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Hate unmasked: APR investigation reveals identity of Prattville Patriot Front leader

The latest information shows Van Horn as the regional leader over Alabama.

A still shot of Wesley Van Horn unmasking at the Patriot Front disruption of a Prattville Pride Picnic in contrast to a mugshot from Van Horn's June 2022 arrest for conspiracy to riot at an Idaho pride event.
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When 13 members of the white supremacist extremist group Patriot Front descended on downtown Prattville Sunday, most of the members made sure to keep their identities hidden behind a combination of gaiter-style face masks, sunglasses and hats.

But the apparent leader of the cohort briefly lowered his mask in response to a taunt from a picnic-goer, and the man caught the unmasking on video.

Using this video as a reference, APR has been able to identify the man as Wesley Evan Van Horn, 34, of Lexington, Alabama.

Van Horn was one of 31 members arrested in Idaho last June on a charge of conspiracy to riot after a tip led to local police stopping the group, which was traveling together in a U-Haul truck.

Morgan Moon, a researcher for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told APR that leaked communications from the Patriot Front’s private Discord server in January 2022 revealed that Van Horn is considered a “network director” for “network 6,” which Moon said includes Alabama and Florida.

When Van Horn was arrested in Idaho, Moon was able to identify him as the same man leading drills for the extremist group in Tallahassee in October of 2021.

“Regional directors are in charge of ensuring members reach activism quotas; members are required to go out and put up propaganda or face expulsion from the group,” Moon said. “They also work to recruit new members and are in charge of the vetting process in their areas. They also plan training and sparring events like we saw in Tallahassee.”

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It is not known whether Van Horn is still the Network 6 director, as the latest communications leak is from January 2022. 

Video taken during the event in Prattville shows Van Horn as the lone vocal member of the group, while the others stand mostly in silence while holding a sign reading “RESTORE AMERICAN VIRTUE.”

“We are here today as men of faith in action, and as such, we stand in opposition to the poisonous ideology of gay pride,” Van Horn proclaimed towards the picnic. “How can one be proud to poison the minds of the innocent and the children? That is nothing to be proud of … These deplorable acts are rejected by the common man. We as the faithful few of the nation will tolerate this filth no longer. We will rid ourselves of the wolves in sheep’s clothing …” 

A petition of divorce and child custody modifications against Van Horn by his ex-wife Kayla contain allegations of domestic violence and marital rape.

“The husband’s actions—as he admits in his petition—in slamming doors and knocking holes in the walls clearly meet the definition of domestic violence in the third degree … in that he intentionally placed or attempted to place the wife in fear of imminent serious physical injury by menacing…” one court document states. “Further, the husband has not only placed the wife in danger, but also the children by driving erratically and having explosive angry fits while driving with the kids in the car on vacation.

The documents further allege that Van Horn committed “criminal coercion” by “making the wife fearful to get out of this abusive relationship by coming to the authorities about the husband’s inducement of the wife into unwanted sexual encounters.”

Later court documents detail concerns about his involvement in the Patriot Front organization.

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“When defendant learned of the plaintiff’s involvement with Patriot Front, she asked the plaintiff if he was discontinuing his affiliation with the group, and his response was ‘I have only just begun.’”

One document specifically references the Idaho pride event where Van Horn was arrested.

“Since that time he’s been erratic,” Kayla states in the filing. 

In the leaked communications, Van Horn can be seen coordinating members for an event around November or December of 2021. At one point, he states that he expects about six Alabama members to participate in an event, including himself, although not all of them seem to show up.

Assuming Van Horn still coordinates the Alabama area, he would most likely be involved with multiple recent incidents of vandalism in the state, including graffiti that surfaced in Birmingham in January and July of 2022 and the recent hacking of road signs along I-65 in Clanton.

Moon said internal communications from 2022 revealed the group had about 350 members at the time, and 400 members is a good estimate for its current membership.

The group has had an outsized impact, however, in the spread of white supremacist propaganda, accounting for 80 percent of propaganda across the nation.

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“That’s about 14 pieces of propaganda per day,” Moon said. “They’re extremely active. No other white supremacist group is able to amass 200 white supremacist to finance travel and fly to places like Washington D.C. It’s significant. It shows an emboldedness of members and a hardened ideology. They’re one of the groups operating today I’m most concerned about due to their ability to carry out large propaganda demonstrations.”

The group has increasingly been taking control of road signage, Moon said, noting the ease at which the signage can be hacked.

“December 2021 was the first time we saw them start reprogramming street signs,” Moon said. “They’ve been using it more frequently. A lot of times, those signs are owned by private companies and extremists can get the passwords to hack these signs.”

Moon said she believes the ideology of the group’s top brass is probably revolutionary, with an ideal of creating a political system that puts white Americans, specifically of European descent, on top. But the group is still very much on the fringe.

“In their perfect world, they would build up numbers and be able to carry out some revolution, but I don’t see that really becoming realistic,” Moon said. “I think that is the kind of inherent goals that’s what they want … Because of their propaganda requirements they have an outsized impact where one individual might be putting up 80 pieces of propaganda and intimidating his community. But they are still extremely small compared to the US population.”

The group was founded by Thomas Ryan Rousseau as a splinter group from Vanguard America, which Moon described as a more explicitly neo-Nazi group. However, facing bad press and pressure from law enforcement following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Rousseau rebranded and created the Patriot Front with the red, white and blue aesthetic and nationalistic language to separate from Vanguard. 

This new group is less inherently violent—the only known violence from the group involved a counter-protest that Moon admitted appeared to instigate the physical altercation. 

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However, the group has strict physical fitness requirements and trains for conflict even if they are not the kind of group planning violent acts.

“They want to make warriors or soldiers; in their leaked communications they are giving meal plans and workouts and shaming members for not achieving workout goals,” Moon said. “They want to become warriors for the white cause. They are preparing for some sort of eventual conflict with their perceived enemies.”

Although the group has primarily been a white supremacist organization, Moon said the group has migrated toward contesting more LGBTQ events.

“They’re seeming to become more anti-LGBTQ with events across the country,” Moon said. “Patriot members have been seen on video burning pride flags, calling (LGBTQ people) monstrosities and pulling on the groomer narrative in the last two or three years.”

While Patriot Front has appeared in the state through vandalism efforts, this is the first known demonstration by group members in Alabama.

It’s unclear what led the group to show up in Prattville particularly, with pride events occurring in many other parts of the state during the month of June. However, Prattville has been in the news recently as a group of parents has challenged books containing LGBTQ content at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, with praise coming from some of the state’s Republican lawmakers. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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