On Monday evening, despite significant police presence in Ferguson, citizens and local businesses in Ferguson, Missouri were aided by the presence of a civil-rights group identifying themselves as the “Oath Keepers.”
According to the official site, Oath Keepers is a “non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Four men, all of whom openly toted military-style automatic weapons and small arms, patrolled the streets and when approached by reporters, the Oath Keepers stated they were fully licensed to carry firearms and were present to protect a journalist associated with Alex Jones-run website, www.infowars.com.
Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, declared a state of emergency on Monday as a precautionary measure to prevent a repeat of riots and mayhem which proceeded the death of Michael Brown in 2014.
Following a day of relatively peaceful protests, Sunday evening exploded in violence with the shooting of a protester who had allegedly fired a weapon at police, random reports of vandalism and numerous incidents of protesters hurling rocks at police late into the evening and into the early morning hours of Monday. In sum, 27 were arrested on Sunday evening.
Although Oath Keeper’s numbers were small, four in total, no incident involving the men was reported. Despite the group’s aim to assist in the protection of persons and property, some were not content with the Oath Keeper’s presence.
Saint Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, was critical of the Oath Keeper’s appearance, stating: “Their presence was both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
Despite protestations from law enforcement, not all citizens viewed the Oath Keepers with skepticism. Sam Andrews, an Oath Keeper volunteer in Ferguson, explained to RT News:
“Why the National Guard was not here supporting the St. Louis County Police and supporting the highway patrol and protecting these businesses, to me, is either such a grotesque incompetence or downright criminal negligence. We have people living in apartments above these businesses . . . so arson is a lethal threat.”
Another unnamed Oath Keeper announced:
“Private business people that cannot afford security have asked the volunteers to help protect their businesses. The people in Ferguson have learned a sad and difficult lesson, that there are not enough police and National Guards to protect all the homes and all the businesses,” a man in military fatigues told Sky News.
Even in the atmosphere of violence in Ferguson, the Oath Keepers presence could be self-defeating.
Despite the fact that no clash occurred between the group and either rioters or the police, it may not be necessary for the local, county or state police or the Missouri National Guard to have a competitor in their midst as they perform the functions of their job.
Given the ubiquity of hostility toward police in Ferguson, particularly the animus directed at white law enforcement, the specter of armed white men with an affiliation to a group not recognized as lawful authorities may only increase tension and will do little to enhance the quality of life there.
The presence of the Oath Keepers in Ferguson may evoke a comparison to members of the New Black Panthers at Philadelphia polling stations in 2012, where the group reportedly turned away accredited election monitors from several polling places. Although an inexact comparison, the presence of both groups in an emotionally charged environment can be misinterpreted and contribute to throwing events out of balance.
Despite being lawful, it is also provocative and unwanted by the authorities.
[RT News] [Breitbart] [Reuters] [oathkeepers.org]