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Armed group 'patriots,' local protesters face off near Jefferson Square Park

Participants with the American Patriot Pride Rally and local protesters had a brief, heated exchange in downtown Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Armed with guns and American flags, a crowd of nearly 300 gathered at Cox Park early Saturday to say they have had enough.

They refer to themselves as “patriots.”

“We’re out here to keep people safe, and it’s not about force, it’s about being out and showing up,” a Louisville man who asked to be called Phoenix with the Bear Militia, said.

Some members of the crowd were from Kentucky, and others from different parts of the country, but all said they were here to protect people after the leader of the NFAC, a black militia group, threatened to burn the city in July.

“This is our city and it’s not going to be taken over by people who want to destroy it, Phoenix said.

The American Patriot Pride rally was led by Dylan Steven who calls himself “The Angry Viking.”

“Americans, what they do is they scare you into thinking you’re a racist, for standing up for this right here, for standing up for Louisville, he said. "And I tell these people all the time sometimes you got to be comfortable being uncomfortable. 100 days, come on. When are we going to say ‘okay, we’re done with this, we’re done with threats, we’re done with people saying they’re going to burn our city down, and when are we actually going to fix the problem?'”

The group marched from River Road to Jefferson Street in the heart of downtown Louisville where they were met with protesters chanting "Justice for Breonna Taylor" more than 100 days after her death at the hands of police. 

According to Louisville Metro Police (LMPD), the two groups engaged in "yelling and conversations" at one point during the rally. LMPD had units stationed around Jefferson Square Park, but most of its resources were staged near Churchill Downs, where the protests were expected to move.

LMPD said it did not want to escalate the situation and, because of the size of the crowd, the department chose not to directly intervene during the confrontation. As the crowd moved down Jefferson St. officers were able to create a barrier between the two groups to keep them separated until calm was restored.

While the confrontation did not escalate into violence, Louisville resident Derrick Dennis said the possibility was there in the moment.

"If somebody would drop a firecracker or something, it could be a catastrophe out here,” he said. Dennis said he was displeased by the hate in front of his eyes as tensions between both groups heightened.

“These folks are up close and personal and they’re angry...they’re angry at the direction the city is heading, this country is heading, and everybody is pointing the finger at each other - and that could be dangerous,” Dennis said.

Dennis wondered if or how the city can move forward.

“There’s a lot of built-up stress and anxiety, so it’s not overflowing and spilling out right now,” he said.

Contact reporter Heather Fountaine athfountaine@whas11.com and follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Heather) andFacebook

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