On August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown stole several packages of cigarillos from a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri.
Shortly after, he was shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Ever since, the St. Louis suburb has been plagued by civil disorder at the heart of controversy over the systemic racism within police departments across the United States.
A local chapter of the national organization, Oath Keepers, has sparked additional controversy over its presence during protests in the city, as members patrolled the streets of Ferguson armed with assault rifles, legally permitted by the state of Missouri’s open carry law that allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly display firearms, unless it is done in an “angry or threatening manner.”
Recently the group has gained attention with the announcement a few weeks ago that they planned to arm protesters of color to demonstrate that gun laws and the freedoms granted by Missouri’s open carry law should be upheld without bias to race. According to Sam Andrews, the organization’s board of directors and founder Stewart Rhodes objected to holding the demonstration, causing Mr. Andrews and the rest of the members of his chapter to sever ties with the organization. Mr. Andrews cited the group YETI (You Exterminating Tyrant Ideology), will continue planning and executing the operation, working with a City of Ferguson liaison to ensure the demonstration doesn’t interfere with traffic and safety precautions are taken. Mr. Andrews also claims the Oath Keepers leadership has provoked several chapters across the country to splinter from the organization due to racist sentiments from its leadership.