STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – A man armed with a semi-automatic rifle spotted at a Stillwater protest Wednesday had some in attendance uneasy, but he said he was just there to help keep the peace.
Christopher Autrey is a member of the Three Percent Original, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an anti-government militia movement.
But Autrey denies the group promotes violence or that it’s anti-government.
“This is something that a lot of our members are kind of heartbroken about because as law-abiding citizens, we are for the government, for the original constitution, and we’re here to protect that, preserve those rights for our fellow Americans,” Autrey said.
He said he and others from the group were dispersed throughout the city and the crowd, but he was the most visible. Their intention, he said, was to deter looters or violence.
“We would hope that it would make looters and other violent people double-think their actions and know that there are other people to help defend our citizens,” Autrey said.
Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts said Autrey was not encouraged or hired by police to provide security, as one business owner reported.
Autrey denies that claim.
He said he wanted to be ready to perform a citizen’s arrest if needed, something the chief said would have been legal if the person arrested was proven to be guilty.
But Autrey’s presence at the peaceful protest Wednesday had several people uncomfortable, according to Watts.
“I noticed several people in the crowd were uncomfortable, and I went and spoke with him and said, ‘Everything’s okay, there’s nothing to worry about. We have plenty of personnel here, everything’s safe,’” Watts said.
Even Watts said he doesn’t think openly carrying weapons at a protest is a good idea, but he recognizes that his personal opinion isn’t in line with Oklahoma law.
“In Oklahoma, you know, our open carry laws are pretty liberal so carrying a rifle, shotgun or pistol openly in a public place is allowed,” Watts said.