Armed militia members were spotted early Tuesday at protests marking the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, where they were reportedly protecting a writer for one of the best known conspiracy theory websites in America.
Reuters reported that four men at the protests who carried military-style rifles and wore bulletproof vests identified themselves as members of the Oath Keepers, a loose-knit national organization of current and former military and law enforcement officers who pledge to defend the Constitution. A man who identified himself only as John told the news outlet that they were protecting a journalist from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website, Infowars.com.
In an item without a byline, Infowars said it did not “hire” the Oath Keepers, which is a group comprised of volunteers.
“Despite the remark by ‘John,’ Infowars did not hire the Oath Keepers to protect its journalists reporting from the embattled Missouri city,” the item read. “The Oath Keepers went to Ferguson on their own without consulting with Infowars.”
Another article at Infowars acknowledged the Oath Keepers’ proximity to the website’s reporters, however.
“Following Sunday night’s shooting, Infowars reporters Joe Biggs and Jakari Jackson arrived in Ferguson to cover the latest developments,” Infowar’s Paul Joseph Watson wrote. “They were flanked by Oath Keepers members who were exercising their right to open carry.”
Volunteers from the group briefly had showed up around town in November, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the unarmed teen’s shooting death, at what they said was the request of business owners and residents worried about the safety of their property. The group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, told local media that the volunteers left their posts once they were threatened with arrest for operating without a license.
Rhodes has since made headlines for suggesting that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) should be hanged for treason.
Authorities aren’t pleased with the Oath Keepers’ presence this time around, either. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar called their presence at the protests “both unnecessary and inflammatory,” according to NBC News. The news outlet reported that the police department said it would consult with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorneys Office about whether it was legal for the Oath Keepers to open-carry at the protests.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.