About a dozen men identifying themselves as members of the white supremacist organization Patriot Front showed up in downtown Prattville on Saturday to protest a picnic hosted for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
“These deplorable acts have been rejected by the common man,” one of the men told the event goers, shielding his face with a white face mask, sunglasses and hat typical of the extremist group.
It’s unclear just where these men came from—a U-Haul truck was spotted parked across the creek from the event and some event goers speculated that the men had arrived in it together.
Last year, 31 members of the group were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot after being stopped in a U-Haul truck near a pride event in Idaho. The group is led by Thomas Ryan Rousseau, a spin-off of Rousseau’s Vanguard America that was involved in the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
“I feel that they meant to bring fear to the community and we will not stand for that,” said Adam Michael Ray Hunt, who co-hosted the picnic alongside the downtown shop Wolf and Mercantile.
They weren’t the only protestors at the event, with another 10 or so men positioned with signs conflating members of the LGBTQ community with pedophiles and “groomers.”
One of these protestors, who multiple sources identified as a local Prattville businessman, had two dogs with him and at one point threatened one man that he would let the dogs loose and “bite your balls off.”
Prattville has become a battleground on a separate but related issue as some parents have taken issue with numerous books in the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, citing LGBTQ ideology in addition to sexually explicit content.
“I do feel like it’s connected—that’s just my personal belief,” Hunt said. “All the attention coming to Prattville started with the library. It’s kind of saddening, honestly, that we even have to do this. I feel like we’re going backwards in history and we definitely need to go forward.”
Angie Hayden has been one of the vocal supporters of the library in the midst of the book challenges and she was among those at the pride picnic Saturday along with her gay daughter.
“We see these guys come walking down the hill, wearing masks—the modern day hoods—and holding a big banner,” Hayden said. “There was one leader out front. He would chant and tell them what to say and they would chant behind him. It was sickening. I shouldn’t have confronted them but I just sort of lost it. When it’s your kids involved, it’s just different. I have to say that the police were there and seemed to be as caught off guard as the rest of us, but they did a good job. They made them stop interacting with us, so they just stood there with their masks and sign.”
Anna Evans, owner of Wolf and Mercantile, said she began planning the event to do something for the LGBTQ community in Prattville, noting that there haven’t been many events to celebrate them in the city.
“I like to see people come together; I’ve never been one to discriminate,” Evans said. “I really just wanted a reason for everyone to come together. Everybody that works in my shop is in the LGBTQ community and we just wanted to celebrate— I honestly did not think it would end up being something to where Patriot Front would show up.”
Evans said the group caused alarm not just for the picnickers, but for the downtown area as a whole as the masked men walked down main street.
Patriot Front is reportedly responsible for about 80 percent of white supremacist propaganda since 2019, an outsized number considering the group reportedly has stalled at fewer than 300 people as of last count.
But they were out recruiting in Prattville, according to people at the picnic, with one overhearing a member say they had signed someone up.
Despite the protests and intimidation tactics from Patriot Front, Hunt said the picnic brought together members of the LGBTQ community and allies for a chance to celebrate being who they are.
“Prattville doesn’t do anything for pride, so we made a day for us to go have fun,” Hunt said. “We welcomed everybody whether you’re part of the LGBT community or an ally, we welcomed everyone to come down there.”