Last week, a group of armed men and one woman, wearing body armor and carrying what looked like AR-15s, appeared at Black Lives Matter protests in Georgia. Some of the group, who were all clad in black, wore berets with the supposed imagery of the Black Panther movement, while a single white guy among them wearing the same uniform, stood out.
“I just want everyone (that’s here) to know that we are the New Black Panthers,” said the lone woman in the group through a megaphone at one of the protests in Decatur.
“We're here as a visual representation of equality,” she continued, “you have a right to bear arms. You do not need a license to carry a rifle. You need a license for a handgun. When we represent our rights people see and they understand.”
Days after that the group mysteriously reappeared carrying weapons at an Atlanta BLM march, except now it claimed to be a new group: Black Panther Revolutionaries Atlanta Chapter. In Facebook posts on Tuesday, the actual leader of the New Black Panthers Party, Hashim Nzinga, denounced the fake Black Panthers as a “most likely FBI led group” and clarified that his organization, under no circumstances, has white members. (The New Black Panthers Party has been condemned by original Black Panthers, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed them as a hate group.)
Images and video of the group went viral on Twitter and were picked up by tabloids. In a viral thread, a Twitter user suggested that these people were actors, and had some convincing evidence, including that the patches the group used weren’t Black Panther insignias, but from the 66th Infantry Division.
At least two of these people are Atlanta-based film and television actors, VICE has confirmed. The two explained why they were at the protest and why they wore what they wore—both said they are not actually affiliated with any official Black Panther movement, but, like almost everyone at the protests, they care deeply about the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd.
The news that the group are actors was also reported and confirmed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution last night. VICE independently verified and spoke to another member of the group for more details.
The one white man in the group, Michael Pierino Miller, whose IMDB credits include roles in shorts and an appearance as an uncredited extra in Avengers: End Game, published an Instagram story promoting the “Black Panther Revolutionaries.” But when asked what the group was exactly, he made his profile private and told VICE it was all a misunderstanding.
“No affiliation with original black PANTHERS or ‘The New Black PANTHERS’” he said in an Instagram message to VICE. “I joined my brothers day one of protests and gladly took and wore what was handed to me,” he added, though he didn't say who handed the outfit to him. Pierino Miller didn’t appear to have carried a weapon in any of the photos and made it clear that “Nobody was paid” to wear the faux-Black Panther outfits or attend any of the protests.
Pierino Miller referred VICE to Spiike G, an actor, writer, stuntman, cameraman and director, who appeared at both protests in a Black Panther uniform. Posts on his account show that he uploaded episodes of a fictional action series called Justice, "about an African American vigilante who stands up against police brutality and injustice in the black community. We all know cops get away with murder, but not in freedom city. In freedom city they have to answer to Justice."
Until recently, on his Instagram account Spiike had posted videos and pictures of himself with Pierino Miller and others, from the Decatur and Atlanta protests, but those images have been deleted. He then issued a mea culpa from his account, citing his long standing activism in the Black community dating back to the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and said he is not a Black Panther.
“I apologize to the [New Black Panther Party] OG’s for using [Black Panther imagery] and to my people for going about it the wrong way,” he said in a caption to an Instagram post. “We wanted to uphold the ideas and views as the OG’s so we threw in [Black Panther]. Bottom line we love our black ppl and we want to protect our black ppl.”
When VICE contacted Spiike, he said he preferred to do a video interview then subsequently didn’t answer any of the several questions regarding the Black Panther Revolutionaries Atlanta Chapter, but told the AJC that he got the uniforms at an army surplus store.
He said he "wanted to be a symbol of hope" for protesters. "It wasn't for fun or anything like that."