Black people formed one of the largest militias in the US. Now its leader is in prosecutors’ crosshairs.

USA Today via YahooNews

In late July 2020, as Louisville, Kentucky, fumed in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing in a botched police raid, a militia group descended on the city. A phalanx of hundreds of Black men and women, all clad in black, marched through downtown. Some wore body armor, others had gas masks. They wore pistols on their belts and carried shotguns and AR-15-style rifles. It was the latest rally of the Not F—ing Around Coalition, an armed group that says it’s dedicated to protecting Black lives from police brutality. And it got the attention of experts who track extremist movements. “It was the biggest public display by an armed militia I have ever seen,” said J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism who has studied the militia movement for 25 years. “Nobody was expecting that.” A year later, NFAC, as the group is known, was back in Louisville. Its leader, Grandmaster Jay, whose real name is John Fitzgerald Johnson, retained the cocky, steel-eyed confidence that has made him a messiah to tens of thousands of Black Americans. He wore his trademark body armor and sunglasses in the summer heat and spoke grandly of self-defense, Black empowerment and the creation of a Black nation. This time there was no march before a cheering crowd. The guns were nowhere to be seen. Grandmaster Jay’s troops had shrunk to a small crew of loyalists. Everyone there knew why: Months after a second rally in Louisville, Grandmaster Jay had been charged with “assaulting, resisting or impeding” officers while brandishing a firearm. That September night, federal prosecutors say, Grandmaster Jay aimed his rifle at a group of officers conducting surveillance from a rooftop. He faces three to 27 years in prison if convicted of the charges. Since he was arrested, the coronavirus pandemic has raged and the police reform movement has cooled. A judge has barred Grandmaster Jay from possessing a gun while he awaits trial. He can’t access social media, cutting him off from perhaps a more powerful weapon.

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