On June 11, 2022, American Neo-Nazi group, Patriot Front, made international news for the mass arrest of 31 members in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, ahead of a gay pride event taking place that day. Flagpoles, shields, shin guards and action plans were confiscated from the U-Haul, and most of the members had been riding in the cargo section. All 31 men were charged with conspiracy to riot and bailed out by the following day. Conor James Ryan was one of them.
Once members are granted access to the Patriot Front internal communications server, they choose a false name for themselves and include the state they live in and their title, if applicable. Conor first became a member of the hate group after it rebranded post-Charlottesville in 2017 but then left in 2018. He then rejoined again later in 2018 and was involved until 2020, when he retired from a leadership position in the group (when he was in Illinois) and resigned. He mentioned contact with the FBI several times. Conor previously used the pseudonyms “Smiter-IL” and “Francis IL” for Patriot Front internal communications, some of which are hosted on Unicorn Riot. He now goes by Francis CO.
Conor attended Richard Spencer’s Michigan State University speaking event in March 2018, alongside fascists representing the now-defunct Traditionalist Workers Party and Identity Europa/ American Identity Movement. Patriot Front was there to provide security and attendance for Spencer’s talk. Conor eventually became a Network Director within the Patriot Front organization when he lived in Chicago, where he led propaganda campaigns, and organized flash mobs at the March for Life events from 2018-2020. After moving to Colorado, Conor James Ryan of Thornton CO, formally rejoined Patriot Front for the third time in December 2021 after performing the role of a medic at their ill-fated DC march on December 4, 2021. He then was arrested in Idaho in June 2022 with other members of Patriot Front.
With the help of private chats leaked by the journalist collective Unicorn Riot, Hatewatch identified Garret J. Garland, 24, of Freeburg, Illinois, as working with Patriot Front member Mitchell Frederick Wagner, in planning and perpetrating the destruction of a mural depicting famous Black Americans on a college campus in St. Louis, Missouri in December 2021. Based on the chats, it appears Garland worked closely with local and national Patriot Front leadership to carry out the property damage. They also indicate that he recruited Wagner and Logan Plank, 18, of Wood River, Illinois, and one still-unidentified individual to participate in the destruction of the mural.
In Patriot Front chats, members use aliases to disguise their identity. Those aliases typically include the state in which they reside. Leaked private chats reveal how the person behind the alias Randolph IL, who Hatewatch believes based on the investigation recounted above to be Garland, planned and perpetrated the destruction of the St. Louis mural. On Dec. 13, 2021, five days before the vandalism, Randolph IL shared a weekly meeting report with the local chapter leader of Patriot Front who subsequently shared it with Rousseau. Under the bullet point “Upcoming Activism,” Randolph IL wrote: “Weekend Plans: Randolph IL, Sam MN, Kyle MO, and Clarke IL will stencil at Wash U. Randy will plan, Kyle will photograph.”
The mural that was destroyed was created in 2020 by a collective of local artists and featured famous Black Americans, particularly figures of note to St. Louis, including Annie Malone, one of the first Black millionaires and a prominent philanthropist, and Robert L. Williams, a professor at Washington University – the campus on which the mural stood – who coined the term “Ebonics.” It also featured civil rights leader John Lewis and actor Chadwick Boseman.