Armed men who said they are with the Louisiana Cajun Militia joined a demonstration Tuesday evening outside Lafayette City Hall.
The group of 40 to 50 men stood about 100 yards from protesters that included representatives of Black Lives Matter and other critics of Lafayette Police. The protesters were demanding racial justice after the Aug. 21 fatal shooting of Trayford Pellerin, a Black man, by Lafayette Police officers on Evangeline Thruway.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory at the start of a Parish Council meeting Tuesday acknowledged the grief of family and friends of Trayf…
The men said they were there to make sure protesters are protected and allowed to exercise their right to protest peacefully.
One of the group's leaders, Michael McComas, said the militia has about 75 members within a few miles of Lafayette.
He said they heard rumors that a hate organization was planning come to Lafayette to disrupt the protests and cause destruction. McComas said militia members wanted to be there to help keep the peace.
The Louisiana Cajun Militia is a regulated volunteer militia that was formed about four years ago because of conflicts over Confederate monuments in the state. McComas said the members quarreled with Antifa and Black Lives Matter in that conflict.
Both of those groups have pushed to have monuments removed because they say they are tributes to slavery. McComas said his members believe the monuments are tributes to U.S. veterans.
Despite that disagreement, McComas said, the militia has respect for all races and religions and believes they all have the same rights, including the right to bear arms and the right to free speech.
"I like some of what they have to say over there," he said.
"I wish the police officers wouldn't have shot the man," he continued, noting that because he wasn't there he couldn't comment on what police should have done in the situation.
The protest outside City Hall began before city and parish council meetings were set to begin at 5 p.m. Dozens of speakers attended the meeting to offer public comment on how the killing of Pellerin has been handled by the mayor-president and other civic leaders.
The demonstrators set up grills and cooked hotdogs and hamburgers in a nod to a protester who was arrested Saturday for grilling outside the house of Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory.