FERGUSON, Missouri — Four white men armed with assault rifles and pistols said they contacted police before walking the streets of Ferguson early Tuesday morning.
A police officer told The Daily Beast that he understood that the men belonging to a right-wing militia group contacted high-ranking officials within the St. Louis County Police Department before appearing next to cops at 2 a.m. A spokesman for the department told The Guardian that Oath Keepers “did not ask for or receive permission” to attend.
Oath Keepers was formed in the early days of the Obama presidency to protect “our constitutional republic [from being] destroyed!” The group said it was in Ferguson on Tuesday to guard a two-man crew from Alex Jones’s Infowars.
“We’ve been in communications with them for a long time, and we’ve been very impressed by them,” an Oath Keeper said of the conspiracy-laden website.
The man later identified as John Karriman answered questions from reporters and residents alike who were taken by surprise by the presence of armed civilians.
“This is the definition of white privilege,” said Eric Jones, a 21-year-old Ferguson resident who has been protesting since the day Mike Brown was killed.
Infowars has had a steady presence here in Ferguson and before that, Cincinnati, on the day charges against the officer who killed Samuel Dubose were announced. In Ferguson, the team has mainly consisted of Joe Biggs, who is white, and Jakari Jackson, who is black.
Both were on hand for the Oath Keepers’s show of lethal force, but most of those still lingering about after a relatively peaceful night of protests were interested in talking to the men with the guns.
“Do you support the Black Lives Matter movement?” asked Bradley Rayford, a freelance photographer and St. Louis County resident.
“I think all lives matter,” Karriman replied.
Somehow, the questions allowed Karriman to spiral off into well-charted right-wing territory: abortion, a tyrannical Justice Department, something about Kenya, and “our mulatto president.”
Karriman recommended residents of Ferguson shouldn’t arm themselves and walk the streets without notifying police first. He shifted away from questions of whether a black group of armed citizens would be given the same treatment.
“There were brothers out here armed last year, defending businesses,” he said. “And yet it was us who attracted more attention from the authorities.”
Attention seemed to be the purpose of last night’s exercise. There was little discussion of what the Oath Keepers stand for, let alone what they do.
“Why are you here?” they were repeatedly asked.
“Protection,” they responded, but attention was likely the more accurate answer.
Jones and his friend Robert Crigler, both black, watched incredulously as the Oath Keepers held court.
“This is a double standard right here in the open,” Jones said, offering what he said would be the outcome if an armed black man patrolled Ferguson. “If I was to come down here tonight with an AR-15 and a pistol strapped to my hip, I’d be breaking news.”
“Dead and dying on the ground.”