Armed man at Stillwater protest wanted to ‘maintain peace’
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A member of a far-right group attended a George Floyd rally in Stillwater armed with a rifle and dressed in tactical gear, which authorities say was legal but inappropriate.
Christopher Autrey, who says he’s a member of the Three Percenters, said he was at the rally Wednesday outside of the police department to prevent protesters from looting local businesses.
Under Oklahoma law, people can openly display and carry loaded weapons in public.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Three Percenters as an anti-government organization. The Three Percenters, meanwhile, describe themselves on their website as “patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberties,” and deny that the group is a militia or anti-government.
Autrey said there were other members of his group “dispersed” around the rally, but he declined to say how many.
“We’re here to maintain peace and to make sure things don’t get out of hand,” he said. “There’s no need for riots and injustice.”
Autrey and the other members were warned not to try to pass themselves off as law enforcement, according to Payne County Sheriff Kevin Woodward.
Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts said that while it’s not illegal to bring a firearm to a protest, it was inappropriate.
“The biggest issue here is, don’t bring a gun into a crowd,” Watts said. “For whatever the reason is, all it’s doing is inviting conflict, the possibility of somebody getting hurt or killed. This was a peaceful group, an emotional group. It just was not the place for firearms.”
Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin down Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. That officer faces murder charges and three others who took part in Floyd’s arrest face other counts.