Members of Oath Keepers, a national group that includes current and retired military and law enforcement personnel, have rejected orders from St. Louis County Police to abandon posts on top of private businesses that invited their protection, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. The order to stand down was issued under presumed authority of a county ordinance prohibiting unlicensed security personnel.
“Once we read the statute, we laughed at it,” local Oath Keepers leader Sam Andrews commented, explaining the ordinance applies to employed security personnel. “Then, the next night, we were there.”
The committed presence of Oath Keepers could renew confrontation dangers, as group founder Stewart Rhodes had earlier cited a report of members being targeted, presumably by a federal law enforcement sniper team. Per Rhodes, such teams had not communicated with local law enforcement, let alone coordinated activities with them.
Confirming the Post-Dispatch report is an update from Rhodes sent to members and supporters Wednesday, explaining that, contrary to some reports, the group did not abandon their posts. The alert also included a letter from an Oath Keepers attorney.
“As retired police officer and Missouri police academy instructor John Karriman said, we will not, and did not, stop protecting the buildings and people we had promised to protect,” Rhodes insisted. “We were there the very next night after being told to stop, and we have been there every night since. And we will continue to be there until calm is restored and we are no longer needed.”
“A review of the applicable statutes and regulations makes clear that the Oath Keepers do not fall under the provisions of St. Louis County Code … as suggested by your officers,” attorney Matthew H. Hearne advised St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. “To assert that the property owners of Ferguson do not have the right to invite the Oath Keepers to assist them would be tantamount to telling an individual that they do not have the right to assist a neighbor in need. Additionally the property owners and Oath Keepers have numerous other Rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution including the right to freely assemble which may not be restricted by any County Ordinance or State Statute.”
What will happen next, and if the official response will be through attorneys or through initiation of force aimed at removing volunteers from businesses they have been gratefully welcomed to protect, is unknown at this writing. The one certainty at this time is that no businesses being guarded by armed guest volunteers actualizing the motto “Not on our watch” have been attacked or burned while they were standing guard.