An hours-long standoff between a group of heavily armed individuals and Massachusetts State Police on an interstate ended with 11 taken into custody.
The situation was resolved “through negotiation and tactical maneuvers,” Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason told reporters. The standoff began nine hours prior when police said the group claimed to “not recognize our laws.”
Video shot along the interstate shows men in military-style gear holding the Moroccan flag. Police communicated with the group through a hostage negotiation team. A Massachusetts State Police trooper was traveling northbound on Interstate 95 in Wakefield when he came upon two vehicles stopped in the breakdown lane around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday. The men were attempting to refuel their vehicles.
The occupants of the vehicle were dressed in military-style tactical gear. Some had long rifles, some pistols and “some had a combination of both,” Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason told reporters.
The trooper asked members of the group to produce licenses for the firearms and members of the group indicated they weren’t licensed or didn’t have copies of licenses on them. “You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at two in the morning certainly raises concerns and is not consistent with the firearms laws we have in Massachusetts,” Mason said.
A man who identified himself to police as the leader of the group said on a video recorded after the encounter that he “instructed my men to get out peacefully. I greeted your man with a handshake,” he said, of speaking with the trooper. He claims in a series of videos the group was following federal law and should be allowed to travel across state lines with their weapons.The trooper requested backup and additional state police as well as local police responded. The head of state police applauded the actions of the responding trooper who he said was “very patient, very understanding with them,” which kept the situation from escalating.
Hostage negotiators were brought in to speak with the men and at about 10:15 a.m., police announced 11 individuals were taken into custody. A pair of individuals were arrested earlier in the day and nine more were arrested late morning.
The individuals are members of Rise of the Moors, a group who identify as Moorish Americans. “The Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and lone individuals that emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens movement, which believes that individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments,” the Southern Poverty Law Center says of the movement. “Moorish sovereigns espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority.
Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey is identified as the Moorish American Consular Post Head for the so-called Rise of the Moors. His biography on the group’s website lists him as having served in the United States Marine Corps previously.
In a statement on the Rise of the Moors website, he wrote of his military service. “I truly believe that most of the skills that have been instilled in me through military training can be used to uplift our nation and all Moorish Americans. Honor, Courage and Commitment are the Marine Corp Values. Those same values that every Marine is held to, fit perfectly with the High Principles of Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom and Justice that our Prophet, El Hajj Sheriff Abdul Ali instructed us to live by.
“I joined the military thinking I would be helping our people, who at that time I was trained to think we were ‘Black’. I now know of the ‘King Alfred Plan’ and its objective to use our men as the tip of the spear for European World Domination and Imperialism. I will continue as the Prophet did, to work day by day, in public and in private to continue his great Missionary work to uplift fallen humanity and reinforce the foundation of the Moorish Movement – The minds of the People.”
“Wakefield Police Department said the men claim “to be from a group that does not recognize our laws.”. The department added, in a statement. “No threats were made, but these men should be considered armed and dangerous. We are asking residents in these areas to lock their doors and remain inside their homes. A heavy police presence will be in this area as well.
The group disputed that they are “anti-government” both in recorded statements and conversations with police. “We’re not anti-government, we’re not anti-police, we’re not sovereign citizens, we’re not Black-identity extremists,” Bey said during a livestreamed video posted to YouTube Saturday morning. He believes the group is traveling legally by abiding by federal laws, though not acknowledging Massachusetts laws, which he does not believe apply to the group as they did not intend to stop in Massachusetts.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says Moorish Sovereign Citizens have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations. “Recently, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violent confrontations with law enforcement. They have also been known to retaliate against government authorities through financial means — a process called ‘paper terrorism.’”The Rise of the Moors filed multiple lawsuits against Providence Police in 2019 claiming their right to bear arms and right to assemble were violated. They accused police of interrupting a lecture the organization was hosting, which was being livestreamed. According to the lawsuit, Bay was teaching the class while armed with a Glock 22 and a semi-automatic weapon, the Providence Journal reported in 2019. During the recorded lecture, he read from the Koran and spoke of the group’s right to bear arms. “We’re teaching our people not to be criminals,” Bey said.
( Michelle Williams, Mass Live.com)