The return of an armed militia group patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, drew criticism today from both protesters and the county police chief overseeing security amid demonstrations marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's shooting death. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the presence of the Oath Keepers, wearing camouflage bulletproof vests and openly carrying rifles and pistols on West Florissant Avenue, the hub of marches and protests for the past several days, was "both unnecessary and inflammatory." Belmar plans to ask county prosecutor Bob McCulloch about the legality of armed patrols by the far-right group, which largely comprises past and present members of the military, first responders, and police officers.
Missouri law allows anyone with a concealed carry permit to openly display a firearm anywhere in the state. John Karriman, a representative of the group who teaches at the Missouri Southern State University police academy, said there were five armed Oath Keepers at the protests last night and a considerably larger number of unarmed members stationed nearby to try to help keep the peace. He said members plan to remain in Ferguson "at least through the end of the week." The Washington Post has a primer on the group here. It notes that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Oath Keepers a “fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group.”