What’s Rise of Moor, Moorish ruler?
An armed standoff on a Massachusetts freeway that blocked traffic for hours resulted in 11 arrests, state police said.
Portions of I-95 were closed on Saturday and a shelter order was placed nearby after the standoff with the heavily armed group began around 2 a.m.
Mass State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said some members of the group were dressed in military gear with long guns and pistols and were traveling from Rhode Island to Maine for “training”.
Mason said the group leader, identified as Rise of the Moors, claimed it was not an anti-government group. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Moorish sovereign civil movement, a larger collection of independent organizations and individuals, is “an offshoot of the anti-government sovereign civil movement” which claims individuals are independent of government.
More on the distance from Massachusetts:11 people in custody after hours of armed stalemate on I-95
Here’s what we know:
What happened in the stalemate?
Mason said the incident began early Saturday when a soldier noticed two cars with hazard lights on on I-95 after they appeared to have run out of fuel.
The soldier noticed the group of men were heavily armed and asked for their driver’s licenses and gun licenses, Mason said. The men didn’t have either, and after the soldier called for reinforcements, some of the men ran into the woods with their firearms, Mason said.
“You can imagine that 11 armed people standing on a freeway at 2 a.m. with long guns are sure to raise concerns and are inconsistent with the firearms laws we have in Massachusetts,” Mason said.
Police spoke to the group through hostage negotiation teams all morning, Mason said. Mason said the individuals surrendered after tactical police teams used armored vehicles to tighten the perimeter around them.
Police and prosecutors are working to investigate the charges against members of the group and they are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.
Who are Rise of the Maurs and Moorish Sovereign Citizens?
Videos shared on social media appeared to show the group leader speaking from a vehicle on I-95 and to police negotiators.
“We are not anti-government. We are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens, we are not extremists with a black identity, ”said the man who appeared to be wearing military equipment. “As told the police on several occasions that we are abiding by the United States’ peaceful travel laws.”
JJ MacNab, a George Washington University Extremism Fellow, described the larger Moorish sovereignty movement as a “salad bar group.”
“Different factions and leaders are tinkering bits and pieces from a variety of sources and creating their own legal theories,” MacNab wrote on Twitter, saying they rely on beliefs from “Moorish science temple, black Hebrew Israelism, Nation of Islam, UFO theories, fake Indian tribes and the pseudo-legal arguments developed by white supremacist ‘patriot’ groups in the 1970s.
On its website, Rise of the Moors says, “Moor doesn’t mean black. The noun ‘moor’ is an abbreviated version of the word Moroccan.” The group also says that the term black was used by Europeans to “rob us of our illustrious history”.
The group also denies being sovereign citizens on its website, but says the records “show that the Moors are the organic or original rulers of this land – America”.
MacNab said some believe the Moors were the first settlers in the United States. Some also believe that shortly after the American Revolution, Morocco and the United States signed a treaty exempting the Moors from the law.
The Moorish Science Temple of America, a religious sect, dates back to 1913. Most of the followers of the Moorish Science Temple are not sovereign citizens, MacNab said. But some members of sovereign movements merged the two belief systems in the 1990s and formed the new group, such as the Anti-Defamation League.
The group has adopted many ideas from black sovereign groups but is independent of them, the Anti-Defamation League said. In general, most of the sovereign civil movements in the United States are predominantly white, but interest has increased among black Americans since 2009, the Anti-Defamation League said.
Because of their right to independence from U.S. law, some members have alternate passports and driver’s licenses, MacNab said. The Southern Poverty Law Center says some groups make a living from selling these forged documents. Others are involved in tax fraud and other financial frauds, the center said.
MacNab said most Moorish prosecutors aren’t violent, but their financial tactics could spread amid post-pandemic foreclosures.
However, the Southern Poverty Law Center said a small number of Moorish rulers did participate in violent acts, from shootings, robberies to other armed conflicts.
Contribution: The Associated Press