U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins on Thursday rescinded his agreement to meet with a Black militia leader who is planning an armed demonstration in Lafayette on Oct. 3.
The militia, called the Not F****** Around Coalition, is demonstrating in response to Higgins’s violent threats last month against its leader, John Jay Fitzgerald Johnson, and other members of the group.
Higgins called Johnson on Sept. 29 to make plans to meet. Johnson live streamed the conciliatory call, and Higgins said in a statement Thursday he thought the call was private.
“I reached out in the interest of peace and reason. I offered a bridge of man to man communication. He burned that bridge,” Higgins said.
The conflict started with Higgins’s Sept. 1 Facebook post, in which he shared a picture of Johnson and other NFAC members and threatened to personally shoot and kill the people in the photo if they came to Louisiana.
But NFAC was focused on responding to the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, not on the Lafayette Police killing of Trayford Pellerin. Johnson has said he was blindsided when he received calls about mortal threats by a sitting congressman in a state that he was not active in.
Facebook removed Higgins’s threatening post — which included a “promise” to “drop any 10 of you where you stand” — for inciting violence. Also removed was a subsequent post in which Higgins told his supporters he would advise when it’s time to “mount up.”
Higgins appeared to be responding to an Aug. 30 video by a Houston-based activist, Gerry Monroe, who — though unaffiliated with NFAC — warned Lafayette officials that NFAC was on its way. Monroe later said he had miscommunicated.
The night before Higgins called, Johnson said in a Facebook live interview that he is demanding a public apology from Higgins. He also said he would not leave Lafayette until that happens. After hanging up with Higgins, Johnson told his viewers that “a sitting congressman has had to apologize to Black power.”
Higgins admitted on the call that he previously misunderstood the NFAC, and he praised Johnson's "poised approach to this very volatile situation." But Higgins did not apologize, and the agreement to meet was not conditioned on any terms that he would do so. Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he expected Higgins to apologize in their meeting.
Higgins said in his statement that he has nothing to apologize for. He said Johnson and media reports misconstrued his intent.
“Nowhere in that conversation did I apologize, nor do I have any intention to do so,” Higgins said.
Higgins’s statement on Thursday did not include any additional threats. He said he respects NFAC’s right to peacefully assemble. Johnson has said his group will not initiate violence, and will follow all laws.
Lafayette officials on Wednesday praised NFAC’s close coordination with them in advance of the demonstration, which is to scheduled for 4 p.m. at Parc Sans Souci. Details of the march — including the route and expected crowd size — have not been released.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory said on Wednesday morning that he would authorize release of NFAC’s permit, but it had not been provided as of 2:15 p.m. Thursday.
Sheriff Mark Garber said he is aware of two other self-proclaimed militias that are planning to attend. He would not release any additional information about those groups.
Garber warned that downtown would be a "non-permissive environment" for any law breaking, especially when it comes to carrying guns in areas they are prohibited.