Four white, armed militiamen from the Oath Keepers organization descended on Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 10 (videos below).
An Oath Keeper, who gave his name only as "John," told Reuters the armed men were there to protect a journalist from Infowars.com, a conspiracy website that has often attacked the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Oath Keepers were armed with assault rifles and sidearms; they wore camouflage and bulletproof vests.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said they were "both unnecessary and inflammatory" in Ferguson, notes NBC News.
Some Ferguson protesters asked the Oath Keepers why they were allowed to carry their weapons in public. One Oath Keeper said, "Open carry is open carry."
Missouri does allow the open carry of weapons as long as it is not done in an "angry or threatening manner." Also, gun owners must have a concealed weapons permit.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the Oath Keepers as "a fiercely anti-government, militaristic group that improbably claims more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, soldiers and military veterans as members."
The site also notes, "The core idea of the group is that its members vow to forever support the oaths they took on joining law enforcement or the military to defend the Constitution."
Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson Township, told NBC News:
"They just showed up, walking around carrying their assault rifles. There really was no need.
"If there were black and brown people in this country who showed up in the streets open carrying assault rifles in paramilitary garb would they still be received the same way? It seems to be that especially when it comes to the Second Amendment there seems to be a different way that it is enforced.
"There were two blocks of police. They saw them. It's more about the hypocrisy. Of wow, if anybody out here tried that they'd be met with a different greeting from police."