An armed group of self-described “patriots” marched on downtown Louisville on Saturday, brandishing guns and clashing with Black Lives Matter protesters in a shouting match in front of the memorial for Breonna Taylor.
The militia group was organized by Dylan Stevens, an online personality who calls himself “The Angry Viking.” Stevens has generated a following based on videos where he rants about the destruction of property during racial justice protests and his criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
During a rally at Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park before marching downtown, Stevens warned his audience that a “civil war” is coming.
“I’m telling you folks, if we don’t stand up and be counted, it’s coming,” Stevens said.
“It’s in your backyard right now. They’re coming to your cul de sac, they’re coming to take over your businesses. They’re burning cities to the ground. And all in the name of a social justice movement that does nothing more than profit off people.”
Unlike Black Lives Matter demonstrations throughout the summer, Louisville police officers were not present during the militia gathering.
The group of mostly men with guns drove from Cox Park along the Ohio River east of downtown to a parking lot near Waterfront Park.
There, protesters regrouped and began to march towards Jefferson Square Park, which is now called “Injustice Square” by the racial justice protesters who gather there daily.
One man was seen handing out cans of wasp and insect killer to other people in the group; he told them “it’s better than mace.”
The group marched directly towards Jefferson Square Park, where demonstrators have held a daily vigil for Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police in March.
In front of the park, the two groups clashed, with some shouting and arguing at each other for nearly an hour.
Eventually many of the militia members left, and within minutes Louisville police officers arrived. In a statement, Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson Lamont Washington said that they were trying to “separate the two groups.”
In the statement, Washington said that police were not present for the militia’s demonstration and march because “the bulk of LMPD resources” were staged near Churchill Downs for an anticipated Black militia protest.
Washington also said that police didn’t intervene with the crowd outside of Jefferson Square Park because “we determined it was not safe to go in and we did not want to escalate the situation with police presence.”
Protests are also expected for later Saturday afternoon near Churchill Downs.