ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A Florissant man is accused of plotting to start a riot at an LGBTQ Pride event in Idaho over the weekend. The alleged crime happened as the same man had been putting off court dates in St. Louis County for allegedly painting a racist message on a Washington University mural honoring African American figures.
The graffiti at Washington University has been covered up. The man charged in March with doing it has yet to show up in court. Mitchell Wagner, 24, of Florissant was among 31 members of the white nationalist group, “Patriot Front” now charged in Idaho.
Organizers of St. Louis’s Pride Parade and PrideFest are certainly taking heed. The St. Louis events are less than two weeks away: June 25-26.
“We’re taking all necessary precautions working with local law enforcement and our safety team to ensure the safety of all attendees. Our utmost priority is everybody’s safety,” said PrideSTL president Brandon Reid. “We’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not going to be scared away. We’re going to continue with our festival. We have certain things we put into place to ensure everyone can come to our festival, enjoy our festival, and leave safe and get home safe.”
“It’s disappointing when it’s a time for us to get together that there’s still people out there in 2022 who feel the need to come and disrupt an event that’s supposed to be about love and peace and bringing everybody together,” Reid continued.
Wagner is charged with a felony for allegedly spray-painting “Patriot Front” on the mural in December. He had a court appearance in April that continued until June 1, just 10 days before his arrest in Idaho. But St. Louis County Judge Nicole Zellweger allowed the June appearance to be continued until next month.
“He’s charged with a property crime. He’s never hurt, anybody. He’s got zero criminal history,” said his attorney Michael Kielty.
Prosecutors had yet to present any evidence in the case. Wagner was charged via summons in St. Louis. He had no bond and no travel restrictions. So, he was free to go to Idaho where he faces a low-level misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to riot.
Though the “Patriot Front” promotes bigotry, Kielty said they were non-violent.
“They were unarmed. They were completely compliant with law enforcement,” he said. “The first amendment is here for a reason. It’s for speech, even if we don’t like it, even if we disagree with it, even if we hate it. They have a viewpoint that you disagree with, I disagree with but as a criminal defense attorney, we have a constitution and if we don’t like their speech, as long as it’s non-violent, and it’s peaceful, it’s protected. It’s not criminal.”