OAKDALE, Calif. (KTXL) — Captured in images shared with FOX40 by anonymous sources, dozens of militarized civilians were seen on the streets of downtown Oakdale Saturday.
Sunny Shin said for her, their presence meant protection.
“I said, OK, I’m so appreciative,” she told FOX40.
However, many people said having the group police the streets was unwarranted.
The men identify themselves as California State Militia Echo Company. On their Facebook page, they say they were created as an organized defense during “severe controversy.”
“We explained that their presence was causing unnecessary tension and, you know, our whole primary goal for being there was to deescelate,” said Oakdale Police Chief Scott Heller.
The city’s police chief said they were not invited by law enforcement and the militia are not a part of the U.S. National Guard.
Police Chief Heller said they were asked to come to Oakdale by a business owner in response to recent protests.
“As the police department, we are well capable of providing public safety for the city,” Chief Heller said. “We have trained professionals. We have allied agencies that are there to assist us.”
However, among some of the boarded windows in downtown were signs encouraging empathy and understanding.
“Open heart,” said business owner Pam Thomas. “I just want to understand another person’s way of … what their experience is.”
Despite the militia, Thomas said for her, the work toward justice is far greater.
“It’s not black against white, it’s good against evil,” she said.
FOX40 reached out to the militia group earlier Monday. They have not responded.