The feds are coming down on the leader of an armed Black militia, the Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC), which says it exists to protect Black lives from police brutality.
The men and women of the NFAC are most often seen at protests in body armor carrying weapons. The militia’s membership numbers have never been verified but after interviewing its leader, the nonprofit newsroom The Trace described the NFAC as one of the largest militias in the U.S.
On the evening of Sept. 4, 2020 in downtown Louisville, KY, NFAC leader Grandmaster Jay was charged with “assaulting, resisting or impeding” officers while brandishing a firearm after a rally protesting the death of Breonna Taylor. About 200 other members of the NFAC were in Louisville that day.
Federal prosecutors claim that Grandmaster Jay aimed his rifle at a group of officers conducting surveillance on a rooftop. Grandmaster Jay, whose real name is John Fitzgerald Johnson, faces three to 27 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
The officers allege that they were blinded by a flashlight attached to Grandmaster Jay’s rifle as he pointed it at them, The Trace reported.
Grandmaster Jay wants prosecutors to drop the charges.
The NFAC leader has been arrested twice, according to prosecutors — once in 1995 during an incident at a bar where charges were dropped for lack of evidence, and in 2003 when he was accused of using a rifle to threaten his then-wife. In the latter arrest, he pleaded guilty to trespassing and paid a small fine, according to court documents.
Still awaiting trial, Grandmaster Jay has been banned from using social media and says that he’s being targeted by a federal government with a history of suppressing African-American groups that dare to challenge the status quo, USA Today reported.
Grandmaster Jay served in the Virginia National Guard and the U.S. Army from 1989 to 2006. He’s also a DJ and he ran for president in 2016.
“You put me back in the cave,” he said in an interview with USA Today and the nonprofit newsroom The Trace. “It was a methodology used to silence a very powerful voice in the world.”
According to Grandmaster Jay, his organization has marched peacefully and respectfully.
While the federal government has also cracked down on white militia groups in the past, its case against Grandmaster Jay seems to continue a U.S. tradition of going after Black Americans who arm themselves.
You can trace this back to slave uprisings in the 1800s. Federal efforts against armed Black people continued with the Black Panthers in the 1960s and now NFAC, according to Arjun Sethi, an author and law professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
“When Black folks in America pick up weapons, a different set of rules has always applied,” Sethi said in The Trace. “That was the case 100 years ago; that remains the case today.”
In videos posted online, Grandmaster Jay has told his followers to meet police and white supremacist violence with violence.
“If you kill us, we will kill you, point f—ing blank,” he said in a video, Trace reported. “If we can’t get to you, we’re gonna go after your family members. If we can’t get them, we’re gonna go after your church members. If we can’t get them, we’re gonna go after your co-workers. If we can’t get them, f— it, we’ll just go after anybody.”
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NFAC made its first public appearance in May 2019 in Dayton, Ohio, to protest a Ku Klux Klan rally, Grandmaster Jay said in the interview. He wouldn’t disclose how many members the group has.
“We’re not trying to drive anything; we don’t have a political point,” he said. “We’re neither left wing, nor right wing. We don’t have an enemy, per se. We realize that our people need some type of protection because those folks that are being paid to protect us, in our perception, are not doing the job.”
Grandmaster Jay stressed the right of citizens to be armed. “America’s racism is on full display at this point,” he said. “We are law-abiding citizens, legally assembled. We don’t have an anti-police theology like the groups from the ’60s. We don’t call police ‘pigs.’ We’re not out to get anyone. We’re defensive, and we always have been.”
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