In the midst of the worst violence that Ferguson, Missouri, has ever seen earlier this week, one group of people were keeping a watchful eye on the community: Oath Keepers. The mysterious cloak-and-dagger group of essentially militia could be seen on the rooftops in downtown Ferguson for a few days after violent rioting broke out. The violence came after it was announced police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for shooting and killing unarmed teen Michael Brown.
The Oath Keepers first appeared on rooftops on Tuesday, but by Saturday, the Oath Keepers were shut down by local police for operating without a license, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Many protesters spotted the Oath Keepers on rooftops on Tuesday night as they marched down South Florissant Avenue toward Ferguson’s City Hall. At the time, they were thought to be either National Guard, police, or possibly even the Ku Klux Klan. Many of them had clearly visible red fire extinguishers and others had rifles.
The truth about Oath Keepers, the Post-Dispatch reports, is that they are a national volunteer group with over 35,000 members. Started by a Yale Law School graduate Stewart Rhodes in 2009, the group operates on the basis of protecting constitutional rights.
Before they were ordered off the rooftops by the St. Louis County Police Department, several locals who live in the low-lying buildings along Ferguson’s main street spotted them.
“I opened the window and said, ‘Hey, can I help you?'” Greg Hildebrand, 35, a website developer told the Post-Dispatch of spotting some of the Oath Keeper sentries on a nearby rooftop in plain view of his bathroom window. Hildebrand said he felt “a lot better” having Oath Keepers on guard, given the violence of the previous nights.
About two dozen buildings and three police cars in Ferguson have been set on fire in the past week, and countless store windows shattered, along with other property vandalism. Even the windows of City Hall were shattered with bricks on Tuesday night.
On Saturday, the Oath Keepers joined protesters after being ordered off of the rooftops by police.
According to the New York Times, the Oath Keepers started protesting against authorities over the weekend in the same area that they were patrolling. They specifically protested against the work of St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.
The presence of National Guard troops and police was still heavy, but the Oath Keepers maintained their presence and kept a watchful eye on the streets of Ferguson.
[Lead image via ABC News / In-line image via Vivienne Scott, Inquisitr]