LAFAYETTE, La. — Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber and other local law enforcement officials held a press briefing on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming protest on Saturday.
The briefing focused on a Black paramilitary group, the Not F---ing Around Coalition, or NFAC. They say the march will be to protest the shooting death of Trayford Pellerin at the hands of Lafayette Police Department as well as comments made against the group by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) on social media.
The NFAC has held several armed marches recently across the country in Georgia and Kentucky.
Garber said that the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office, the Louisiana State Police, LPD and the Lafayette City Marshal's Office have been working together on extensive planning for public safety just as they do with other events.
The sheriff said that the agencies are working together to facilitate this event just as they do with other events like festivals and parades to make sure that the community is safe while protecting the constitutional rights of everyone in the parish.
According to Lafayette Consolidated Government, the NFAC plans to hold its march at Parc Sans Souci Saturday at 4 p.m. LCG explains that the proper permits have been given for the march.
Guillory said that the group had applied for and received a foot race or parade permit, which is the same permit given for events like the dog parade held during Mardi Gras.
Garber also pointed out that there are several gun-free zones in the downtown area and that it can be confusing for anyone coming into the area, as well as residents of Lafayette, to identify where these gun-free zones are located.
He said that law enforcement agencies were coordinating with schools and courts to give public notice of where these gun-free zones are downtown.
Garber said that they are working on mapping the gun-free zones and putting up signage to recognized where they are in the downtown area.
The sheriff said that it is a felony to bring a gun into a gun-free zone and that it was illegal to wear body armor into a gun-free zone. He added that concealed-carry weapons are not permitted inside of a festival or parade.
The sheriff said he could not give an estimate on how many people will show up for the protest on Saturday, but said that they expect large numbers as these events grow organically.
Garber also said that a representative of the self-proclaimed Black militia, John Jay Fitzgerald Johnson also known as Grandmaster Jay, had proactively contacted local officials in preparation for the protest and had made accommodations on who they were bringing.
The NFAC have said they are traveling to Lafayette to protest the shooting death of Trayford Pellerin and threatening comments made by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) on social media against them.
Earlier this month, Higgins made a Facebook post that included an image showing armed members of NFAC that said, "If this shows up, we'll consider the armed presence a real threat. We being, We the People, of Louisiana. One way ticket fellas. Have your affairs in order."
He went on to cite his experience with SWAT and said he would "drop 10 of you" where you stand.
That post was then removed by Facebook.
During a Facebook Live with former Lafayette Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux on Monday, Johnson said that he wanted an apology from Higgins for the comments.
He also said that he was "blindsided" when Higgins issued his threatening comments.
"We had no focus on Lafayette," said Johnson during the livestream. "Our focus was on Louisville and the Breonna Taylor case that we have been talking about for months. At the time that you all had the (Pellerin) shooting down in Lafayette that garnered national attention I had actually relinquished the platform to other people.”
A YouTube video shared on Boudreaux's Facebook page shows Johnson having a phone conversation with Higgins on Tuesday where they discuss meeting in person about getting past their disagreement. During the phone call, Higgins invited Johnson to his home to speak or said he will attend the event Saturday in Lafayette.
"Sometimes I'm wrong," Higgins said during the call. "I've been wrong many times in my life. This is where leadership surfaces." Watch the full conversation here.
KATC has reached out to Higgins for comment, but have yet to hear back.
During the interview, Johnson describes the NFAC as a “response to the deteriorating racial environment within the United States, which constitutes human rights violations against people of African-American descent at the hands of the police.”
He adds that NFAC is a Black militia created by Black citizens that include veterans and tax paying citizens who exercise constitutional rights to bear arms and peacefully assemble to address their government for a redress of grievances.
Johnson said that the NFAC has three tenets: to protect the Black community; to self-police the Black community; and to educate the Black community on their constitutional rights and responsibilities as gun owners.
The full LCG press briefing from Wednesday is below:
The full Facebook Live with Boudreaux and Johnson can be viewed below:
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