Three people were injured in downtown Louisville when a member of an armed black militia group carrying semiautomatic weapons accidentally discharged a firearm as they marched to a demonstration.
Despite earlier reports that the shots were fired as a result of an argument between the group and a far-right organization gathered nearby, it was later confirmed that a member of the Atlanta-based ‘Not F*****g Around Coaltion’ had accidentally fired on other members as they assembled in Baxter Park.
An estimated 350 armed members of the group had gathered there before marching toward the main protest site in downtown Louisville, where about 50 member of the far right militia group Three Percenters were also gathered.
Just hours after the shooting, the leader of the NFAC vowed the group would return to Louisville to ‘burn this motherf****r down’ if the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor is not completed in four weeks time.
John ‘Grandmaster Jay’ Johnson delivered a fiery speech from the steps of the Metro Hall on Saturday afternoon as he called the group to take action if ‘the truth’ about Taylor’s death was not released.
He accused the investigation of looking to rework the crime scene to cover up what happened to the 26-year-old EMT, who died by police fire following a no-knock raid on her apartment on March 13.
Following his speech, the members of the armed group were called on the take an oath that they would protect black lives and to take action if Johnson’s ultimatum was not met.
Member of the NFAC as they take an oath to prevent the murder of black people during a demonstration on Saturday
Paramedics push a stretcher as police officers investigate a shooting that happened during an armed rally held by an all-black militia group called NFAC in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
A piece of medical equipment lies on the ground as police officers investigate a shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Police ring the area with yellow tape as they investigate the shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
A supporter of an all-black militia group called NFAC stands near the police officers who investigate a shooting on Saturday
‘I would ask anyone who is not a member of the NFAC to turn and face them,’ Johnson said as he called on those dressed in black to place the hand in the air.
‘I will never allow the murder of another black man, woman or child, whether the killer is white or black. I am the NFC, for life, m**********r’ they cried after Johnson.
Earlier Saturday, Baxter Park was the staging area for NFAC members before they are expected to march toward Jefferson Square Park near City Hall, where approximately 50 members of the Three Percenters militia gathered.
Louisville police formed a barricade to separate the two opposing camps but no violence was reported.
Five people were arrested, however, for charges such as disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway.
‘It has been a tension-filled day for all of us,’ said Deputy Chief LaVita Chavous, despite the protests remaining peaceful.
She said that they were aware of the ultimatum given by Johnson but said they stood behind the right to peacefully protest.
Chavous did, however, criticize those she claimed are ‘hiding behind the right to peacefully assemble and using it as a platform to tear up and destroy our city’.
Authorities feared the worst when shots had been heard in Baxter Park earlier that day.
However, the Louisville Metro Police Department later confirmed that the shooting was a result of a firearm that accidentally discharged. The three wounded victims were rushed to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Leader Johnson asked the NFAC to put their hands in the air as they made a pact to return in four weeks time
John ‘Grandmaster Jay’ Johnson delivered a fiery speech from the steps of the Metro Hall on Saturday afternoon as he called on the NFAC to take action if ‘the truth’ about Breonna Taylor’s death was not released
Members and supporters of an all-black militia group called NFAC hold an armed rally in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Members of the Kentucky Three Percenters Militia line up as members and supporters of an all-black militia group called NFAC hold an armed rally in Louisville
Members of the Atlanta-based NFAC were seen outside Central High School in Louisville on Saturday
The show of force was meant as a protest of the authorities’ decision to so far decline to bring criminal charges against the police officers involved in the fatal March shooting of a 26-year-old black EMT
NFAC members are seen above during a rally outside Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
NFAC members prepare to set out on a march from their staging area in Louisville’s Baxter Park on Saturday
NFAC militia members aim their weapons skyward as they prepare to march toward Jefferson Square Park in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
NFAC militia members prepare to set out on a march toward Jefferson Square Park in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Despite the shooting, NFAC members marched five blocks toward City Hall, where they stood several hundred feet from the Three Percenters militia.
There Johnson expressed his fury that the investigation into Taylor’s death was expected to take a further four months.
The militia leader said that he had recently spoken to Attorney General Daniel Cameron who is running the investigation and delivered him with an ultimatum that the group would take action if they didn’t have a result within four weeks.
‘I told him, “You ain’t got four months”,’ Johnson said to the crowd, which included NFAC members and other protesters.
He added that Cameron told him Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had only handed over the case to him last week and that there is believed to be a lot of information missing from the night of the raid on Taylor’s apartment.
‘There was no crime scene,’ Johnson told the group, according to WDRB.
‘There was no report. There was no ballistics. There was no blood and toxicology. Matter of fact, there wasn’t nothing. So when they gave it to the AG, and he said, “Where’s the case?” The mayor said, “I gave you enough. Do your job”.’
‘And they thought that s**t was gonna go away,’ Johnson told the group. “But you motherf****rs ain’t stupid.’
He continued that he had asked Cameron if the cops involved in Taylor’s death would be arrested. So far, only one of them has been fired.
‘I’m going to do what I need to do,’ Johnson claimed Cameron answered.
‘Four weeks from today, we gonna come back here, and we should have an answer,’ he said.
According to WDRB, Cameron acknowledged that he spoke to Johnson but denied that he said the investigation will take four months.
‘As was confirmed earlier this week, the conversation between Grand Master Jay, Metro Council President David James and the Attorney General was productive,’ the statement from Cameron read.
‘The Attorney General reiterated his commitment to a thorough and independent investigation into the death of Ms. Taylor, but he did not comment on any specifics related to the timeline of the investigation.’
The simultaneous demonstrations in Louisville by the NFAC and the right-wing Three Percenters organization are taking place a day after some 76 protesters were arrested on Friday.
Police on Saturday police sealed off several roads in the downtown area where the demonstrations were taking place.
One of the five people arrested, a Black Lives Matter supporter, allegedly tried to burst through a police barricade that was set up to divide the two opposite camps.
Johnson was surrounded by members of the NFAC as he delivered the ultimatum to Attorney General Daniel Cameron
Members of an armed, all-black militia known as NFAC approach City Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Members of NFAC make their way ahead of the group to secure locations as they march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
A protester displays their pistol in a holster calling for a response to the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Grandmaster Jay (right), the leader of NFAC, speaks during a rally on in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Members of NFAC make their way ahead of the group to secure locations in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Two members of the armed militia are seen above in Louisville, Kentucky, during a demonstration on Saturday
The militia leader, Grandmaster Jay, is seen in the center as he leads NFAC members toward City Hall
Members of NFAC rest after a march toward City Hall in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Grandmaster Jay (left), the leader of NFAC, speaks with police before a march of his group and supporters in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Grandmaster Jay is seen second from right leading militia members on a march toward City Hall in Louisville on Saturday
An armed NFAC member is seen above marching alongside his fellow militia members in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
A member of the NFAC militia looks on as fellow members take a rest during a march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Grandmaster Jay (right) begins to lead the NFAC militia during a march toward City Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
In recent weeks, scores of Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been demanding the arrest of the Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor.
‘Once it gets to that point where it looks like the government is non-responsive to the will of the people, the Constitution says to [form a] militia to address the grievances of the people,’ JJohnson said in his speech.
‘I didn’t write it,’ Johnson said of the Constitution.
‘They (the founding fathers) wrote it. We just abide by it. So that’s our destination, because when it looks like the government is being indifferent to the people, the people have the right to form themselves – and arm themselves — to ask those questions.’
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation.
The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found.
The shooting set off weeks of protests, policy changes and a call for the officers who shot Taylor to be criminally charged.
Armed members of the black militia NFAC are seen above just before a march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
NFAC members are seen above lining up in formation during a march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Armed members of the NFAC are seen above during a march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
The NFAC, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, is in Louisville, Kentucky, to back protests demanding the arrest of three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black EMT, in her home in March
NFAC members are seen above carrying firearms during a march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
NFAC members are seen lining up in formation just before setting off on a protest march in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
One officer has been fired, but no charges have been filed. Investigations into the shooting are continuing.
Johnson said earlier this week that up to 5,000 members of the NFAC could take part in the demonstration in Louisville.
‘We’re there to get an answer, not to fight a war,’ he said. ‘This is for Bre.’
During an earlier speech to a crowd of supporters on Friday night, Johnson also said he had been in dialogue with several senior Kentucky officials, including representatives from Mayor Greg Fischer’s office, Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first African American state attorney general, said that he still has no timeline for when his office will conclude its investigation of the Taylor case.
In recent weeks, protesters have been staging demonstrations outside Cameron’s home demanding felony charges be brought against the three police officers.
‘We’ve chanted, we’ve sung, nothing has changed,’ Johnson said when asked about his organization’s presence at the rally on Saturday.
Members of the Kentucky Three Percenters militia are seen above lining up outside city hall in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
The Three Percenters militia is considered an extremist group by the hate-monitoring organization Southern Poverty Law Center
The Three Percenters derive their name from the false claim that 3 per cent of colonists fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British
Louisville police officers are seen forming a barricade to separate the Three Percenters militia members from Black Lives Matter sympathizers on Saturday
A Three Percenters militia member holds a cigar and an M-16 semiautomatic rifle in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
Two members of the Three Percenters militia are seen above in tactical gear near city hall in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday
As of early Saturday afternoon, two people were arrested by Louisville police. Three Percenters militia members are seen above
‘What’s the definition of insanity? Doing something over and over again and expecting different results.’
Tara Brandau, a member of the Three Percenters, told the Courier Journal that she heard several members of a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan planned to come to the protest.
Brandau said that the Three Percenters did not support the KKK group’s plan.
‘We don’t want no KKK,’ Brandau said.
If the KKK does show up, Louisville police plan to deploy more officers to set up another barricade to keep the peace, according to the Courier Journal.
Local black residents interviewed by the Courier Journal said they support the NFAC’s presence at the demonstrations.
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed at her home in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13. A coroner says she died from gunshot wounds almost instantly, but her boyfriend says she was coughing and gasping for air for five minutes
The state of Kentucky has some of the nation’s most liberal gun laws in the country. Residents are permitted to openly carry their firearms in public if they are licensed to do so.
The presence of highly armed factions is prompting public officials to warn residents to stay away for fear of possible violence.
‘The potential for violence will be heightened as we will more than likely have a number of highly armed groups representing very different viewpoints as well as other groups all situated within a block of each other,’ Louisville city council member Kevin Kramer, a Republican, said.
‘While efforts are being made to ensure a safe environment to all persons present, I would caution you that the potential for violence will exist.’
Kramer said he was worried that law enforcement agencies did not have all of the necessary tools to ensure that the situation did not spin out of control.
‘As an elected official I would like to stand up and say our city is safe and we’re going to protect you, but I’ve watched the way that the police department has been instructed to respond in the past, and I don’t have a lot of confidence that the police department is going to have the resources that they need should something go wrong,’ he said.
On its website, the right-wing Three Percenters group says it isn’t an anti-government militia but ‘we will defend ourselves when necessary.’ The group takes its name from the false claim that three percent of American Colonists fought in the Revolutionary war.
The group was founded in 2008 in response to Barack Obama’s election as president, which sparked some allegations of racism against the Three Percenters.
Those accusations intensified after the group provided security in 2017 for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which neo-Nazis protested alongside other far-right organizations.
Demonstrators at the event chanted ‘Jews will not replace us,’ waved ‘White Lives Matter’ flags, and one neo-Nazi, James Alex Fields, drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protestors, killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer.
Although the Three Percenters have since distanced themselves from the Unite the Right rally, the Southern Poverty Law Center still considers them an anti-government group. The group has also grown in Canada, where it has been described as an anti-Muslim militia.
Protests against racism and police brutality were expected to continue in cities like Louisville and other parts of the country this weekend even as President Trump has pledged to expand a federal crackdown by sending in armed Homeland Security officers to help keep the peace.
Trump announced on Wednesday he will send federal agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help combat rising crime, expanding the administration’s intervention into local enforcement as he runs for reelection under a ‘law and order’ mantle.
Using the same alarmist language he has employed to describe illegal immigration, Trump painted Democrat-led cities as out of control and lashed out at the ‘radical left,’ which he blamed for rising violence in some cities, even though criminal justice experts say it defies easy explanation.
‘In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police department,’ Trump said Wednesday at a White House event, blaming the movement for ‘a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.’
‘This bloodshed must end,’ he said. ‘This bloodshed will end.’
The decision to dispatch federal agents to American cities is playing out at a hyperpoliticized moment when Trump is grasping for a new reelection strategy after the coronavirus upended the economy, dismantling what his campaign had seen as his ticket to a second term.
With less than four months until Election Day, Trump has been warning that violence will worsen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden is elected in November and Democrats have a chance to make the police reforms they have endorsed after the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests demanding racial justice.