Four White men heavily armed with automatic rifles and sidearms made an appearance in a riot-hit Black neighborhood in Ferguson this week amid the recent protests fueled by the anniversary of the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed Black teen who was killed by a White police officer last year.
The group of White men was not well received by residents, protestors, or police. They refer to themselves as “Oath Keepers," an association made up of present and past U.S. soldiers and police officers who aim to “protect” the U.S. Constitution.
"Their presence was both unnecessary and inflammatory,” said St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar, adding that police would work with county prosecutors to see if the men had broken any laws.
The group wore bulletproof vests and carried combat-style rifles claiming they were there to protect a journalist from Infowars.com — a conservative news website — who was onsite at the protests.
"There were problems here; there were people who got hurt. We needed to be prepared for that," said the group’s apparent leader who provided only ‘John’ as his name.
Infowars.com issued a statement denying any affiliation with the Oath Keepers and maintaining that the group went to Ferguson on their own to help business owners and residents protect their property from rioters.
Amid the surge of violence that has plagued Ferguson, more gunfire ensued throughout the weekend in addition to the arrival of these “Oath Keepers” today.
The presence of these men made the situation more tense and provoked uneasiness amongst the crowd of protesters.
Many protesters questioned the idea to bring heavy weaponry into an emotionally charged setting.
"You’re going to bring some uncommissioned citizens, White citizens, into a Black community like this? It's disrespectful," said Talal Ahmad who has been at the forefront of protests in the last year.
“"Here, in a Black neighborhood, we’re already living in a state of terror," he added.