Group in armed standoff with police say they're the 'aboriginal people' of America

Massachusetts police arrest 11 men after standoff with armed group

Massachusetts State Police arrested 11 heavily armed individuals following an hours-long standoff on an interstate highway; Lucas Tomlinson reports on the latest.

Massachusetts police arrested 11 people Saturday morning who claimed to be part of a group called “Rise of the Moors” following an almost seven-hour standoff that shut down an interstate.

The heavily armed group posted videos throughout the standoff, claiming to be peaceful and to abide by the “federal laws and judicial opinions” of the United States.

Rise of the Moors has a strong online presence, with a website and social media, including a YouTube channel, an Instagram page and a Facebook page. 

The group’s website says “We are Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders.” 

Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey is identified as the Moorish American Consular Post Head for the group: His biography lists him as having previously served in the Marines. 

The term Moors refers to Muslim inhabitants of North Africa and southern Europe. The group claims, on its website, to descend from a wide range of peoples, including “the Olmecs, Moabites, Canaanites, Hittites,” among others, but mainly a strong relationship of American-Moroccans. 

Specifically, though, the group asserts that Moors are the “aboriginal people” of America, and that they assert not their sovereignty but their “nationality” as Moorish-Americans, “to which the sovereign power is vested in.” 

During the early hours of the standoff, between Lynnfield and Stoneham, video posted by the group to its YouTube channel showed two men standing in the middle of Interstate 95 holding a Moroccan flag. A State Patrol trooper initially responded and later requested backup.

The group’s website draws strong connections with Morocco, asserting that the term Moor does not refer to Black people but to people from Morocco, and that all “people branded as Dominicans, Haitians, Tainos, etc. do not come from blacks, they are descendants of Moors.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Moorish sovereign citizen movement as 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, federal and state government.” 

However, it is not clear if Rise of the Moors is affiliated directly with that movement. 

The group heavily refers to constitutional amendments and U.S. Supreme Court cases in discussing their rights and actions, but they apparently believe they are not subject to state laws. 

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During the confrontation Saturday, Bey claimed they were not anti-government or anti-police, nor were they sovereign citizens or Black-identity extremists. 

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