Armed vigilantes are turning up at George Floyd protests across the US to “protect neighbourhoods” from opportunist looters.
Residents, some armed with guns bats and wearing bullet-proof vests, have stood guard across the US in defence of homes and businesses according to local reports.
Mr Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after white cop Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
A distressing video of the incident went viral, leading to a week of sometimes violent protests and civil unrest across the US calling for racial equality.
The protests have led to some vandalism and looting from local businesses up and down the US, prompting vigilante groups to step in.
One such group in Minneapolis is Security Latinos De La Lake who say it is trying to protect families that live in the buildings above stores and restaurants that are being set on fire and ransacked.
One of the organisers Cesia Baires told NPR police had left the area, leaving them with no choice but to step in.
She said: “There are families up here. These aren’t empty buildings.
“It’s not something that I would want, but we’ve seen how, for at least the first couple days, we were left alone.
“There were no cops that would come around. So what are we to do? Just stand there and do nothing?”
Elsewhere pictures emerged this week showing an armed vigilante standing guard outside a bank in Santa Monica in California during the protests.
Nine fires were started and looters attacked downtown stores in what was described as a “devastating day” in the city’s history.
Amid the smoke and chaos, a man was pictured pointing his gun at another male, as he blocked a bank entrance and cashpoint.
In Idaho white residents were reported by the Washington Post to have lined the streets to protect their neighbourhoods.
Led by a Facebook group of retired cops, they are reportedly standing guard around Treasure Valley area in the town of Coeur d’Alene.
“Enough of us swung into action, and put the word out on social media and elsewhere, that we were able to deploy and meet any violent elements that might come here from out of state”,’ armed locals Trevor Treller told the Post.
The vigilantes aimed to work alongside the protesters, another armed man said.
“I’m here to protect their right to free speech,” Dan Carson added.
Intelligence assessment of the protests from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said most of the violence appears to have been driven by opportunists.
Yet fears are mounting in some quarters that some vigilantes are associated with white nationalist groups.
Earlier this week Facebook suspended accounts associated with white nationalist groups after some advocated bringing weapons to anti-racist protests.
Company officials also said they removed accounts falsely claiming allegiance to ANTIFA in order to bring discredit to the anti-fascist movement.
Some of the removed white nationalist accounts were associated with the Proud Boys, which Facebook previously classified as a dangerous group. The others had connections to a group called the American Guard, which is now classified the same way.
Multiple Facebook executives described the action on condition they not be identified. They said they acted based on behaviour, not the politics of any content, and that Facebook had not designated ANTIFA as dangerous.
The company said it was looking closer at accounts discussing protests when it saw what it deemed white nationalist accounts encouraging violence.
Meanwhile ANTIFA has said it will focus on defending people from attacks by authorities or vigilantes, but they have been vilified by President Donald Trump who claims they are instigators of anti-police violence.