Is It Time to Resurrect the Deacons for Defense?

28 Jan 1966, Bogalusa, Louisiana, USA --- Charles Sims Holding Ku Klux Klan Clothing --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
28 Jan 1966, Bogalusa, Louisiana, USA — Charles Sims Holding Ku Klux Klan Robes— Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Yesterday I was called a hippy with a gun.

This didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. Politically, I inhabit a space that is pretty far left. I also believe that if you can’t defend yourself against attack, your other rights are just illusions. Yeah, I’m a Black, dashiki wearing, second amendment lefty. We exist.

As I watched video of four masked men driving to the BLM protests in Minneapolis, describing the mayhem that they would cause, it occurred to me that there aren’t enough folks like me. Lefties with guns, who are willing to learn to use them.


Victims of the BLM shooting
Victims of the BLM shooting

You might not remember the story. Since then there has been two mass shootings, one in an abortion clinic by a crazy white guy (definitely not a terrorist), and another in San Bernardino by three white men a radicalized Muslim couple. But about a month ago a group of masked white guys with guns shot into a crowd.

  • In the days before the shootings, armed counter protesters assembled across the street from where Black Lives Matter were protesting.
  • On the day of the shooting, they moved among the protesters, still masked, taking video.
  • When one protester demanded that they remove their masks, a counter protester shouted, “Fuck no!”
  • In a video, a BLM protester admitted that someone had tried to punch the counter protester as the four men ran.
  • As the BLM protesters chased them, they turned around and opened fire.
  • Afterwards police tear gassed the BLM protesters, and prohibited the ambulances from picking up the wounded for about 20 minutes.
Screenshot from shooters as they drove to the protest
Screenshot from shooters as they drove to the protest

I’ve attached an article with more details about the attackers and the charges that they face.

The incident made me wonder if BLM has any trained security. What I saw in the video was a handful of earnest guys who guarded the protesters with an almost territorial fervor. They had the will to protect the protesters, but did they have a plan?

blm shootermugs
From left to right: shooter Allen “Lance” Scarsella, 24; Nathan Gustavsson, 21; Joseph Backman, 27 and Daniel Macey, age 26. Scarsella has been charged with five counts of felony assault with a firearm. The others face charges of felony riot.

“Show us your face” isn’t a plan by the way. Neither is chasing after someone who is armed, as the protesters apparently did. How did they know that they were armed? Well, with the video posted online of the guy with a 1911, and the armed protesters across the street, it would have definitely been safe to assume that they were strapped. But as they chased the men from the protest, one of the BLM protesters actually shouted, “They’ve got guns!”

You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. And when you’ve got masked men lined up across the street with guns, you’ve got to accept the fact that if a fight breaks out, it’s most likely going to be a gunfight. Did BLM have the means to confront a group of armed men?

Assaults on protesters at a lunch counter in Mississippi.
Assaults on protesters at a lunch counter in Mississippi.

Whenever people have stepped up to try to challenge the status quo, there have been men and women who were willing to use violence to silence them. It is an impulse that the civil rights movement tried to leverage to their advantage during the 60‘s through the use of passive resistance. They hoped to shock the nation out of its comfort with Black oppression by showing them a steady feed of abuse and murder of protesters, Black and White, at the hands of police, firemen and private citizens. But some of the men and women who exemplified the philosophy of turning the other cheek, also believed firmly in “speak softly but carry a big stick.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice were formed in 1964 in Jonesboro, Louisiana by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick. Their mandate was simple. They were there to protect the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) from violent white supremacists. 
Composed mostly of veterans of WWII and the Korean War, they knew that the protesters faced a lethal threat every time they left their houses.

They stood guard at many of the protests to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Often times they provided armed escort for the activists back to “Haven Towns”; autonomous and heavily defended Black communities where the protesters could stay in relative safety.

What would have happened had BLM been under the protection of a group like the Deacons for Defense? Some folk assume that it would immediately lead to a bloodbath. They imagine a gun battle between the counter protesters and the New Deacons, or worse, police gunning down every Black man on the scene with a gun.

Things are bad, but are they really worse than they were in the mid sixties? Then, white vigilantes inflicted violence upon Black folk with absolute impunity. Churches were bombed, leaders were assassinated and men and women were beaten bloody in the street while the police looked the other way, or took part. Still, during the heyday of the original Deacons, from 64 into the early 70’s, I could find no record of any wild shootouts between the Deacons and either the law or the KKK on the scene at the protests.

It’s possible that a group of armed, trained men would have been enough to dissuade the counter protesters from ever showing up in the first place. And, I seriously doubt they would have been so eager to cross the line of the protest and take video of the participants if there was security that was just as armed as them overlooking the scene?

I believe in the power of love just as much as the next guy. Like I said, I’m a hippy. Burning sage and sending positive energy into the matrix is all good and well, but when you are faced with an armed threat, its time to consider something more powerful than a crystal and some affirmations. Sometimes, you must have the means to fight fire with fire.

It’s time to resurrect the Deacons for Defense and Justice.

Disclaimer: I’m not a member of Black Lives Matter, and I have absolutely no reason to believe that they are actually considering employing any type of armed guards.

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