FERGUSON • Following a night of arson fires and bashed storefronts that hit close to home, Greg Hildebrand stood naked Tuesday, drying off from a needed shower, when he noticed somebody on the rooftop.
“I opened the window and said, ‘Hey, can I help you?’” said Hildebrand, 35, a website developer.
The man said he was security and would be up there at night with others to protect the pocket of second-story apartments and lower-level storefronts near the Ferguson Police Department. A day earlier, rioters had broken out windows below Hildebrand’s apartment in the 100 block of South Florissant Road and torched a nearby beauty supply store.
“I am in the middle of a difficult spot,” Hildebrand said. “I feel a lot better having those guys up on the roof.”
But he wasn’t clear exactly who “those guys” were or where they came from.
Puzzled and alarmed protesters have wondered, too — some accusing the mysterious guards in military fatigues of being in the Ku Klux Klan.
In fact, they are volunteers affiliated with a 35,000-member national organization called Oath Keepers. Yale Law School graduate and libertarian Stewart Rhodes said by telephone from Montana that he founded the group in 2009 to protect constitutional rights, including those of protesters confronted by what he described as overly militarized police.
But Rhodes, who said he is Mexican-American, was quick to assure that Oath Keepers is not anti-government. He said those pulling rooftop security in Ferguson are current or former government employees and first responders, many who have intense military, police and EMS training.
“We thought they were going to do it right this time,” Rhodes said of government response to the grand jury decision released Monday night in the Darren Wilson case. “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,” he added.
Why did we do this? First, because we felt honor bound to defend those who needed defending, and who were being abandoned as sacrificial lambs to the agenda of oath breaking politicians. It was just the right thing to do. As local Oath Keepers CPT team leader Sam Andrews stated, “it is about the strong defending the weak.” As we suspected would happen, Governor Nixon dropped the ball – again – failing to protect the people of Ferguson. As a scathing St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial put it:
Gov. Jay Nixon, who spent the past two weeks rattling his saber and declaring a state of emergency before there was one, made sure the National Guard was protecting the hell out of the courthouse in Clayton, but left Ferguson to burn.
We call on the veterans in your community, in particular, to step up and lead the way to defend the lives and property of their neighbors, and we call on them to form neighborhood watches and patrols to put a stop to acts of violence. You have the power to police your own neighborhoods, and keep them safe for all. Black veterans have a proud and noble example to follow, in the Deacons for Defense and Justice, who were World War II and Korean War veterans who stood up to the violence of the Klan, except this time, you must defend against violence by anyone, whether outsiders or locals, of any race, against anyone, of any race. If you take care of your own neighborhoods, it removes the sense of emergency that is used to justify a heavy police presence. And that can also have a lasting effect even after the protests are over. Be your own “police.”
Veterans of Ferguson, you swore the same oath to defend the Constitution that we did when we served. Like us, you are also still bound by that oath, and that same duty.
We salute these fine men and women (yes, we had two women serve last night – an Army veteran combat journalist and her assistant) for standing guard all night while the people they protected slept in peace. Thanks to our volunteers, Thanksgiving was a day of peace, love, and joy for those residents and small business owners rather than a tragedy of fire and terror, as the arsonists wanted. God bless them! They do their country proud.
For the Republic,
Founder and President of Oath Keepers
PS – Watch a news interview with Team Leader Sam Andrews here.
And watch a rooftop interview with John Karriman, here.
“It’s okay to protest but not okay to protect against protesters?”