WAKEFIELD (CBS) — Interstate 95 in Wakefield was shut down by a standoff between Massachusetts State Police and a group of heavily armed men Saturday morning. The men claim to be part of a group called “The Rise of The Moors – The Moorish American Arms.”
It ended around 10:15 a.m. with a total of 11 people being taken into custody and charged. After the situation was deemed up control, the highway reopened.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Bicyclist Hit And Killed By Pickup Truck In Ipswich
The group claimed to be American nationals but not US citizens. They have a Moroccan flag. According to their website, the group is based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. They say their goal is “informing all Moors of their political status here” in the U.S.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says followers of the Moorish Sovereign Citizens movement believe they are independent of the authority of state and federal government. The group also believes that Moorish Americans are the “aboriginal people of the land”, to which sovereign power is vested.
“This is not a well-known group. They’re not on the radar of law enforcement agencies widely across the country, but they are now,” WBZ security expert and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said.
The standoff stemmed from an incident hours earlier where a trooper stopped on I-95 to help two cars pulled over in the breakdown lane. State Police said it appeared the two cars were refueling, but the trooper quickly noticed the group was wearing full military-style uniforms. They were armed with long rifles and pistols. The trooper asked for driver’s licenses and proper licensing for the guns but they did not provide either.READ MORE: 'People Were Thrown On The Floor': 25 Injured After Green Line Trains Crash In Boston
According to State Police, the group said they were headed from Rhode Island to Maine for training. Their cars were packed with camping equipment.
“These are very dangerous individuals. These are not guys who are going to go up to Maine to go camping. They’re bringing camping gear. They’re not going to go hunting up there. Why are they heavily armed?” Davis said.
The leader, Jahmal Latimer, also known as Talib Abdulla Bey, was live-streaming on social media during the incident. He said the group was not anti-government, anti-police, or sovereign citizens.
“These guys have hijacked social media and mainstream media in Massachusetts, to get their word out,” Davis said. “It’s very unusual – unless the group has a plan; unless the group has been thoughtful about merging on the public scene. If that was their plan today, they’re achieving that goal.”
Along with police, the group said they wanted a peaceful ending to the standoff.MORE NEWS: I-Team: State Police Cadaver Dogs Search For Source Of Mysterious Saugus Fly Infestation
According to Davis, previously posted rhetoric from the group has been “anything but peaceful.”