The Oath Keepers are in Ferguson to help protect local businesses and residents, the group says. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the presence of the organization primarily comprised of current and former police, military, and first responders, is both "unnecessary" and "inflammatory."
The current Ferguson protests began on the anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting by police officer Darren Wilson. The former law enforcement officer was not indicted for any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the Oath Keepers went to Ferguson during the riots last year and were reportedly kicked off the rooftops where they had positioned themselves to help protect private businesses. The armed men have reportedly been threatened with arrest for their activities.
Oath Keepers are on the scene in #Ferguson pic.twitter.com/vaJkqg9JK0At least one dozen Ferguson businesses were burned to the ground in the wake of the Darren Wilson decision in the Michael Brown shooting case.
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 11, 2015
Protesters trying to drive out Oath Keepers. OKs say "we've got your back" https://t.co/w1CBUEBTdzAccording to a report by NBC, both Ferguson police officers and protesters stated that they saw Oath Keepers carrying their rifles and related gear around the town on Tuesday morning. The city was placed under a "state of emergency" due to the ongoing protests of the Mike Brown shooting. Missouri state law respects the Second Amendment and does not prohibit the open carry of firearms as long as the act is not done in an "angry or threatening manner."
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 11, 2015
'Oathkeepers' turn up to #Ferguson protest armed with assault rifles Watch More: http://t.co/yWdD8wqCMq pic.twitter.com/j1jWEOcf7M"I'm happy that we're able to defend ourselves," a man identifying himself as an Oath Keeper said in footage from NBC affiliate KSDK. "It's been our right for a long time."
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) August 11, 2015
The St. Louis County Police Department said it would consult with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorneys Office about the legalities of the issue. Social media photos and posts about the Ferguson Oath Keepers sightings often stated that the men are armed with "assault rifles." That phrase is most commonly used by individuals unfamiliar with firearms or gun control supporters. While the label is not used on any rifle box or item description, it is often cast upon a vast array of semi-automatic rifles - particularly the extremely popular AR-15 or SKS rifles.
Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said he did not believe officers had confronted the Oath Keepers or told to leave.
"We do not know who sent them," he added.
While the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed the Oath Keepers a "fiercely anti-government, militaristic group," others feel that members of the organization are patriots and work diligently to uphold the rights detailed in the Constitution.
Oath Keepers was reportedly founded in 2004 by Stewart Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate and Army paratrooper. The organization has approximately 30,000 members.
[Image via: Rena Schild/Shutterstock.com]