Rise of the Moors group in Pawtucket claims Rhode Island as their own territory

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PAWTUCKET – A year ago, members of a little-known Rhode Island-led group hit the radar of experts studying anti-government and hate groups. This weekend, The Rise of the Moors was plastered all over the cable news.

The United States has many Moorish Americans, but those charged with arms in Massachusetts are among a smaller number who claim to be both Moors and sovereign citizens.

Their group, Rise of the Moors, headquartered in Pawtucket, has claimed Rhode Island as their home territory. The Southern Poverty Law Center classified the group as an anti-government group in 2020.

“We are looking at all of their actions and rhetoric,” says Rachel Goldwasser, research analyst at the Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “In this case, they adapt the sovereign citizens to a T.”

Goldwasser says she has been researching sovereign citizen groups, including Moorish sovereign citizen groups, for the past seven years and is unaware of any other similar group with its own armed force.

Goldwasser says she determined in August 2020 that the group was undergoing “marksmanship training.” Her conclusion was based on a photo posted by the group on Facebook, she said.

The armed activities of the Pawtucket group were openly admitted in court on Tuesday by the group’s leader, a 29-year-old man who authorities identify as Jamal Tavon Sanders Latimer – who calls the group a “militia”. He identifies himself as Jamal Talib Abdulleh Bey and says he is a retired Marine.

The armed standoff that led to the arrest of 11 people and the recovery of assault rifles and ammunition raises questions about the group’s origins, its presence in Pawtucket and the significance of its recent armed operations in New Zealand. -England.

Others seek to dissociate themselves

The Rise of the Moors group shares some similarities with other groups who identify as Moors. Dress, for example, is one of those similarities.

On Tuesday, in district court in Malden, Massachusetts, some men wore the fez, a flat-topped conical red hat with a black tassel on top.

But many Moors in the United States want to disassociate themselves from people who identify as both Moors and sovereign citizens not subject to federal, state and local laws, Goldwasser explains.

Tuesday evening, after members of the Pawtucket group refused to answer many questions during their arrests in Massachusetts, representatives of a large American Moorish group contacted The Providence Journal.

“We are law-abiding citizens,” Shaykh Ra Saadi El later said, referring to members of Moorish Scientists of America 1928. “This is what I want the world to know.”

“We have to be honest,” Saadi El added: “They are not Moorish Americans.… They are smugglers.”

Bey, who was being held in Massachusetts awaiting a hearing on Friday, was not available for comment.

On Tuesday, a woman wearing a scarf naming her as the group’s “secretary” declined to give her name and promised that a representative of the group would contact her by phone following the arraignment.

Goldwasser says people who identify as both Moors and sovereign citizens believe they have the power to detach themselves from the United States. They can evade taxes, forgo driver’s licenses and not register guns, she says.

She was not surprised to learn that a 40-year-old member of the Pawtucket group, identified as Quinn Cumberlander, claimed “foreign national” status in court Tuesday.

The group, she said, believes it has its own territory, in Rhode Island, which is referenced as “Nahiganset Territory” as well as “Rhode Island State Republic and Providence Plantations.”

A group in Illinois, the government of the Republic of the United States of America, makes their own license plates, she said, adding that they are choosing which laws to follow and what not to follow, stopping at red lights but producing their own number plates.

Much of Goldwasser’s knowledge of the Pawtucket Group comes from the close attention paid to members’ social media accounts and the group’s pages on Facebook and its website.

The group’s Facebook page had more than 1,000 followers and Goldwasser said she did not know how many of the group’s members are Rhode Islanders. Police gave New York addresses for many of the men arrested over the weekend.

Based on images on social media and the existence of the school and the group’s headquarters, Goldwasser estimates that at least 12 members of the group live in Rhode Island.

“They are most likely partnering up with other Moors, but how far this goes in terms of networking is not clear,” Goldwasser said.

From the outside, based on the group’s ideology, she assumes that most of the members are black residents.

On its website, Rise of the Moors states that it is a non-profit organization based at 339 Broadway in Pawtucket.

It seems that the group has recently encountered some real estate difficulties.

The three-story building at 339 Broadway in Pawtucket, which appears to be abandoned, sits on unmown land and is described in Pawtucket tax assessor files as owned by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Midfirst Bank, which took over ownership of the building in 2014, sold the property to the real estate agency on May 19 for $ 10.

A new padlock secures the front door and signs say that a property management company – Guardian Asset Management, of Levittown, Pa. – is renovating it for sale.

“This property cannot be entered until it is put up for sale,” one of the signs read.

Increase in the number of firearms

A US university professor who studies armed groups, Thomas C. Zeitzoff, observes that the holiday weekend standoff could have turned violent, but it did not, and the Rhode Island group did not. has carried out no attack so far. Yet when groups gather with weapons in public places, it poses a threat, he says.

If the group’s armed force was established in the past year, it matches, to some extent, the increase in gun numbers among black Americans over the past year, which Zeitzoff cites. as “the middle” of the pandemic era.

“Why do we see some kind of increased activity on these things? Zeitzoff asks.

“It’s partisan polarization. These are concerns about crime. These are concerns about police brutality.”

As they arm themselves, a group says: “We’re serious here,” he said.

The trend is a reflection of the country’s growing social and political divisions, he said.

“It’s not shocking that in times of social stress we have had a lot of protests, there has been a lot of reporting about the difficulties between black communities and the police that you see certain groups carrying arms.”

Zeitzoff acknowledges that members of the local group are not accused of parading with weapons. They are accused of brandishing firearms during a refueling in the recovery lane of Highway 95 in the early morning as they were approached by a soldier from the state of Massachusetts on Saturday.

Zeitzoff said he would be curious to see what armed members of the local group do in the future.

With reports from Tom Mooney

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