The Current

Oath Keepers' presence in Ferguson raises concerns

The presence of the Oath Keepers in Ferguson is troubling because there is good evidence to suggest that these kinds of extreme right wing groups pose a significant, immediate threat.
Members of the Oath Keepers walk with their personal weapons on the street during protests in Ferguson, Missouri (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Violence broke out on Sunday night in Ferguson, Missouri, marring otherwise-peaceful protests to mark the anniversary of Michael Brown's death. And four days later, the city remains in an official state of emergency.

Nights are tense, and the week has seen the return of some unlikely figures on the Ferguson streets. They call themselves the Oath Keepers. They're a heavily armed militia group, and they say they're on the streets of Ferguson to help keep the peace and to protect the U.S. constitution.

The head of Missouri Oath Keepers, John Karriman, spoke with CBC Radio's As It Happens last night:

The citizen militia group swears their purpose is to defend the Constitution. But many protesters consider their presence intimidating, and even local police have said their actions are inflammatory. 9:35

But not everyone in Ferguson has welcomed the Oath Keepers' armed presence.

For more on just who the Oath Keepers are, and what their presence on the streets of Ferguson means, we were joined by three guests:

  • Robert Patrick, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who was on hand when the Oath Keepers showed up in Ferguson on Monday night
  • Mark Pitcavage, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism
  • Ray Boisvert, senior associate with Hill and Knowlton and former assistant director of intelligence with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott and Leif Zapf-Gilje.