Oath Keepers descend on Ferguson
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Another fragile night of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, was compounded by the unexpected appearance of heavily armed men belonging to a controversial organization known as the Oath Keepers.

Described as a "fiercely anti-government, militaristic group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oath Keepers claim 30,000 members among their ranks, all led by group founder Stewart Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who worked as an aide to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Rhodes was reportedly not in attendance late Monday as a handful of Oath Keepers descended on the scene of protests marking a year since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson.

At least five individuals were spotted wearing bulletproof vests and openly carrying "assault weapons,” St. Louis Public Radio reported. They claimed to be providing protection for an InfoWars journalist covering the event.

Protesters attempted to distance themselves from the Oath Keepers and push them back, while St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar referred to their presence as "both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

Some 23 people were arrested during Monday night’s protests; no Oath Keepers are believed to be among them.

According to NBC News, Rhodes has a history of inflammatory statements, including referring to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms Special counsel issues rare statement disputing explosive Cohen report MORE as “Hitlery,” and calling for Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally MORE (R-Ariz.) to be executed for treason.

In the aftermath of last month’s shooting in Chattanooga, which claimed the lives of four Marines and a Navy sailor, Rhodes urged Oath Keepers to take up arms.

"Go armed, at all times, as free men and women, and be ready to do sudden battle, anywhere, anytime, and with utter recklessness,” Rhodes wrote on the Oath Keepers website, NBC News reported. "That IS the price of freedom.”

Missouri law permits gun owners with a license to carry concealed weapons to openly carry so long as their weapons aren't displayed in an "angry or threatening manner."