For the second time in a year, the White anti-government militia group Oath Keepers have deployed members in Ferguson, Missouri. At least four members are in the city and patrolling areas where there are majority Black residents. To many residents, seeing these men fully armed with assault rifles, multiple magazines of ammo and an attitude is a sign of intimidation. The actions of Oath Keepers have not been welcomed by the community, state or city officials with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar describing their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
However, despite a declared state of emergency in St. Louis County, the actions of the Oath Keepers are entirely legal. Missouri is an “open carry state” and according to Democratic State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, “They were able to hold their guns out in public because it’s an open carry state, but if you’re African American in the state of Missouri and you have a rifle in an open carry state, you’re gonna be shot …And so there is one rule for white gun owners and another rule for black gun owners.”
The group’s website states, “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.” But the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks radical hate groups, stated Oath Keepers was a “fiercely anti-government, militaristic group.”
The group has various Facebook pages for different chapters across the country and many of the posts are anti-Obama and verge on being racist toward Black people.
The group claims it is in Ferguson to protect the property of business owners with member Larry Kirk, a police chief in a Missouri town, stating that the group is in Ferguson to “ensure police and government aren’t overreaching citizens’ rights.”