Members of the armed militia group Oath Keepers showed up at the protests Monday night marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., drawing both alarm and criticism from protesters, law enforcement and politicians.
"They just showed up, walking around carrying their assault rifles. There really was no need," Patricia Barnes, a Democratic Committeewoman of the Township of Ferguson, told NBC News.
It's not the first time the group has been met with skepticism and concern.
In a lengthy profile on the group - part of a growing "Patriot" movement across the country that warns against impending takeover by Barack Obama through the suspension of Constitutional rights and martial law - Mother Jones says the group is on the radar of hate watch groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Oath Keepers adhere to a code which instructs them to disobey 10 "unlawful" orders that would help the U.S. government infringe upon the rights of its own people. (The group's name is a reference to the "oath" of service taken by members of the military and law enforcement.)
Here's what the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have to say about the Oath Keepers:
The Anti-Defamation League - From the ADL website: "The 'orders' the Oath Keepers refuse reveal their extreme conspiratorial mindset, because the 'orders' are not instructions ever likely to be actually handed down by Obama or his officials; instead, they are reflective of the anti-government conspiracy theories embraced by the extreme right."
Representatives from the Oath Keepers were scheduled to speak at a 2013 rally in Pennsylvania where other "anti-Simite" and anti-government extremist groups were scheduled to appear.
The Southern Poverty Law Center - On its website, the SPLC refers to Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes as an "extremist." The SPLC says the Oath Keepers envision a "coming last stand confrontation against globalist tyrants expected to steamroll across the U.S., crushing our freedoms." The SPLC calls Rhodes' 2013 announcement that he plans to create local militia units organized along the lines of U.S. military Special Forces teams "frightening," and the group's claim of 30,000 members "highly unlikely."
In a 2013 interview published by the The Daily Beast, SPLC founder Mark Potok said the group's hatred of Obama and fear of gun control are what motivate the group.
“What’s beneath the surface here is that Obama is going to destroy Western civilization and that they’ve got to somehow help. But, in fact, we’re probably not at the brink of the world and the United States doesn’t need help from Stuart Rhodes,” Potok said. “These are big boys who like to play with guns and they like to justify that by saying they’re defending the constitution. They’re really just an anti-government group who believe in a wild set of conspiracy theories.”
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