Republicans at President Donald Trump's rally in Minneapolis on Thursday will reportedly be escorted by a typically heavily armed group that has been called "one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the U.S. today."
That is how the Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers, who refer to themselves as "guardians of the republic." On the group's website, it describes itself as a "non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to 'defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"
The Oath Keepers posted an alert on their site on Saturday stating volunteers were needed to "protect Trump supporters" at Trump's rally.
"The violent communists of Antifa have issued a national call to action for Antifa and other radical, America hating leftists to converge on the upcoming Trump rally in Minneapolis on Oct 10 to 'disrupt' the Trump rally with an Antifa black block 'America is Canceled' protest against capitalism," the alert states. "We also expect trouble from the same radical leftists in Minneapolis that assaulted Trump supporters in 2016."
Oath Keepers plan to provide volunteer security escorts for Trump rally attendees to and from the Target Center.
"This is a matter of duty and honor," the alert states. "We need to protect them and we need you to step up and help us. If we don't protect them, who will? And if you don't help us, who will?"
https://t.co/FUx0vtaoNg— Oath Keepers (@Oathkeepers) October 6, 2019
But the group's history is not the cleanest. The president of Oath Keepers' suburban Cleveland chapter got a prison sentence for storing bombs, and another member was convicted of raping his daughter, according to City Pages, an alternative Minneapolis-area newspaper. Oath Keepers showed up heavily armed at protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Oath Keepers formed in 2009 after Barack Obama was elected president. They claim they will vet the rally volunteers and reject convicted felons and anyone who "advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government or that discriminates along racial lines."
Even before it has started, Trump's Minneapolis rally has spawned political clashes. The city's liberal mayor banned police officers from wearing uniforms at Trump's rally, and the police officers union responded by making red "Cops For Trump" T-shirts to wear instead.
"We'll turn the place into a sea of red with these shirts we designed," the police officers' union leader Lieutenant Bob Kroll said on Fox News. "They're available, and we can't keep them on the shelves. They've been selling out as fast as they come in."