Ferguson

Oath Keepers Station Themselves on Ferguson's Rooftops; Police Order Them to Stop

St. Louis County clamps down on volunteer patrols.

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After the riot that followed the grand jury's decision last week not to indict Darren Wilson, members of the Oath Keepers—a controversial group of current and former military, police, and public safety officials who have pledged not to obey unconstitutional orders—arrived in Ferguson, Missouri. Armed with rifles and fire extinguishers, they stood guard on the rooftops: ready, they said, to protect local businesses from arsonists and looters.

Over the weekend, the police told them to stop. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

Not a valid license in St. Louis County, apparently.

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."…

Police questioned group members early in the week and allowed them to stay. But Saturday, after media inquiries, St. Louis County police officers ordered the Oath Keepers to leave the rooftops.

Threatened with arrest for operating without a license, the volunteers argued but eventually left their positions early Saturday, [Oath Keepers founder Stewart] Rhodes said.

It's not clear how many Oath Keepers were standing guard on the roofs before the cops shut them down. (A member told The New York Times that there were "more than five, less than 500." He also said that he had been vetting prospective volunteers to weed out any racists, and that about 10 percent of the group's guards were black.) I've seen some worries in the press that the Oath Keepers' presence "could inflame tensions further," but I have not seen any reports of violence either by or against the group's St. Louis patrols. The locals quoted in the Times and Post-Dispatch pieces seem to think their presence served as a deterrant.

You can read the rest of Post-Dispatch story here. An Oath Keeper reacts to the police order (and talks about the group's future plans in the area) here. The Oath Keepers' call for Ferguson volunteers—which also denounces "egregious violations of the rights of peaceful protesters and media" during the last big wave of Ferguson protests—is here. (The Oath Keepers' basic position on the situation is that the government has trampled the rights of peaceful protesters while neglecting their duty to protect lives and property.) Some thoughts on the Oath Keepers' activities during those earlier protests are here. A feature I wrote about the Oath Keepers four years ago is here. Radley Balko interviews the group's founder here.

Update: For some further developments, go here.

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38 responses to “Oath Keepers Station Themselves on Ferguson's Rooftops; Police Order Them to Stop

  1. ” Police questioned group members early in the week and allowed them to stay. But Saturday, after media inquiries, St. Louis County police officers ordered the Oath Keepers to leave the rooftops.

    Threatened with arrest for operating without a license, the volunteers argued but eventually left their positions early Saturday, [Oath Keepers founder Stewart] Rhodes said.”

    This makes no damn sense. Why did the cops suddenly reverse themselves? Were the Oath Keepers making the cops look bad?

    Also, since when did you need a licence to stand on a fucking roof?

    1. Also, since when did you need a licence to stand on a fucking roof?

      That my friend, I can answer you in one word…

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  2. Operating what without a license?

    1. I’m guessing a security business . If no money exchanged hands it’s not a business and doesn’t require a license.

      1. It seems like trespass would be more in-line, unless the building owners welcomed the support.

        1. Hildebrand welcomed them at least.

        2. Seemed like the one guy was okay with it. Funny how they can’t stop looters, but they can stop the people trying to stop looters.

      2. I’m guessing a security business. If no money exchanged hands it’s not a business and doesn’t require a license.

        That’s pretty much it. St. Louis County apparently requires a license to be a watchman; the Oath Keepers argue that this doesn’t apply to volunteers, but they stood down anyway (or “changed their tactics to ramp-down the apparent level of discomfort of various police officials when they were on the roof of one of the properties they are protecting”).

        1. Wow! A contributor quoted and acknowledged me. This must be what a hat tip feels like.
          *savors the glory*

        2. How does you get a watchman license?

          1. “None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with YOU. You’re locked up in here with ME.”

    2. “Operating what without a license?”

      Well, to be fair, what if word got out that society could police itself without government police? NON UNION government police?

      1. I think you hit on the reason for the change of heart. It makes sense and is a good thing for people to look out for each other…until you realize that it harms your UNION interest of limiting the supply of security providers to boost wages/benefits.

    3. Bros need a license to even operate?

  3. “Police questioned group members early in the week and allowed them to stay. But Saturday, after media inquiries, St. Louis County police officers ordered the Oath Keepers to leave the rooftops.”

    Jumpin Jeebus. All the press has to do is simply ask questions, and the cops change their mind?

    1. Well, when you’ve spent the last couple of months arresting and threatening to arrest people who are assembling peacefully – or merely reporters having a sandwich at a restaurant – on the premise that you are trying to prevent mob violence, I suppose the optics of tolerating a bunch of guys on rooftops armed with rifles might work against your narrative that you are only trying to keep the peace.

    2. With a lot of unions i’ve seen, the union leadership is not in line with the individuals. The individual cops probably were thankful for the help. Once union leadership got word that there was competition for providing security in town, they put a stop to it.

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  5. “St. Louis County police officers ordered the Oath Keepers to leave the rooftops.”

    “Government is simply a word for the things we decide to do together,” [like, not doing our jobs]

    1. and Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

  6. The idiot authorities stand around while idiot protestors riot and loot and burn down buildings, but when some citizens show up to protect people, oh no, we can’t have that! It might be dangerous! Protecting people and property might “inflame tensions” among the looters and arsonists!

    Idiots.

  7. This and the L.A. riots are good examples of why the second amendment is so important. When the government is unwilling, unable or are the perpetrators the people can defend their lives and posessions and property.

  8. “I’ve seen some worries in the press that the Oath Keepers’ presence “could inflame tensions further,””

    Wow, I didn’t have to wait long at all to have my Morning Links comments confirmed! The media and the SJWs really do think that storekeepers defending themselves against looters aggravates the situation. They don’t *want* people defending their property, not even by trained ex-soldiers and ex-cops who volunteer for that purpose.

    They *really would* rather see looters and arsonists strike again without consequences than have a potential victim shoot a would-be assailant.

    Never mind the concern-trolling about radical politics – they’d object if it were the Merchants Association hiring these guards.

    1. The cops’ motives are fairly clear – they’re embarrassed by being shown up as incompetent and they are worried about “provoking” the mob.

      1. Pretty much. That’s been the motive behind most of their handling of the Michael Brown situation…from their constantly changing story about events leading up to the shooting, to their grand jury farce.

        It’s become quite obvious that the Ferguson PD is a corrupt police department of armed thugs…armed thugs don’t like when the proles have the ability to defend themselves.

    2. “If they want your wallet, give them your wallet. Otherwise someone might get hurt.”

  9. The Po-lice don’t want the Oath Keepers there keeping an eye on them.

  10. Does the New Black Panther Party have a license to stand outside the Police Station and lead lynch mobs in death threat chanting?

  11. Threatened with arrest for operating without a license

    What now?

    1. These men, also operating without a license.

  12. operating without a license…

    Illegal flower tribute.

  13. It’s illegal to feed the homeless without a license. Why would anyone think the government would allow people to defend each other from the criminals they refuse to impede? If they wanted the criminals stopped, they’d stop them themselves.

    Much like Al Qaeda or the Mafia, they’ll offer you “protection” under threat of violence, but don’t you dare try to get your protection elsewhere. That’s not allowed. Bad for business.

  14. Looters welcome….Oathkeepers, ya gotta go.
    Makes complete sense in this day and age.

  15. Hey, on second thought aren’t looters, and by extension Michael Brown, just keepin it real?
    And if so, that’s cultural; and who are we to judge another culture?
    I can’t even write this crap satirically and not get sick; how do they believe it?

  16. “Could inflame tensions” Sounds like Al Sharpton and Browns stepdad. Did they make Al leave?

  17. Once more, effective peace-keepers are demonized by LE for actions that would not be necessary if the police would only do their jobs.

  18. “Police questioned group members early in the week and allowed them to stay. But Saturday, after media inquiries, St. Louis County police officers ordered the Oath Keepers to leave the rooftops.”

    The Democrats in power got wind of it and shut it down. The riot must proceed according to plan.

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