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Early Tuesday, members of the Oath Keepers organization turned up at protests for the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, and their heavily armed presence only increased the tense in an already tense situation.

According to NBC News, the organization is made up of former military, police and first responders who pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” They were seen on the scene wearing bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles.

“I’m happy that we’re able to defend ourselves,” one Oath Keeper said to KSDK.“It’s been our right for a long time.”

Patricia Bynes, Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township, said she was surprised to find the Oath Keepers on Tuesday when she went to check on the protests. She said they were brazenly carrying firearms while police stood nearby and did nothing was a jarring sight.

“They just showed up, walking around carrying their assault rifles,” she told NBC News. “There really was no need.”

She criticized members of the group for taking the spotlight away from the real issues of racial inequality that the protests were trying to draw attention to.

“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?” Bynes asked. “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,” she said. “It’s more about the hypocrisy. Of wow, if anybody out here tried that they’d be met with a different greeting from police.”

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