Nearly two dozen people were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday after a fourth consecutive night of protests commemorating the death of Michael Brown.
St. Louis County declared a state of emergency on Monday after a weekend of peaceful protests turned violent when police shot and critically wounded an 18-year-old who they say shot at them. Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, now faces 10 felony charges for firing at police.
Adding to tensions Monday night was the presence of the Oath Keepers, an organization made up of former military, police and first responders who pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
The heavily armed group took to the streets of Ferguson with assault rifles and camouflage gear, NBC News reports.
Police did not confront the Oath Keepers, which only seemed to ignite protestors further, according to NBC.
“There were two blocks of police. They saw them,” Patricia Bynes, Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township, told NBC News. “It’s more about the hypocrisy. Of wow, if anybody out here tried that they’d be met with a different greeting from police.”
In Missouri, individuals with concealed weapons permits are allowed to carry firearms openly as long as it’s not done in an “angry or threatening manner.”
Still, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the armed group’s presence was “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
By early Monday evening, hundreds of protestors had gathered on West Florissant Avenue, which has served as the center for protests in Ferguson after Brown’s shooting death a year ago at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.
Wilson has maintained that he acted in self-defense, and he was not indicted in the shooting.
Protestors Monday night chanted, beating on drums. Some threw water bottles at the assembled police. When protestors moved into the street, officers in riot gear pushed them back. “They’re not going to take the street tonight. That’s not going to happen,” Belmar told the Associated Press.
But many felt the police response was aggressive. Hershel Myers Jr. told the AP: “It’s wrong for me to have to go overseas and fight with ‘Army’ across my chest, but we can’t fight on our own street where I live.”
Tyrone Harris Jr.’s father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told the AP that the police version of events of what happened with his son was “a bunch of lies.”
“My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot,” Harris said. “It’s all a bunch of lies … They’re making my son look like a criminal.”
Harris Jr. is recovering from surgery on Monday after he was shot by police. He remains in critical condition.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.