'The Wild West without a sheriff': ITV News witnesses a brazen display of militia power in Louisville

America's militias are feeling empowered and emboldened - they are coming out of the shadows in a way that I have never witnessed before.

Over the weekend, in the city of Louisville in Kentucky, different groups collided in a chaotic display of non-state armed power.

Strikingly, the police, the National Guard and civic leaders were nowhere to be seen for several hours.  In other words, the competing militias had the run of a major American city.

It was like a scene from the Wild West, but without a sheriff in town.

One militia leader is Dylan Stevens, known as the Angry Viking. He sees himself as filling a security vacuum following a summer of protests and of sporadic violence in a number of US cities.

But the danger is clear.  

Other Americans watching these scenes unfold are arming up. It's a self-perpetuating spiral of fear, intimidation, reaction, and counter-reaction.

Nadia Ford is an African-American grandmother who came to Louisville to confront the forces of hate. But she did so with three weapons, including an AR-15 semi-automatic.  

For her, the days of peaceful protests are over.

We also encountered the new black militia, the NFAC, which stands for "Not F***ing Around Coalition."

It has hundreds of recruits, many of them veterans of the US military.

NFAC is led by a mysterious black nationalist known as Grandmaster Jay.

His bodyguards protect him at every step, and he projects himself as a military leader, with a cult-like following.

He sees NFAC as a counter-militia to the white supremacists that often dominate this space.

But that in turn is driving groups like the Angry Vikings to be more visible.

Louisville is a glimpse into what can go wrong if this election campaign takes a detour into uncharted territory or if protests escalate.

Militias have a long history in America, going back to the Revolution.  

But they have been invigorated by the uncertainty, division, and anger sweeping the country.

As we saw in Louisville, they are now stepping forward into the breach.  

And that is a truly ominous development.