The NFAC leader is an army veteran and is the only one who speaks publicly about the group’s mission, wanting to keep the identity of its members anonymous. John Fitzgerald Johnson, also known as “Grandmaster Jay”, founded the group in Atlanta in 2017. The black militia was noted in the protests against the brutality of the summer police. However, the leader says that the group does not identify with the BLM movement and does not want to be associated with any kind of extremism, right or left.
John Fitzgerald Johnson says that unlike other protest groups for other purposes, the group targets racial inequalities and police brutality after several cases of African Americans killed in custody have been revealed since the death of George Floyd. .
“Black Lives Matter is a failure. It was at the forefront of the pro-black movement until it was confiscated by other entities, so it does not represent the will or feelings of the nation of color. We do not position ourselves in any way in relation to the movements associated with other groups, but we want to be precise about one thing, namely that we do not accept to be identified with BLM ”.
The group’s mission is to educate African-American communities about weapons and constitutional rights, but also to provide protection, as Johnson says, abuse and “disrespect” for people of color have reached an unacceptable limit.
“We’re not against anyone,” or anti-anything, Johnson said, explaining that the members are “Americans who exercise their constitutional rights, so skin color shouldn’t matter.”
“Nobody says anything if other demographic segments get their hands on weapons, decide to arm themselves and go to the government to hold accountable in connection with absolutely irice, from wearing a mask to being locked up in houses. However, when other parts of the population arm themselves, suddenly people tend to react as if the Constitution doesn’t matter at all, “says Johnson.
Color militias with large numbers of members are rare in the United States, the best known group being the Black Panthers. Established in 1966 after police killed a black teenager, he has largely disappeared.
NFAC already stands out from other similar groups in the United States, says Thomas Mockaitis, a professor of history at DePaul University and author of “Violent Extremists: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat.”
“In a sense, the NFAC is an echo of the Black Panthers, but the difference is that the group is more disciplined and more armed. So far, they have coordinated with the police and avoided involvement in violence “, says the researcher.
He also points out the differences from the white militia movements which are “older, more numerous, probably even better armed and certainly more extensive, with many more members” and which, in addition, have already shown violence.
Mockaitise believes the group does not have an overt racial hatred ideology, although there have been verbal clashes between them and white militia groups, white supremacists, and so-called patriots fighting for citizens’ rights against the U.S. government by promoting civilian weapons.
In a virtual interview for the Complex website, the NFAC leader says that racism in the US has shown its ugly face again, as has not happened since the 1960s.
“We did not create this, this world recreated itself again and proved to be a fertile ground for the formation of the NFAC in the same way as in the 1960s, when the Black Panthers were established,” said the leader of a group. essentially by the former military, the quoted source shows.
NFAC made its presence known mainly at the protests in Stone Mountain, Giorgia, near Independence Day and Louisville, Kentucky.
In late July, Johnson launched a call on social media to protest the “power of blacks”: members must come dressed entirely in black and armed with rifles or semi-automatic weapons. Local authorities received them with concern after a month of protests in some places marked by violence against the death of Breonne Taylor following a police raid.
According to the Louisville City Council, the law stipulates that outside of the Kentucky National Guard or active militia, association with an “armed company, exercise, or parade” is not permitted unless expressly approved by the governor.
“Balancing the rights of protesters as set out in the First Amendment with our debt and our practical capabilities to protect public safety requires flexibility and communication,” said Jean Porter, Lousiville’s deputy director of communications.
A factor of concern was the possibility of clashes with armed groups of white militias, especially since on Independence Day NFAC participated in a march in the memorial park of the Confederation, where he requested the removal of the sculpture from Stone Mountain, considered a racist monument , and called for confrontations with the “white guards”. The Stone Mountain is a symbol for white supremacists: The Ku Klux Clan, a racial hatred group made up of Confederate veterans, held a rebirth ceremony at the foot of the mountain in 1915, and occasional gatherings have taken place since then. they involve the burning of crosses.
Johnson told CNN that his presence at the Atlanta Memorial Park was an exercise in the right to free speech, and being aware that armed groups of whites would also appear, the NFAC came to respond to “that threat.”
During a protest in July, an NFAC member injured colleagues in the group after his weapon was accidentally unloaded. In this march, the group verbally clashed with an extremist right-wing group made up mostly of whites called the Three Percenters, with anti-riot police intervening to split the camps.
On September 5, the NFAC marched to Churchill Downs, a Kentucky horse racing complex, but members of the group began leaving after a rival group arrived, as they did not want to be held responsible for any clashes, the group leader explained.
Earlier this month, NFAC traveled to southern Louisiana after a Facebook post by Republican President Clay Higgins. On the campaign page, he posted photos of protesters from the NFAC group, warning that if they arrived in the city of Lafayette, he would destroy 10 of them. He wrote in his distant message from Facebook that “we are the SWAT team. It’s nothing personal. We’re just eliminating the danger. We don’t care about skin color or whether we are right or left. If you show up like this (armed -n.red) … we won’t stay away. … you are the ones who threaten if you are so aggressive in nature as you appear in my presence. In my neighborhood. ”
Higgins later said in a statement to CNN affiliate KATC that it recognizes the right to peaceful assembly and does not believe the group “has violent intentions.” In fact, he spoke on the phone with the group leader.
In any case, local officials allowed the March 3 march in which the group gathered to denounce the killing of African-American Trayford Pellerin, who was shot by police in August.
“They are our visitors. They are our guests and so far I have spread the red carpet. They want the same thing as us: a protected community, “said Carlos Harvin, the head of minorities at the Lafayette Consolidated Government.
That protest ended peacefully, despite the arrest of a person who accidentally unloaded his weapon. No one was injured, and that person was not a member of the group.
A counterweight to other groups
Although each state or city has different policies regarding armed groups, the authorities tend to “adopt a very cautious, gloved attitude” toward them, according to Carolyn Gallaher, an associate professor and dean at the American University’s School of International Services.
And that’s because it’s always on the fine line between preventing gun battles on the streets and avoiding the impression that it penalizes armed groups, says Gallaher, who is also the author of “On the Fault Line: Race, Class, and the American Patriot Movement. “
According to Judson L. Jeffries, a professor of African and African American Studies at Ohio State University, so far the group’s priority has been to stop police brutality and he is interested to see what further evolution of the group’s ideology will be and how will continue to behave.
The group can take it in two ways – along the lines of Martin Luther King Jr.’s thinking, showing “a great deal of patience and love for those who oppressed him” or rather an alignment with Malcolm X who showed a preference for self-defense in in the face of white violence.
“I hope we do not get to the point where we witness exchanges of fire and open warfare between the police departments and these armed groups. I can’t help but wonder if we’re not already approaching him because we don’t need too many punishments on a group before he retaliates accordingly. “
Militia experts have described the group as a counterweight to largely white groups in the United States, especially those associated with white supremacy or neo-Confederate ideologies.
What is known about the founder
Johnson was in the military and is known in circles as a hip hop DJ and music producer. Johnosn does not discuss life outside the NFAC, but archives show that he was a member of the Virginia National Guard and served in the military from 1989 to 2006.
He ran unsuccessfully as an independent in the 2016 presidential election. According to his campaign platform, Johnson is promoting a progressive line of racism, women’s rights and economic equality, according to Complex.
The number of members of the group is not known: several hundred people were seen at the marches and it is assumed that the group is recruiting new members.
Johnson, who wants to keep the identities of the group members anonymous, speaking on behalf of everyone just so as not to affect their careers and personal lives, says the number of members has grown “exponentially” after the Louisville march and lowering the age limit from 21 to 18 years.
The group does not identify with a protest movement, Johnosn saying the group’s goal is not demonstrations.
“We are a militia of color. We don’t come to chant, that’s not what we’re dealing with, “he said, adding that the group represents certain segments of the population that have always existed in America, namely” veterans and mature adults, law-abiding citizens, responsible gun carriers and I understand The Constitution “, according to the local newspaper The Atlanta Black Star.
The group’s ultimate goal is to “facilitate an exodus of those willing to go where racism is not an issue,” but its intent is to encourage African Americans to “determine their own destiny, their economy, and defend their homeland.” and to build their own culture ”.