Although Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called in the National Guard to prepare for potential unrest in Ferguson following a grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown shooting, some local business owners and residents turned to volunteers from a group called the Oath Keepers to protect their property instead.
But St. Louis County police shut down the group’s security efforts Saturday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Oath Keepers’ founder, Stewart Rhodes, told the newspaper that volunteers agreed to leave their posts after being threatened with arrest for operating without a license.
The group, made up of current and former law enforcement officials and military who pledge to defend the Constitution, had put out a call last week on its website asking for recruits to head to Ferguson. Rhodes told the Post-Dispatch that the people who volunteered to handle rooftop security there had “intense military, police and EMS training.”
Sam Andrews, a former Defense Department contractor who told the New York Times that he’s organized private security details for Ferguson businesses in the Oath Keepers’ name, said there were “more than five, less than 500” volunteers contributing to the effort.
Andrews told the newspaper that he had screened all the volunteers as to whether they might have “racially based motivations” for coming to Ferguson.
“I don’t want any racists in my group,” he said. “I don’t want any people who want to visit violence on any group. I only want professionals with real credentials that can be verified and have experience in dealing with violence.”
It’s unclear if the group plans to resume its activities in Ferguson.