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How do people start on the path to white supremacist radicalization?

A psychologist who studies extremism said it can usually start with a personal issue.

DENVER — Three of the 31 people arrested outside a Pride event in Idaho -- Nathan Brenner, Conor Ryan, and Forrest Rankin -- are from Colorado, apparently traveling more than 1,000 miles to participate in what investigators believe was a planned riot.

Investigators say the men were part of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front.

“Some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation we saw, but the equipment that was carried and worn by those individuals along with the large amount of equipment that was left in the van when the stop happened,” said Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White.

“That level of preparation is not something you see every day. It was very clear to us immediately that this was a riotous group that had prepared in advance to come downtown.”

RELATED: 3 Coloradans among those arrested near Idaho pride event

How the men came to be associated with the group, founded after the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, is unclear.

“What we have found is that it usually does start with a personal issue,” said Dr. Rachel Nielsen, a public safety psychologist who studies extremism.

“What we find is when people start to get upset over something in their personal life and they start blaming other people and externalizing that responsibility, then they’re really vulnerable to a lot of the social media rhetoric and they can get swept up into movements that they previously had nothing to do with.”

Nielsen said the advent of social media has made it easier for these hateful groups to gain members.

“You don’t have to meet someone in real life or have someone in your neighborhood or community,” she said. “So now, you can find people online who have similar hate ideas.”

“A lot of us know how the algorithms work. The more you look at concerning content, aggressive, violent content, the more the internet gives you even more of that.”

Nielsen said an early sign that someone is being radicalized by one of these ideas may be them pulling away and talking less.

“Friends and family might notice that something is different that their loved one is angry, on edge, not acting like themselves but they may not know the specifics,” she said.

“You want to keep the individual talking. There’s something there that’s going on that’s making them angry.”

RELATED: From QAnon to radical militias: How to talk to a loved one with extremist views

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