California Business Owner Hires Armed 'Militia' Group for Protection Amid George Floyd Protests

A group of armed men wearing military gear and carrying rifles was seen patrolling the public areas of Stanislaus County in Oakdale during a protest over the death of George Floyd, the Oakdale Police Department has confirmed.

"We have received multiple inquiries and heard from many concerned residents about a group of people dressed in camouflage or 'militia' at a downtown business during yesterday's [Saturday] demonstration," the department said in a post Sunday on its official Facebook page.

"We want to set the record straight. The group wearing military attire were not members of the U.S. National Guard and they had no affiliation with the Oakdale Police Department or any of our partner agencies. The group did not contact our department prior to their arrival," the department noted.

After reporting to the location of the business to investigate, the police learned the group was hired by the business to provide security.

"The group was not welcome by our police department. Once we learned of their presence, we immediately approached the group and advised them that their presence was doing more harm and raising tensions. We also told them we did not need their assistance," the department said in a later post Sunday on its Facebook page.

After being told the police are prepared to handle the ongoing protests, the group was reported to have assured police it would remain within the area of the private property. The group was said to have left the premises shortly after discussions with police.

But the department was later advised this group has been seen armed in public areas. "Photos that are being circulated on social media of this group being armed on public property came to our attention only after our meeting with them," Oakdale Police Chief Scott Heller told California's The Modesto Bee.

"That was brought to our attention after the 'militia' left Oakdale. Regarding the Open Carry law, people cannot stand in public areas while openly armed. Again, during our encounter with this group, they were not standing in public areas," the department noted on its Facebook page.

The armed men were reported to be members of the Echo Company, Second Infantry Regiment, California State Militia, The Modesto Bee reports.

The group was said to have been hired by the owner of a business located off E F Street to provide protection in case protests arise, an employee of said business told CBS Sacramento.

The owner has yet to be named "as we [Oakdale police] are continuing to look into this matter," Heller told The Modesto Bee.

Members of a “militia” group caught on camera in Oakdale, carrying rifles and wearing military fatigues. Witnesses say they were patrolling in response to a #BlackLivesMatter protest that did not happen over the weekend. Oakdale PD had some harsh words for this group...⬇️ pic.twitter.com/FngnWfB6Qp

— Anna Giles (@AnnaGilesTV) June 9, 2020

A video of the armed men was shared by CBS Sacramento reporter Anna Giles on her Twitter account.

One witness, Malissa Reed, told CBS Sacramento: "It was frightening and I was flabbergasted and frustrated and angry."

Dezirae Williamson, an employee at Harvey's Shoe Repair in the vicinity, told CBS Sacramento: "I felt like there was snipers on the buildings just waiting for something to happen."

The department confirmed it is further looking into the latest incident, noting: "Our department takes this matter seriously and is currently reviewing the group's actions and will assess what measures will be taken."

"Let's be clear—we do not need 'militia' groups in Oakdale to help Oakdale PD do our job. If we need assistance, we will call on our partner agencies. We will not tolerate any groups intimidating our community or causing problems," the department added.

Last week, a protest in Oakdale, which began as a peaceful demonstration, was reported to have turned violent.

A fight broke out after two groups of protesters began shouting at each other from opposite sides of the street. On one side they were reported to have chanted "Trump 2020" and "All Lives Matter" while those on the other side shouted George Floyd's name and "Black Lives Matter."

Protests continue following the killing of Floyd, who died shortly after he was pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck during an arrest made by the Minneapolis Police Department.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested following protests across the country, The Associated Press reports.

The National Guard has been deployed in 15 states and Washington, D.C. to help manage protests.

National Guard, Los Angeles, George Floyd protests
National Guard troops posted outside the District Attorney's office during a peaceful demonstration over George Floyd’s death on June 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images