FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) - A group of armed former military and law enforcement members known as the Oath Keepers have stirred up controversy in Ferguson. Five of them, armed with assault rifles, walked the streets of Ferguson Monday night.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar spoke out against their presence, calling it “unnecessary” and “inflammatory”.
St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman explains, “It’s inflammatory, I think, because once you saw them, I was down there moving to the corridor, the flocks of crowds just gathered around them. We heard from some of the protest community how they didn’t want them there, so it’s our job to figure out the legalities of that.”
Open carry is legal in Missouri, but Belmar is now looking into the legality of their operating in Ferguson. Schellman adds, “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Oath Keepers, Caucasian folks, African-American folks, doesn’t matter, anytime someone sees a weapon, it’s going to fan the flames.”
Protesters seemed to agree with the chief’s stance on this. Protester and St. Louis cab driver Umar Lee, who questioned the Oath Keepers on camera Monday night, tells FOX 2 that even though he supports gun rights, he felt their open carry of heavy weapons only served to escalate an already volatile situation. Others said it did nothing to help race relations, since the Oath Keepers present were armed, and white.
What were the Oath Keepers doing in Ferguson? You may remember them from the grand jury decision in November, protecting small businesses from vandals.
This time, they were protecting two reporters employed by infowars.com, an alternative, libertarian news agency.
Infowars.com reporter Joe Biggs says, “They volunteered their time to come and help. A lot of people know what happened Sunday, some gunfire broke out, a person was shot by the police.”
Biggs says the Oath Keepers, whose main goal is upholding the constitution, didn’t clash with those who bothered to speak with them. Instead, he feels it was some on social media who fanned the flames.
The reporter explains, “We crossed the street, and what happened? We opened a dialogue. People started talking about their second amendment rights, people need to know they can open carry in the state of Missouri.” The Oath Keepers have not returned FOX 2’s request for comment.