Eleven suspects were taken into custody on Saturday after a lengthy roadside standoff between police officers in Massachusetts and a group of armed men in tactical gear who claimed to be part of a Moorish American group.
According to the Massachusetts State Police, at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, a state trooper stopped to check on two vehicles that had pulled over in the emergency breakout lane of Route 95 in Wakefield. The men were refilling their gas tanks with their own fuel, and they appeared to be wearing military tactical gear and carrying weapons.
Col. Christopher Mason of the Massachusetts State Police said that when the group failed to provide identification and firearm licenses as requested, the trooper asked for backup.
The standoff eventually moved to the wood line by the interstate without any shots being fired. Around 10:15 a.m., the police arrested nine of the men involved. Two suspects were taken in earlier, at approximately 8 a.m. All men surrendered without incident, Colonel Mason said, and “a number” of firearms were seized.
“I attribute the successful resolution of this to both patience, professionalism and partnership,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have the desired outcome, which is a safe resolution.”
According to Colonel Mason, the men involved in the standoff say they are part of a group called Rise of the Moors. They describe themselves as “Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders,” according to the group’s website.
“Their self-professed leader wanted very much known their ideology is not anti-government,” the colonel said. “Our investigation will provide us more insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is.”
He said that the group was making its way from Rhode Island to Maine for “training.”
“We are not anti-government,” a man said early Saturday morning on a livestream on the group’s YouTube channel. The man, who was wearing military-style gear, went on to explain that the group had pulled over to fuel up their cars with gas cans to avoid “making any unnecessary stops” while carrying firearms. The man also said they were traveling to “their private land.”
“We do not intend to be hostile, we do not intent to be aggressive,” he added later. “We are not anti-government, we are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens and we are not Black identity extremists.”
“We are foreign nationals,” another member of the group shouted from the background.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Moorish sovereign citizen movement emerged in the early 1990s. It is 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.
It is unclear what affiliation the Rise of the Moors may have, if any, with that movement.