The images were strong.
In a part of the city marching in columns through the leafy streets, 250 African-American men and women – clad head to toe in black combat clothing and clutching assault rifles and pump-action shotguns – made themselves felt.
Also a few miles away was a white militia of Trump-supporting "patriots" in khaki camo and armed to the teeth.
This week, the posh city in southern Louisville, Kentucky was set to celebrate the successful staging of its famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby – America's answer to Ascot, once heralded as "The Greatest Two Minutes in Sport".
Around 250 African American men and women – clad head to toe in black combat clothing and clutching assault rifles and pump-action shotguns – have taken to the streets
Instead, body armor and skull-shaped masks replaced traditional brightly colored hats and fancy suits as the event became the newest battlefield in America's flammable election year.
The nation never seemed so divided. & # 39; No justice! No derby! & # 39; sang the black-clad demonstrators, members of a group called "Not F ****** Around Coalition" (NFAC).
The justice they are demanding goes to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old local black medic who was fatally shot and killed six months ago during a police operation in her home in the middle of the night. No officer has been charged yet.
The opposing militia, also estimated at around 250 men, graciously never met the NFAC people.
A white militia of Trump-backing "patriots" who wore khaki camouflage clothing and were armed to the teeth also made themselves felt
Instead, they clashed with another group, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters, some of whom were also armed with rifles and small arms.
With the police barely in sight (most of them guarding the racetrack), the two sides pushed and shuffled for 45 minutes as they shouted loudly in their faces through loudspeakers.
No scene has so hauntedly summed up the terrible ugliness of the 2020 White House race – and what many fear is the potential for it to explode into a full-blown civil war if both sides fail to achieve the desired outcome.
US politics has been more polarized for years. But the regular collision of armed demonstrators and counter-protesters – one side violently for President Trump, the other violently against him – is a recent development that is of course causing a lot of alarm.
The risk of slaughter is always just a pull away. Back in July, when these two armed groups faced each other in Louisville, a black militia member accidentally fired a few shots and injured three comrades.
Armed leftists protest while armed members of the pro-Trump militia demonstrate on the day of the famous Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky
Both sides insist that they only turn out because the other is there – and both say they uphold the U.S. Constitution's basic right to carry arms under the Second Amendment.
Unfortunately, their respect for the law only goes so far. The leaders of each group are hardly models of reserve.
The NFAC leader, former Army Veteran John & # 39; Grandmaster Jay & # 39; Fitzgerald Johnson, had previously warned that they would "burn this shit down" – which means Louisville – if cops weren't charged in Ms. Taylor's case.
Mr Johnson has since said his threat was "figurative" despite returning to the fire talk on his last visit when he told his civil army that if someone pointed a gun at them, "don't shoot them – kill them".
The pro-Trump militia is led by Dylan Stevens, a blonde giant who calls himself "Angry Viking" and says it is time to stand up against the racial justice protests that have rocked the US for months. Stevens describes himself as "a staunch supporter of Trump, the police, our forces, Second Amendment, America and the flag".
While President Trump accuses Democrats of underestimating the violence caused by Black Lives Matter, and Democrats counter that he exaggerated it to create political capital, no one can deny that the US is plagued by protracted urban violence
He and his comrades loudly insist that they are not racist but believe that they must arm themselves against an oppressive government that may soon try to impose socialism on them. You are, of course, talking about a democratic government led by Trump's opponent Joe Biden.
And there are a lot more Angry Vikings out there. Armed right-wing groups are increasingly appearing in left-wing protests and Black Lives Matter rallies saying they are protecting citizens and property.
Many are members of so-called "constitutional militias," a loose network of heavily armed, mostly white, paramilitary groups that was formed in the mid-1990s.
Some are "preppers" constantly preparing for a catastrophic collapse of society, while others are "three percenters" (after the supposed 3 percent of colonists who took up and won arms against Britain in the war of independence).
Justice protesters are calling on Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old local black paramedic who was fatally shot and killed in a police raid on her home six months ago in the middle of the night
The total number of militias is estimated at 40,000 to 100,000, and little or no weapons training is required for membership. You have been largely out of sight for years, but you now clearly feel that your moment has come. It's not hard to see why they might think that way.
While President Trump accuses Democrats of underestimating the violence caused by Black Lives Matter, and Democrats counter that he exaggerated it to create political capital, no one can deny that the U.S. is suffering from protracted urban violence, arson, and looting in the In connection with protests against racial justice, cases of unarmed African-Americans dying by police have been reanimated.
Most recently, there were violent clashes between BLM protesters and police in Portland, Oregon and Rochester, New York State.
Protesters in Rochester demonstrate over the death of Daniel Prude, a black man who died in hospital a week after police detained him and put a net hood over his head.
A few days after a 1,500 mob threw stones and fired fireworks at his officers, the city's black police chief was the last in a stream of senior officials in the U.S. to tire of criticism last week – often from their leftists Mayors – and resign.
A Metro Police Department officer helps form a perimeter on a street in downtown Louisville as members of the Patriot militia march in Louisville
Like Louisville, Portland has passed 100 days of civil unrest since the May assassination of George Floyd in Minnesota.
When the grim anniversary came, around 500 protesters ignored a police declaration of insurrection to begin their 100th Night of Anarchy. The police fired rubber bullets – and Molotov cocktails were thrown back.
As in other cities, some of the most violent activists in Portland are black-clad members of Antifa, a loose alliance of leftists who insist that violence against the far right is justified.
Their involvement was a catnip to Trump as he ran for law and order. Although Joe Biden condemned the problems on the streets, other members of the Democratic Left have been reluctant to fight their progressive supporters and the BLM.
Depending on how feverish the situation gets between now and Election Day on November 3rd, this could be a fatal mistake.
& # 39; No justice! No derby! & # 39; sang the black-clad demonstrators, members of a group called "Not F ****** Around Coalition" (NFAC).
While polls suggest that voters are the most angry about Trump's miserable handling of coronavirus, some experts suggest that many are hiding secret support for Republicans as they look appalled at Democratic leaders' failure to suppress violence.
In this festering swamp, the boys of the militia and their left-wing opponents march joyfully at gunpoint. Given that there are 45 open-carry states in the U.S., militias often stay in the law until they actually pull the trigger.
Since Trump has everything he can to not suppress the violence, his supporters take to the streets to take care of it themselves. And while confrontations between protesters and police have so far been fairly contained, with angry armed citizens clashing against each other, the potential for incidents to spiral out of control is terrifying.
The first fatal shots were fired by Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, a passionate Trump and supporter of the police. He was charged after two BLM protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were fatally shot in one of the many nights of mayhem since police murdered a local black man.
Rittenhouse, whose attorney insists that he defend himself, had joined a self-proclaimed militia protecting companies after the city was ravaged by looting and arson.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg promised last week that he would try to stamp out any organization of election-related violence on his platform
Even before new evidence suggested he feared for his life that night, Rittenhouse was inundated with support and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for his legal defense.
Political exchanges across America are filmed, with the police often standing by when people exchange blows or beat each other with sticks and flagpoles.
The problem is exacerbated by social media used to draw large crowds onto the streets, sometimes through fake video footage and police calls for help.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg promised last week that he would try to stamp out any organization of election-related violence on his platform. Democrats say polls show voters accuse Trump of promoting violence.
But patience with BLM protesters is waning – Trump last week filmed a lot of footage of protesters in Pittsburgh descending on an elderly white couple eating outside to shout the white people.
And there is another reason why some experts fear that Americans could sort out their political differences at the barrel of a gun. Experts predict that far more Democrats than Republicans will vote by mail, which will bring Trump the victory that day – but not when all the votes are added up.
That could take weeks, and Trump has repeatedly warned his supporters that any attempt to change the number of votes on election night will be fraudulent.
Given this chilling rhetoric, militiamen may not be the only Trump supporters who conclude that a subsequent Democratic government is illegal. Armed resistance is hardly an option.
Meanwhile, Jacob Blake, the black man who was shot in the back by the Kenosha police, has asked for rest from his hospital bed.
"Please change your life out there," he said to those who protested his fate. "There's a lot more life out here, man."
Unfortunately, his message of reconciliation falls on deaf ears.
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