As they sped down Interstate 95 North in the dead of night to a training exercise, the Moors stopped on the side of the road to refuel a vehicle when things turned sour. A Massachusetts state trooper pulled alongside, claiming to want to assist when things went off the rails. He called for back-up.
Police vehicles arrived from all directions, police could be heard loading their weapons, and armored vehicles arrived on the scene. The Moors, who had weapons, appear to have remained disciplined, calm, cool, and collected, but broke off from the authorities.
The narrative spun by state police was an armed standoff between those who identified themselves as members of Rise of the Moors and see themselves as a branch of the Moorish Science Temple founded by Prophet Noble Drew Ali.
During an ensuing ideological confrontation, police closed highway I-95 in both directions and told community members nearby to stay in their homes. The immediate threat was men with guns, authorities said.
In media reports and online videos, the men and a teenager were eventually arrested without what looks to be physical violence and did not include gunplay, are definitely engaged in a clash of ideologies. They describe themselves as separate from and not governed by the laws of the United States. The subject came up several times and during court proceedings days later in Medford, Mass.
Some of the men have refused to give their names and have rejected the court’s rights to try them. The Associated Press reported July 7 two men were charged in connection with the encounter. Not guilty pleas to firearms and other charges were entered on behalf of Conrad Pierre, and another man who had so far refused to identify himself to authorities and is referred to in court documents as John Doe 2. The defendants, 10 men and a 17-year-old juvenile, say they are not subject to federal or state laws.
The mainstream press and White so-called experts called the group extremists, separatists, and elements of the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Rise of the Moors identifies itself as a political subdivision of the Moorish National Government and a non-profit civic organization and a militia.
The Moorish movement has been in existence since the early 1920s. There have been many state proclamations and resolutions recognizing their accomplishments.
Rise of the Moors founder and chairman Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, dressed in military fatigues during the July 3 confrontation, was livestreamed on a cellphone during the standoff. He points to a Moorish flag. He tells the authorities via cell phone, “Our nation, which—our flag is right here—has a treaty with your government.”
“We are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens, and we are not Black identity extremists,” he says during the livestream which went out over social media.
Mainstream media has continued to call the group what the group says it is not. The men are accused of weapons violations following a relatively peaceful arrest of members traveling in a van and pick-up truck. As reported by various media outlets, they were armed with rifles and handguns. The group members asserted their right to bear arms and the right to “peaceful journey.” The group members, dressed in military gear, said they were enroute to Maine for a training session.
Mr. Bey maintained the rights of his members were violated, and police had no probable cause for their arrest. The group was subsequently charged with unlawful possession of a firearm (eight counts); unlawful possession of ammunition; use of body armor in the commission of a crime; possession of a high capacity magazine; improper storage of firearms in a vehicle; and conspiracy to commit a crime. Authorities seized three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun, and a short-barrel rifle, police said. It is a common police practice to overcharge for a single offense.
The members of Rhode Island-based Rise of the Moors aren’t violent or radical, but are exercising their rights as free Black men, Gary Dantzler, the leader of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, said to The Final Call. “They’re not terrorists,” he said. “They’re not against America. They are for their own people.”
“The problem is the Moors got sloppy. They would be in a better condition had the guns been concealed and tactical gear not worn. What they did was careless but it wasn’t wrong,” Mr. Dantzler continued. “It’s about Black liberation. It’s about Black empowerment. It’s about having our own constitution because Black people have been robbed of everything,” he said. “So this is why these guys are heroes—Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad—we praise these guys.”
The apparent strategy used by the authorities is to link the group to White racists and White domestic terrorists by calling them “sovereign citizens” in ideology and trying to get other Moorish groups to condemn them. Public radio station WBUR, in Boston, said, “The sovereign citizen’s movement has a long-standing association with violence up to and including shootouts, armed standoffs, murders, and terrorist plots and attacks.”
But Rise of the Moors has no such history of violence, which is admitted by Whites who try to tag them with that label.
State police Col. Christopher Mason told the media, “You can imagine, 11 (Black) 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 that we have here in Massachusetts.”
The chief minister of the Moorish Science Temple of America-1928, based in Atlanta, told The Final Call that he warned the leader of the Rhode Island group his views were misguided. Shaykh Ra Saadi El called the Rhode Island group “delusional.” He also called claims of sovereignty incompatible with the teachings of Noble Drew Ali. The Rhode Island group, whose leader he said he met years ago at a Moorish conference, did not want to fully accept the teachings of Noble Drew Ali and Islam, but was only interested in accepting the Moorish American nationality, he added.
“They are on the imaginary island of ‘I Am’—meaning, whatever I want it to be,” Shaykh Saadi El said. “Now you’re going to see the island of ‘I Am’ meet the We the People.”
“There are various branches of the Moorish Science movement that are working on many things,” commented Wesley Wilson Bey, founder of the Philadelphia-based Moorish Unification Council of the World in an interview with The Final Call. “The Rise of the Moors are correct to claim Black people are indigenous to America as we were here before anybody, regardless of what name they called us. The fact of the matter is this government has to admit to the injustice they have done to us.”
“The truth of the matter is they are here illegally. They took it by force. One must also understand that Prophet Noble Drew Ali brought a wide cadre of things we can venture into. It wasn’t just a religious agenda. He came with a spiritual agenda, economic. It wasn’t about praying and nationality,” Mr. Wilson Bey stated. “There certainly is no contradiction with Rise and their militant stance. Noble Drew Ali was trying to raise up a nation, and it certainly needs a military. In that sense, they are not out of order,” he said.
Mr. Wilson Bey, in his analysis, argued many in the Moorish movement simply want to pray and that’s it. He cautions against falling into the age-old trap of attacking one another. “We have a youth movement that is doing a lot of research, studying; it’s a different era and a different day. The young people are tired, and they want what they want now. They have the research to prove their position. They feel the time is right, and certainly, the teachings of the Prophet are expansive enough to accommodate them,” Mr. Wilson-Bey continued. “Personally, I recognize all Moors that are trying to do right.”
The ten adult members arrested are being held without bail going through a series of hearings.
Philadelphia-based attorney Robert Muhammad agrees with Mr. Wilson Bey in the sense that research presented in court by various Moorish factions of sovereign immunity may be interesting arguments—but will not work in U.S. courts. “The court system simply will not recognize us as sovereign,” he said. “They would be better served to go the constitutional route. Suppose they have some federal laws that are in their favor, and they can demonstrate strict compliance? In that case, it could be a successful defense,” attorney Muhammad said.
And as Black Lives Matter leader Gary Dantzler told The Final Call, months ago, you watched a whole contingent of White supremacists run to the (Capitol) and tore it up, and got killed and killed a few people.” “That’s extremists. There’s guns; they’re rallying, they’re rioting, that’s crazy. … So, to compare (the Moors) as a radical group is absurd. In the final analysis these brothers need to slow it down and just listen to the elders,” he said.