As a community grapples with the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown and yet another Black male shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a heavily armed White militia group arrived on the scene Monday, swiftly drawing criticism from police and protesters alike.
Reuters reports that the group allegedly appeared in bulletproof vests and carrying military-style weapons to “protect a media organization.” Their presence was striking in the predominantly Black neighborhood, which erupted in violence late-Sunday and Monday following peaceful demonstrations one year after Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a Darren Wilson, a White ex-Ferguson police officer.
St. Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, called the presence of the Oath Keepers “both unnecessary and inflammatory,” according to NBC News.
Here are 5 things to know about the group:
Stewart Rhodes grew up in the Southwest and joined the Army after finishing high school. He became a paratrooper, receiving an honorable discharge due to an injury in a night parachuting accident. Then Rhodes attended college at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, graduating in 1998. Rhodes has said that he taught street crime survival and rape prevention at the college women’s center and also worked as a certified Nevada concealed-carry firearms instructor.
After college, his first politically oriented job was supervising interns in Washington, D.C., for libertarian Ron Paul, then a Republican congressman from Texas. Rhodes subsequently attended Yale Law School, graduating in 2004, and clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan. A trial lawyer and libertarian, he later volunteered on Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign.
3. The group describes itself as “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,’” according to its website.
4. It is on the radar of anti-hate groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to Mother Jones.
5. Members abide by a strict code of conduct or “10 unlawful orders“ that allow government to encroach on its freedom, including disarmament; impose martial law or a “state of emergency;”warrantless searches of the American people; and among other things, obey any order to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants.”
6. The group has been battered by high-profile of arrests of some of its members, including Charles Dyer, a former U.S. Marine and federal fugitive. In 2011, Dyer was arrested outside of Houston, Texas on charges of raping a 7-year-old girl. He was also accused of possessing “an unregistered grenade launcher, one of three stolen from a California military base in a weapons shipment bound for Iraq,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was found guilty in 2012 of sexual abuse of a child, according to KFDX News.
Do you think members of a Black militia, like the New Black Panther Party, would be allowed to walk around like the Oath Keepers in Ferguson or anywhere in America?
PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter | VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube