As demonstrators flooded the streets of Baton Rouge, La., to protest the police killing of a black man, about 15 men in black military fatigues marched toward the police station, three of them carrying AR-15 rifles. They were members of a group called the People’s New Black Panther Party. They explained that their intent was not to harm police officers but to express their rights to protest and defend themselves, the New York Times reports. The movement against police abuse over the past two years has drawn a diverse kaleidoscope of activists who use an array of tactics. Among those who are praying, blocking roadways, speaking on social media, and negotiating with elected officials are a fervent few who are channeling the history of militant resistance. They are protesting not just with slogans and signs, but also with rifles slung over their shoulders and a rebellious spirit. “All of those groups are relevant and important to the struggle for black liberation,” said Cat Brooks, an activist who works closely with the Black Lives Matter network. “We’ve never been liberated, so we don’t know how we’re going to get there. We need all hands on deck.”
On Wednesday, the Black Youth Project 100, a national coalition, helped stage occupations of police unions and departments in cities from New York to Washington to Oakland. They were aiming to raise awareness of what they say is the complicity of police unions in helping officers to get away with violence. Brooks, who is based in Oakland, co-founded the Anti Police-Terror Project three years ago to help get black people involved in their communities. The group created a commission of community members who investigate police shootings, support families of victims and pressure departments to hold officers accountable. Some fear that the movement against police abuse still has on its periphery some groups with histories of stoking hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist organizations, said it counted 180 groups last year that it considered to be black separatist hate organizations, a 59 percent increase from the previous year.