On Saturday, Idaho police arrested 31 people linked to the white nationalist group Patriot Front for allegedly conspiring to stoke chaos at an annual LGBTQ+ pride event in Coeur d’Alene. Authorities say the suspects were armed with riot gear, shields, and a smoke grenade, along with documents that appeared to be an “operations plan.”
Now, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, the mother of one arrestee is speaking out in hopes that her son will finally cut ties with the extremist faction.
Karen Amsden, mom of alleged Patriot Front member and Springville, Utah resident Jared Michael Boyce, said on Monday that her son has struggled to fill “a void” in his life ever since his father left the family years ago and came out as gay. A licensed clinical social worker, Amsden said she’s going public in an attempt to sabotage his standing in the group, because her other attempts at convincing him to walk away from the far right have so far failed.
“I would love to do whatever I can to out him [as a Patriot Front member] so that he can’t be a part of it,” she said. “And that they don’t want him to be a part of their group because his mom has loose lips and a big mouth and he’s never going to get away with anything.”
Amsden said that after her son was released from jail, he told her he’d continue to stand with the group, so she delivered an ultimatum. “I told him, ‘Well, then you can’t live here. You can choose between Patriot Front and your family.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I can’t quit Patriot Front.’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you've just chosen. So pack your stuff and get out of my house.’”
According to police, Boyce, 27, was among the men who were busted after a citizen reported a “little army” of masked men inside a U-Haul truck. (Boyce, whose Twitter bio states that he’s an “Alpha Chad,” “professional Antifa teabagger,” and “Patriot through and fucking through,” was previously exposed as a Patriot Front member in 2020. His screen name, “@PedosnJooshang,” is a variation on “Pedos and Jews Hang.”)
“Officers believed it likely the intent of these individuals was to incite physical confrontation and cause disorder,” states an incident report shared with The Daily Beast by the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. “The U-Haul van was located and an investigative stop was conducted. A total of 31 subjects were contacted inside of the van. Based on the totality of the investigation, it was determined the subjects were part of the ‘Patriot Front’ and conspired to use violence and/or the threat of the violence to disturb the public peace. All 31 were arrested for conspiracy to riot.”
The suspects, who ranged from 20 to 40 years old, traveled to Idaho from states including Utah, Texas, Washington, Alabama, Illinois, and Missouri. Those facing charges also include 24-year-old Josiah Buster, a former specialist in the Army who was arrested alongside his brother Mishael, 22. (Heather J. Hagan, a U.S. Army spokeswoman, told The Daily Beast that Buster was in the Army from July 2016 to November 2020 and had never deployed.)
Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that roughly one in five Patriot Front applicants claimed to be current or former members of the military. Those numbers stemmed from the hate group’s leaked private chats, which included 87 membership applications.
“In the end, while a lot of people say things online, only a few people are willing to sink so low as to intimidate people peacefully celebrating Pride by physically marching around with shields and drawing public attention to their hatefulness,” SPLC investigator Michael Hayden told The Daily Beast. “We absolutely expect to see the same extremists popping up again because they are the lifers the movement needs—men who have nothing else going for them but their acrid feelings of resentment.”
Another Patriot Front member arrested on Saturday, Mitchell Frederick Wagner, was already facing charges for allegedly vandalizing a Black history mural in St. Louis late last year. His lawyer, Michael Kielty, told The Daily Beast on Monday, “Although we might not agree with the speech, we have a right to free speech… We might not like it, but they have the right to do it.”
Amsden said her son told her that anonymous donors bailed him and the other suspects out of jail. When Boyce appeared at her door on Sunday, Amsden said he told her, “Don’t believe the media, mom. We were just there because they’re grooming kids.”
Experts say groups like Patriot Front are especially insidious in that they strive to present themselves as non-violent and all-American.
However, Patriot Front “is a neo-Nazi group,” extremism researcher Jon Lewis told The Daily Beast. “They’re not just white nationalists, they are not Western nationalists, they are not patriots. They are neo-Nazis.”
Lewis, who is a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said Patriot Front intentionally distorts its messaging to give the impression that they are, as their name signifies, “patriots.” Members distribute fliers and hang posters featuring the American flag, bald eagles, and so forth, messaging which Lewis said, “does not change the fact that at their core, when you look at what they say privately, they are neo-Nazis.”
Before heading to Idaho, Boyce told his mom that he was going camping for the weekend. Amsden, who was busy rehearsing for a local community theater production, said she “had no inkling” that anything was amiss until a news alert about the hate group’s arrests flashed on her phone. “And I saw this news story come up that said 31 members of a white supremacist group were arrested at a rally, and I just knew—I knew he was part of it.”
Amsden looked through photos of the men in matching hats and white balaclavas and believed she spotted her son.
“I could tell it was him,” she said. “And I had tried calling his phone and it was just going straight to voicemail and then later I was able to access the jail website and confirm that he was one of the guys that was arrested. It’s a sick feeling.”
Amsden had warned her son after previous Patriot Front trips that he’d get into trouble if he continued associating with the group.
“He’s so misguided and bought into all their rhetoric. It just makes me sick,” Amsden said, adding that she hopes his arrest is a “wake-up call” to quit.
“This is not who I raised,” she continued. “This is not the example that was set for him.”
Amsden said that since his teenage years, her son was “looking for some kind of connection” and “brotherhood.”
He landed on Patriot Front years later.
Boyce was married and living with his then-wife and their kids when he became involved with the white supremacist group around 2018, according to Amsden. She said Boyce’s spouse told her that he found the organization online and that he “had to complete an application and send some money to join.”
Boyce began to grapple with his own internal doubts when he was 14 or so, but at that stage, dealt with it in a peaceful way, Amsden recalled. He got a tattoo of Buddha and talked about “not letting anger rule you and loving everyone,” she said.
“But he totally changed when he found this group,” Amsden continued. “I first understood how far he’d gone when he was denying the Holocaust—and one of my personal heroes is Anne Frank. And when he told me that, I thought he was kidding. Like, how can you? I just didn’t even know what to say.”
Boyce and his ex-wife share custody of their children, who Amsden described as “the light in my life.” Her grandchildren are “really the only reason” she continued her relationship with Boyce as his views became more and more repugnant, Amsden said.
Once Boyce sank deeper and deeper into white nationalism, Amsden said she began to research Patriot Front for potential clues as to why her son was so enthralled. Amsden considered calling the police to advise them of Boyce’s white nationalist leanings, but since he hadn’t committed a crime, she wasn’t sure this was the right move. Her worries came to a head with Boyce’s arrest this past weekend.
On Monday, Amsden was still trying to process the news as she prepared for Boyce to move out of her home. Boyce instructed her not to speak to the media or to the FBI, a request by which she said she has no intention of abiding.
“He actually just showed up here at my house,” Amsden said. “And it was a moment I’ve kind of dreaded because I was hoping he was going to change his attitude. But he’s not.”
Still, Amsden “just really want[s] to believe that people can change and that he will figure it out,” she said. “But my goodness, it’s taking a long time.”
With additional reporting by Corbin Bolies.