On Monday night, a group of at least three black men who were standing by a car next to a hair salon on West Florissant Avenue were arrested after a phalanx of St Louis County police surged towards them, using pepper spray and batons. A spokesman for the police department told the Guardian by email on Tuesday that officers had received information “that the occupants or folks near that vehicle were possibly armed with handguns”.
But the spokesman later confirmed that none of those arrested during the swoop were in possession of any weapons.
The treatment of these suspects, who were wrestled to the ground and placed in plastic flexicuffs, came in seemingly stark contrast to a group of white militiamen, who arrived at the protest at around 1am, after the arrests occurred, carrying loaded M-15 rifles with several magazine cartridges strapped across their body armour.
The men belonged to a group named the Oath Keepers, a collective of former and current military servicemen and police officers who claim to defend the US constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. The group is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “fiercely anti-government, militaristic group”.
Prediction: the Open Carry laws will change once everyone exercises them.
More on the Oath Keepers in this 2010 Mother Jones article Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason.