Armed White Militia Freely Patrols Ferguson, Yet Peaceful Protestors Arrested
One year after a white police officer shot and killed unarmed, black teen Michael Brown, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri are gripped by unrest and palpable tensions once again.
Late on Sunday, as peaceful demonstrations were held to commemorate the anniversary of Brown's death, gunfire could be heard; an 18-year-old, black male was shot and critically wounded by police.
Protests continued into Monday, and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency.
A number of people were arrested throughout the day during acts of peaceful civil disobedience.
Prominent Black Lives Matter activists DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, as well as scholar-activist Dr. Cornel West, were among those arrested.
Early on Tuesday, people began feeling unsettled by several white men dawning military gear and armed with assault rifles patrolling the streets.
It was eventually discovered they're part of a group known as the Oath Keepers.
According to Newsweek, the men were there to serve as security for a journalist from Infowars.com, a website founded by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The Oath Keepers' website claims,
The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, characterizes the Oath Keepers as "a fiercely anti-government, militaristic group."
Others went further, labeling them as white supremacists.
In spite of the group's startling appearance, police reportedly did not confront the Oath Keepers whatsoever -- a fact many found particularly troubling given peaceful protestors were arrested throughout the day.
Some Twitter users expressed how they found it difficult to believe black people carrying assault rifles would also be treated with such nonchalance by police.
Missouri law allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly carry weapons unless they do so in an “angry or threatening manner," but it's not clear whether or not police asked the Oath Keepers to provide any documentation.
Regardless, with everything going on, many feel the presence of the Oath Keepers only serves to escalate tensions.
Correspondingly, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar characterized the group's presence in Ferguson as "both unnecessary and inflammatory."
This is not the first time the Oath Keepers showed up in Ferguson, but it's apparent many were upset by the timing of this most recent appearance.
Citations: Heavily Armed Oath Keepers Arrive in Riot Hit Ferguson (Newsweek), Emergency Declared in Ferguson After Shooting (NYT), Oath Keepers Turn Up at Michael Brown Protests in Ferguson Missouri (NBC News)