An anti-government group that known for dressing in military gear and carrying military-grade weapons at events abruptly canceled a protest outside Rep. Maxine Waters’ South-Central Los Angeles office Thursday, citing safety concerns.
Dozens of counter-protesters showed up in force to confront the Oath Keepers, the far-right group that claims 35,000 members nationwide.
Waters, the Golden State Democrat, had previously urged her supporters to stay away from the Oath Keepers’ demonstration. The group “would like nothing more than to inflame racial tensions and create an explosive conflict in our community,” she said in a statement.
But the Oath Keepers were the ones who avoided the potential for any conflict Thursday as they no-showed their own event.
In a news release Thursday, the group said its team leader, Johnny Itliong, heard from the Los Angeles Police Department that “busloads” of counter-protesters had planted themselves outside Waters’ office to face them.
Some carried steel pipes and baseball bats, the Oath Keepers alleged.
The LAPD “could not guarantee the safety of any protesters” and “strongly advised that the protest not be held because of the danger,” the group said in its release.
It canceled its event citing the “high likelihood” of violence and “out of concern” for other organizations planning to protest, such as a group called the “MAGA Girls.”
Many of the counter-protesters claimed they were not there to be “baited into confrontations,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We’re here to defend our community and the members of our union against the hostile threat of this violent organization that’s coming into our neighborhood with an agenda that is opposed to our interests,” union organizer Cliff Smith told the paper.
The counter-protesters’ mood at the rally Thursday remained “festive” for most of the day, the LA Times reported.
At times, however, it veered off course.
At one point, some counter-protesters surrounded a pickup truck and pulled an American flag off it.
They found lighter fluid and burned the flag, chanting, “America was never great.”
The Oath Keepers’ original event was scheduled to protest Waters for comments she made in June criticizing members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Waters received criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike after she told supporters at a rally last month to continue protesting White House officials in public and refusing to let them be served at local businesses until they put their foot down on some of Trump’s more controversial policies.
“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said at the rally.
Trump falsely claimed that Waters encouraged her backers to “harm” supporters of “the Make America Great Again movement.”
The Oath Keepers alleged that Waters is “inciting far-left terrorist violence and threats of violence.”
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