Suspects in armed I-95 standoff linked to Rhode Island’s Rise of the Moors militia group

The 11 suspects are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

WAKEFIELD, Mass. (AP/ WLNE) — The Massachusetts State Police have identified eight of the 11 males who were arrested following an hours long armed standoff that partially shut down I-95 on Saturday.

Police say all of the suspects were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, 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.

Troopers recovered three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun and a short-barrel rifle.

The group refers to itself as a militia and said they adhere to “Moorish Sovereign Ideology,” police said.

ABC6 spoke with a man living next door to the house where the group claims to be based at on their website.

“I don’t know maybe 15-16 months ago, the main gentleman with the camouflage on I saw him and two of his buddies they were just walking in the house and walking around the yard,” said the neighbor.

“A couple months later them and a few of their buddies were in the backyard I thought they were doing work inside the house. Never caused any problems, they were outside having cigarettes and whatever,” he continued.

The neighbor also told ABC6 that he had never seen any guns at the house, nor had the group ever caused any problems that he knew about.

One of the people arrested was a male juvenile and two others refused to give their names.

The standoff began early Saturday when a Massachusetts State Police trooper stopped to offer assistance to the vehicles he found on the side of the highway in the town of Wakefield. Police later said they were refueling.

The trooper called for backup and most of the group went into the nearby woods until they surrendered to a police tactical team just after 10 a.m. The standoff closed Interstate 95 in the area during the busy holiday weekend and some area residents were told to shelter in place.

The group told police they traveling from Rhode Island to Maine to conduct “training.”

None of the men, who were dressed in military fatigues and body armor and were armed with long guns and pistols, had a license to carry firearms in Massachusetts.

During the standoff one member of the group broadcast on a social media account of the group “Rise of the Moors” that they were not antigovernment or anti-police.

The website for the group says they are “Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and individuals that emerged in the 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens’ movement. People in the movement believe individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments.

Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said the sovereign citizen movement is rarely involved in paramilitary activity.

“This particular group, Rise of the Moors, is actually interested in that so that makes them unusual for groups within this movement,” Pitcavage said.

A number of the pioneers of the sovereign citizen movement in the 1970s were white supremacists. The vast majority of Moorish sovereign citizens are African American, Pitcavage said.

“I find it very ironic… that the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is so large and active, they actually repeat many theories that were actually cooked up, again many years ago, by white supremacists,” he said.

Police said the adults arrested Saturday are from Rhode Island, New York and Michigan. They will be each be held at the Billerica House of Correction on $100,000 cash bail. They are due in court later this week.

It could not immediately be determined if the suspects have lawyers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Categories: Massachusetts, News, Regional News