John Johnson, 57, the Black militia leader known as Grandmaster Jay, was arrested Dec. 3 on federal charges.
Grandmaster Jay is the leader of the “Not F***ing Around Coalition” (NFAC), a group that demonstrated in Louisville during last summer’s social unrest. He was charged with having allegedly “forcibly assaulted, resisted, opposed, impeded, intimidated, and interfered with federally deputized task force officers,” the Courier-Journal reported.
The NFAC was founded earlier this year by Atlanta-based hip-hop artist Grandmaster Jay in response to the death of Breonna Taylor. A Black woman, medical professional and first responder, Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 by Louisville police officers during a botched raid of her apartment.
News of Grandmaster Jay’s arrest hit Twitter, where many users noted the hypocrisy of how authorities treat Black militias more harshly than white militias.
The treatment of Kyle Rittenhouse was particularly troubling in light of Grandmaster Jay’s arrest. An armed white 17-year-old, Rittenhouse faces charges that he shot and killed Anthony M. Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Rittenhouse was released from custody after posting $2 million in bail in November, CNN reported.
“We live in two Americas. …anytime #GrandmasterJay gets arrested for some bullshit like this…and that little effing murderer Kyle Rittenhouse is out on bond,” one user tweeted.
Another wrote, “How does #KyleRittenhouse get released on bond after killing civilians at a #JacobBlake protest in Kenosha Wisconsin and #GrandmasterJay is arrested in an FBI probe for allegedly pointing a rifle at FBI agents in Louisville Kentucky during a #BreonnaTaylor protest?”
Others on Twitter called for Grandmaster Jay’s release. One person tweeted, “They would rather see you in a dress because then you’re no threat to them. They won’t give this man a bond, because he command so many. That’s bull shit. This is what happened when you come together Free #grandmasterjay show what unity look like”.
Grandmaster Jay was accused of pointing a rifle at Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) officers and federal officers on Sept. 4, the night before the 2020 Kentucky Derby, WDRB reported.
At that time, officers were told that a group of “six to eight heavily armed individuals” were seen in a parked car. Two federal officers and three LMPD officers started to observe the group.
Three of the officers were blinded by a flashlight, the affidavit claims. According to investigators, the flashlight was on the end of a rifle that Grandmaster Jay was pointing at them. All the officers identified the suspect as Grandmaster Jay, according to court documents.
“All officers advised they were concerned Johnson might intentionally, or even accidentally, discharge a round at them,” the probable cause affidavit states. “All officers recognized that the distance between themselves and Johnson was well within the effective range of the AR platform style rifle.”
LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay met with Grandmaster Jay and another member of the NFAC about 30 seconds after the incident and later identified him from surveillance video, according to the documents.
Grandmaster Jay was arrested at his home and appeared before a federal judge in Louisville.
If convicted of the charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman’s office.
“Here in Kentucky we revere our First and Second Amendment freedoms, not foolishness which puts police and protesters at grave risk,” Coleman said in a prepared statement.
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The NFAC has appeared at a number of protests across the country, usually armed. In June, Grandmaster Jay said the NFAC provided armed security for the sister of Rayshard Brooks at her request during a rally in downtown Atlanta. Brooks, 27, was fatally shot by police on June 12, 2020, in Atlanta after he was discovered asleep in his car at a Wendy’s Restaurant drive thru.
The self-described Black nationalist paramilitary group, NFAC advocates for gun rights, Black liberation and separatism, The Daily Beast reported. Grandmaster Jay claims the group is composed of armed “ex-military shooters,” Newsweek reported. He served in the Virginia National Guard and the Army from 1989 to 2006. He ran as an independent candidate for U.S. president in 2016.