[shouting] Minutes after 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse appeared to fatally shoot two people at a Black Lives Matter protest, he walked away, hands in the air, seemingly surrendering to the police. But the police let him walk by. We reviewed hundreds of incidents from around the country since protests began in May and found that, at times, police officers gave the benefit of the doubt to armed far right groups and individuals, which can embolden vigilantes and lead to violence. “All right, everybody, back the [expletive] up!” Far right armed groups have been on the rise for decades. But in 2020, they started showing up to protests in large numbers. “Take your goddamn mask off. And y’all can go play your gun wars back down that way.” These groups have diverse causes, including white supremacy and opposition to the federal government. Some extremists have even threatened and been arrested for killing police officers. But we found that armed groups still sometimes got a pass from the police. “Your Mountain Dew’s right here.” “I brought you something as well.” [laughs] “You do it this way. All right?” There were nearly 8,000 Black Lives Matter protests across the country this summer. The vast majority were nonviolent, researchers say. But our analysis of visual evidence found that many were met by counterprotesters all over the United States who were often armed. The Times reviewed news reports, social media videos and data sets, and found that far right groups and other individuals brought weapons to Black Lives Matter protests at least 100 times this year. Some Black Lives Matter protests turned violent. And in Portland, Ore., an antifa activist is suspected of killing a far right Trump supporter. But we found that, overall, most of the armed protests were on the right. While many states allow people to carry guns openly, there are laws that prohibit armed groups from intimidating people with weapons, illegally guarding property, or impersonating law enforcement or the military. Many law enforcement agencies have made efforts to curb militias and eliminate paramilitary affiliation in their ranks. But we found multiple instances where police, instead, took a hands off approach to armed groups — and in extreme cases, even seemingly affiliated or coordinated with them. The most common response we saw was a permissive attitude to armed groups. In Yucaipa, Calif., in June, a crowd of people, many of them armed and some affiliated with far right groups, claimed to be guarding the streets. They broadcast their movements on social media. They falsely believed the town was under siege by antifa activists because of disinformation spread online. Some wore symbols from anti-government movements, like the Three Percenters, as seen here. When Black Lives Matter protesters arrived, individuals from the right wing crowd confronted them. [shouting] “We live here.” [shouting] “We live here.” “Hey, guys, come on. No. No.” The protesters were beaten — [crowd shouting] — and tased. “Joe, Joe.” “Joe.” A police officer was sitting in a car about 200 feet away and did not intervene. “Police right here. Yucaipa police officer right here. Ain’t doing nothing.” [honking] In a statement, the Yucaipa Police Department said that it was, quote, extremely busy with calls that night, and that when officers arrived to the scene, no victims wanted to press charges. They later arrested one man who was charged with misdemeanor assault. Some officers took things a step further and seemed to openly affiliate with armed groups, like this scene in Philadelphia in June. In one part of the city, a group of men with bats and axes confronted Black Lives Matter protesters. And in another, uniformed police officers posed for pictures with armed civilians. In some cases, on duty police officers wore symbols from armed far right movements, like here in Chicago, where footage from CBS 2 News shows an officer wearing a Three Percenters mask. The Chicago Police Department says the incident is still under investigation. And in Orange County, Calif., an officer wore patches from the anti-government Oath Keepers movement and Three Percenters. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said the symbols are prohibited and that it’s conducting an internal investigation. We found other officers who posed with armed groups and people associated with anti-government organizations. In several encounters, police officers seemed to have a supportive relationship with armed groups, like in Virginia, where a police chief shook hands and shared a drink with an armed man wearing a shirt associated with the anti-government Boogaloo movement ahead of a planned protest. The police chief later said he was trying to de-escalate the situation. In Michigan, one county sheriff appeared with a member of an unlawful paramilitary group who would later be charged with material support for terrorism for plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The sheriff told the reporter that the men had the right to make a citizen’s arrest. “A lot of people are angry with the governor. They want her arrested.” He later said he wasn’t defending their actions. In a few instances, we found visual evidence of police officers seemingly working with armed groups, blurring the line between armed civilians and the police. During protests in Louisville, the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group opposed to the power of the federal government that recruits retired military and law enforcement officers, called for members from surrounding states to provide protection. Here are the Oath Keepers documenting their operation and soliciting new recruits on YouTube. They explain their relationship with the police. This type of coordination can make it unclear who is policing the streets. In September, a group of armed civilians in Oregon gathered, claiming to protect their community after disinformation spread that antifa was starting wildfires. Here’s a sheriff’s deputy in Clackamas County talking to a group of armed civilians. The deputy even suggested how they could cover up a shooting. He was placed on leave, disciplined, and later retired. Experts told us that law enforcement’s sometimes lenient approach to armed groups can create an environment in which these groups believe they have the backing of the state, are subject to a different set of rules, and might even be justified taking violent action. “Black Lives —” “Matter.” “Black Lives —” “Matter.” [shouting] “Black Lives.” As Americans grapple with how to push for police reform the events of 2020 suggests the country has another problem on its hands, an increasingly blurred line between armed groups and the police.