highlight reels of its its propaganda missions.
A Growing Resistance
As Patriot Front continues its campaign of racial terror, and as it attempts to grow, it will meet greater and greater resistance. In Portland, Oregon, late last year, unidentified anti-fascist activists filmed themselves burning a Patriot Front flag.
“Portland antifascists stand with DC antifascists, whose community was invaded on December 4th by the ethno-nationalist group Patriot Front,” they said in a statement.
Unicorn Riot published its extensive trove of new Patriot Front chat logs, videos and photographs in late January of this year just as Rousseau and a few dozen of his underlings marched again in D.C., this time in support of the March for Life, a major anti-abortion rally to which Republican presidents often send video addresses — or appear in person, in Trump’s case.
Patriot Front members likely returned to their homes from the rally only to find that they or many of their compatriots were on the verge of being doxed and exposed.
Moreover, some of the videos published by Unicorn Riot were deeply embarrassing for Patriot Front. One batch of videos showed members in Colorado trying — and failing miserably — to do military marching drills in a park.
Another video showed four masked members filming a Patriot Front propaganda video. “Life, liberty, victory,” they say in unison. But as soon as they think the camera has stopped filming, one of the members screams what he really wanted to say all along.
“Seig fucking Heil, let’s fucking go!” he said, throwing up a Nazi salute. “I can say that now that [the video’s] over.” (Watch the video below at 1:10.)
What’s clear is that despite Patriot Front’s best efforts at secrecy, and whatever grand ambitions Rousseau might have for the group, anti-fascist activists are always watching, ready to shine a light on the evil deeds they attempt to carry out anonymously, from behind masks or under the cover of night.
In December, Patriot Front members convened an urgent voice chat to discuss one of the many anti-fascists they’d discovered had infiltrated their group — the only problem was, they forgot to revoke the infiltrator’s access to the call.
The infiltrator teased the Patriot Front members before saying, “Yeah, I think I’m done talking. I think I’m just gonna play some music.”
A booming rendition of the anti-fascist anthem “Bella Ciao” started to play over the voice chat.
“Everyone log off right now!” a panicked Patriot Voice member is heard instructing his fellow members. “Everyone log off right now!”