- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Heavily-armed members of a patriot group known as the “Oath Keepers” turned up in Ferguson, Missouri, early Tuesday, adding extra tension to an already uneasy climate in the St. Louis suburb amid violent protests. 

The Oath Keepers organization said its members — all former military, police and first responders — pledged to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” NBC reported Tuesday. 

But St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described the Oath Keepers’ presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.” 

Members of the group, mostly white males, were seen carrying assault rifles and side arms and wearing bulletproof vests and camouflage. 

Protesters approached the group, asking why they were allowed to openly carry weapons. 

“I’m happy that we’re able to defend ourselves,” one Oath Keeper replied, NBC reported. “It’s been our right for a long time.” 

Missouri state law allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly display firearms, unless it is done in an “angry or threatening manner.” 

Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said he did not believe officers had confronted the Oath Keepers or told them to leave.

“We do not know who sent them,” he added, NBC reported. 

The group said they had come to protect a journalist from Infowars.com, The Daily Mail reported

The Oath Keepers group was founded in 2004 by former U.S. Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate Stewart Rhodes. It now claims more than 30,000 members. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as a “fiercely anti-government, militaristic group.” 

Protesting erupted Sunday night in Ferguson one year after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. 

Police shot and critically wounded a man who they said opened fire on them Sunday night. 

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