NFAC the ‘Not F**king Around Coalition’ is an all-Black, Atlanta-based group that has grown in size out of frustration during a summer of protests against questionable policing and the deaths of countless Black people at the hands of police, said their founder John Fitzgerald Johnson.
Their presence has caused a stir in the cities they've visited and the group has drawn some criticism after people accidentally fired a weapon during two of their rallies, including the one in Lafayette.
Started in 2017, the group has marched in Stone Mountain, Georgia, calling for the removal of the nation's largest confederate monument; Brunswick, Georgia, for Ahmaud Arbery; Louisville, Kentucky, demanding more transparency in the Breonna Taylor case; and most recently Lafayette, Louisiana, in the name of Trayford Pellerin.
Along with protesters rallying in multiple US cities, largely White groups have also showed up and asserted their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Unlike many of those groups, Johnson says his group emerged as a response to enduring racial inequality and police brutality.
The all-Black group, Johnson said, intends to protect, self-police and educate Black communities on firearms and their constitutional rights. "We are not against anyone," said Johnson, who is also known as Grand Master Jay.
Large Black armed-groups aren't something often seen in the US. The most well-known was the Black Panther Party established in 1966 after the shooting of Matthew Johnson, a Black teenager killed by police. The group has since mostly disappeared.
NFAC already stands apart from other groups across the country, Thomas Mockaitis, a professor of history at DePaul University and author of "Violent Extremists: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat," told CNN.
"In one sense it (NFAC) echoes the Black Panthers but they are more heavily armed and more disciplined... So far, they've coordinated with police and avoided engaging with violence," he said.
Johnson said the group is made up of "US citizens exercising our constitutional rights and the color of our skin shouldn't make any difference."
"Nobody says anything when other demographics pick up weapons, decide to arm themselves and confront the government over anything from wearing a mask to being cooped up in the house, but when certain demographics arm themselves all of a sudden people tend to act as if the Constitution doesn't matter," Johnson said.
There's no moral equivalency when comparing NFAC to White armed groups, Mockaitis said. "The White militia movement is older, larger, probably more heavily armed, certainly more pervasive, it has many more people and it has been violent."
And while Mockaitis said NFAC has made some questionable comments, including challenging White armed groups during a Georgia rally, he does not believe the NFAC has an overtly racist ideology.
NFAC's members clad in black have raised their fists and shouted "Black power" in at least three cities without major incidents but days of tensions have preceded their rallies.
"Black boots, black pants, black button-down shirt, black mask, shotgun, semi-automatic or rifle," Johnson said in a social media video announcing the group's plans to "descend" on Louisville for a July 25 rally, CNN affiliate WDRB reported.
The NFAC's arrival quickly became a concern among city officials. At the time, the city had seen more than a month of protests centered on the death of Breonna Taylor and some had turned violent. David James, president of the Louisville Metro Council said officials simply did not want people marching on city streets with guns.
Per state law, no one other than the Kentucky National Guard or Kentucky active militia "shall associate together as an armed company or drill or parade with arms" without the governor's permission. City officials still decided not to invoke that rule, James said. A spokeswoman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that city officials have worked hard to communicate with all groups, including NFAC, and have seen largely peaceful protests.
The possibility of having an armed Black group clashing with an armed White group was also a factor. A few weeks before, the NFAC had marched on a Confederate memorial in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and one of its members called for a showdown with White vigilante groups.
When asked about that incident by CNN, Johnson said the NFAC was exercising free speech rights. They knew White armed groups usually gathered at that location, Johnson said, and the NFAC was responding to "that threat."
Police told the Louisville Courier-Journal in July that it was investigating the incident as a negligent shooting and could result in criminal charges. The outcome of the investigation is unclear. CNN reports that it reached out to the Louisville Police Department for comment.
When the NFAC marched in Louisville, they were met by an armed, largely White extremist group called the "Three Percenters." The two groups yelled at one another but were kept apart by riot police. Shots were fired at the event when a NFAC member dropped his weapon and injured three other NFAC members with buckshot. Johnson has said it was an accident.
This group came about as a result of growing protests and fears about the treatment of black people by police in America, if it is led well and does the right things it could potentially be a force for good.