“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” -JFK
FERGUSON, MO – Members of the group Oath Keepers were spotted guarding rooftops in downtown Ferguson, Missouri last week. The group, made up of former military, police, firefighters and other government employees, had been taking turns on rooftops guarding against arsonists and looters. When questioned by authorities, members of the 35,000 person strong organization responded that they were there to protect the constitutional rights of the protestors.
Members of the Oath Keepers said their presence was a response to the looting and the reports of potential police abuse. Stewart Rhodes, founder of the group, said that the response of the authorities to protect business owners was inadequate. “We thought they were going to do it right this time,” Rhodes said about the grand jury decision in the case against Officer Darren Wilson. “But when Monday rolled around and they didn’t park the National Guard at these businesses, that’s when we said we have got to do something. Historically, the government almost always fails to protect people.”
Rhodes’ group put out a request for volunteers after the decision was handed down not to indict officer Wilson. Members came from states such as Nebraska, Indiana and Texas. In an interview with St. Louis Today, John Karriman of Joplin said, “We were sick in our gut we couldn’t be here sooner. We are here to volunteer our time and make sure everybody stays safe.”
The Oath Keepers criticized Governor Jay Nixon‘s (D) response to the protests, asking: “With hundreds of criminals stealing the businesses of Ferguson blind and damaging private property, how many arrests of actual looters took place?” the group said. “The percentage is embarrassing (and arrests of otherwise peaceful protesters for ‘failure to disperse’ or ‘failure to keep moving’ don’t count).”
Members who volunteered to guard rooftops and be on the lookout for violence and government abuse were vetted by leadership to ensure none of them had any ties to racism. ”I don’t want any racists in my group. 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,” said Rhodes.
The members interviewed by police were initially allowed to stay, until Saturday when an onslaught of media attention caused the authorities to ask them to leave on threat of arrest for operating without a license. The volunteers initially argued, but then decided to leave early on Saturday. One participant in the armed watch claimed that they would go back as protestors.
Many of the volunteers have offered to stay and protect against potential arsonists. One dentist was reportedly happy to have their help in the area after rioters destroyed the front door of his business and stole medical supplies. He even apparently gave his keys to the volunteers because he felt that they were there to help keep him and his business safe. “We gave them our keys,” he said. “We didn’t know that much about them, but we got a feeling of trust. You have to do something to protect our building.”
Former Defense Department contractor Sam Andrews has been recruiting and organizing private security details for businesses in Ferguson. He supported the idea of what the Oath Keepers were doing, saying: “I think in most of them, there’s probably something that they probably don’t even recognize: that we have a moral obligation to protect the weakest among us. When we see these violent people, these arsonists and anarchists, attacking, it just pokes at you in a deep place.”
The response of the Oath Keepers is eerily reminiscent of the LA Riots, which saw Korean business owners exercising their right to bear arms, and defending their businesses with handguns. Although, many of the kneejerk responses of the anti-gun left has been to chastise these citizens, the actual people on the ground in Ferguson appear to appreciate the volunteers who have offered themselves up to serve as extra security detail in an area of the country on high alert.
Police officers who are not able to provide adequate resources to preserve law and order in their districts should be as welcoming for the extra help as the business owners are.