Black Lives Matter activists were outraged Monday that an armed group of former military members was allowed to protect businesses and private property in Ferguson, Missouri, claiming that police are playing favorites.
A group of former military and police, known as “The Oath Keepers,” was spotted “patrolling” the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with AR-15 style rifles as protests and unrest over the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death continued Monday night, leading some protesters to claim the group is getting preferential treatment from local law enforcement because it is mostly comprised of white men.
Formed by a former U.S. Army paratrooper, the group pledges to fulfill the oath taken by the nation’s military and police to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” even if that means defying “unconstitutional” orders and laws. Last year, members of the organization were seen defending homes and businesses from rooftops during similar unrest throughout the area.
Dozens of activists were arrested Monday for tussling with police, throwing bottles and other objects at law enforcement officers, and “obstructing the normal use of the entrances” to a court building, but so far, none of the Oath Keepers have been detained during the ongoing chaos.
Despite the fact that “Oath Keepers” have so far not been spotted violating any laws, some Black Lives Matter advocates are arguing that the former military members are being given more latitude from police because of race, according to the UK Independent,
Kayla Reed, an activist heavily involved with the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, asked on Twitter: “Why are there men with guns and the police are doing nothing?”
The short answer is, because they’re not breaking any laws. Missouri is one of many states with “open carry laws,” which allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms openly in public.
A cellphone video captured a conversation between one of the gun-wielding Oath Keepers and some Black Lives Matter protesters showing the member defending the group’s presence, saying they are there to ensure people’s rights and property remain protected amid the chaos.
“If you’re armed, why can’t the protesters be armed?” one demonstrator on the video asked.
“Some are,” the unidentified member responded, adding that some local residents took up arms to protect private property last year when riots erupted after Michael Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson.
The Oath Keepers, who say they are interested in protecting civil rights as well as private property, have not released an official statement regarding their presence at the demonstrations.