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For hours on Saturday, an armed group of men, members of the Rise of the Moors, faced off with police, bringing traffic to a halt on Interstate-95 in Wakefield.
The incident, which prompted police to tell nearby residents to shelter in place, ended peacefully, with the arrest of the 10 men and one juvenile.
They are all members of a “Moorish sovereign citizens” group whose members say they belong to their own sovereign nation, The Washington Post reports. That belief means they are not subject to U.S. laws, members say.
The suspects, who were due in court on Tuesday to face numerous charges, are from around the country, including Rhode Island, New York, and Michigan, according to Massachusetts State Police.
Here’s what we know so far about the men:
The men who were arrested Saturday are a range of ages — and the group also contained an unidentified minor, who is 17 years old.
Those who have been identified are:
Two men, who refused to identify themselves, were listed by police as “John Doe” numbers one and two.
Each of the 11 group members is facing charges of unlawful possession of a firearm (eight counts); unlawful possession of ammunition; use of body armor in commission of a crime; possession of a high capacity magazine; improper storage of firearms in a vehicle; and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Hernandez, Johnson, Dow, and the unidentified juvenile are also charged with furnishing a false name to police, according to officials.
Authorities seized three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun, and a short-barrel rifle, police said.
Members of the group reportedly told police they were driving from Rhode Island to Maine to conduct “training.”
The parents of Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, the group’s leader, told The Boston Globe on Sunday they were stunned by his arrest.
Bey’s mother, Felicia Sanders, told the newspaper that he is not antigovernment and is not violent.
“All Jamhal wants is for people of all races to be treated fairly and equally. And he wants the law to be upheld as such,” Sanders said. “He just wants people to be treated fairly, that’s all he wants. And he wants to be treated with respect.”
Sanders believes that Bey, who identifies as a Moor, is being treated unfairly by police due to his skin color.
“I’m concerned that they’re going to tell me that my son had some sort of quote-unquote ‘accident’ wherever he’s being held,” Sanders said.
State Police spokesman David Procopio told the Globe the men were arrested because “they broke the law and created a clear public safety risk.”
Bey is a former Marine who joined the service after graduating from William E. Tolman High School in Pawtucket, according to the newspaper.
He served from June 2010 to June 2014, the Globe reports.
After transitioning out of the military, Bey joined an apprenticeship program at Blue Skys Farm in Cranston, Rhode Island.
“It wasn’t the greatest of experiences,” Christina Dedora, who operates the farm, told the newspaper on Monday. “It started off as a really good experience, but it didn’t end that way.”
She did not elaborate.
Both his mother and his father rejected the notion that their son would be violent in any way. Neither could say how Bey became involved with the group, but said they speak often with their son, who is engaged and has a daughter.
“He’s not a violent person at all,” Steven Latimer, Bey’s father, told Boston 25 News. “No one can ever say that he’s done anything wrong to them, no one.”
Latimer said he spoke to Bey last Tuesday but Bey did not mention a trip to Maine, according to the Globe.
“I love you, I’m proud of you, I’ve always been, and I cannot wait for this to clear,” Latimer said to his son during the Boston 25 News broadcast.
A Maine Department of Public Service spokeswoman said she could not confirm the group was traveling to Maine, according to the Globe.
Little was known about the other members of the group as of Tuesday morning, the newspaper reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center put the Rise of the Moors on its extremist list last year, Boston 25 News reports.
The SPLC designated the group as an anti-government sovereign group that rejects all government authority. Members, for instance, don’t have driver’s licenses and don’t pay taxes.
The Rise of the Moors, however, is not a hate group, according ot the SPLC.
“This group does not have a history of violent activity, but they do have a strong predilection for carrying and for training their supporters in the use of guns and other weaponry,” Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the SPLC, told Boston 25 News.
Carolyn Essex, a 51-year-old from Southern California, started studying the group when her relatives began identifying as Moors last year, according to the Globe.
“I am very anxious to see what happens to our family in court tomorrow,” Essex posted on Monday on the Moors’ Facebook page.
She told the newspaper, “The biggest thing for Moors is to test their validity in court.”
“This is very huge for the Moors and that’s why I am very interested in seeing how that plays out,” she said.
According to Essex, the group was going to argue the court does not have jurisdiction over their members.
“And then we’ll see what the court has to say about that,” Essex said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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