Members of the Moorish sovereigns, called Moors, have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations. Recently, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violent confrontations with law enforcement. They have also been known to retaliate against government authorities through financial means — a process called “paper terrorism.” Moorish sovereigns espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority.
In its own words
“Your straw-man is a non-living, non-breathing fictitious corporate Entity that has the same name as you except in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s ultimately a trust that is brought into existence with your signature. Lawfully you are the executor, beneficiary, administrator and a stock holder of the UNITED STATES CORPORATION.”
–Moorish American Resource School
“Political thieves (usually descendants of European Colonists operating upon the American Continents) have, by outright criminality, taken unlawful leave and advantages of the usurped seats of government, and have polluted the sanctity of their Official Oaths to uphold the Constitution and Treaties and are unlawfully violating the Natural People.”
–Taj Tarik Bey
“Everything that will be stated is based on De Jure Law (Common Law, Constitutional Law, Indigenous Rights, Human Rights) and NOT ("just") admiralty / maritime (De Facto Legalities, such as statutes, codes, rules, regulations, ordinances, policies and etc... ANY colorable law (color of law) that contradicts the Constitution for the united [sic] States of America is NULL and VOID and has NO withstanding [sic].”
–Dr. Alim El Bey
“You are not to pay taxes to foreigners who are doing business within the borders of YOUR ancestral estate.”
The origins of the Moorish sovereign citizen movement are difficult to ascertain and often misunderstood. According to law enforcement sources, Moorish sovereign citizens are closely affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) and trace their roots to the creation of the MSTA in 1913 and its founder, Noble Drew Ali (aka Timothy Drew). Some Moorish sovereigns are known to affiliate with the MSTA, but certainly not all MSTA chapters are linked to sovereign citizens. In fact, the MSTA issued a statement in July 2011 condemning sovereign citizen practices and denying any association with radical or subversive Moorish sovereign groups.
Further, according to Mark Pitcavage, a leading expert in the sovereign citizen movement, “Moorish sovereign citizens emerged in the mid-1990s on the East Coast when some people began to merge sovereign citizen ideas with some of the beliefs of the Moorish Science Temple, a religious sect dating back to 1913.”
In his article “The Washitaw Nation and Moorish Sovereign Citizens,” Pitcavage writes, “After the ‘Empress’ (e.g. Verdiacee Turner Goston) retired, the original Washitaw group fell apart, replaced with a variety of different groups and individuals taking up the ‘Washitaw Nation’ mantle… So today there is not just one ‘Washitaw Nation,’ but many, making it one of the most important wings of the Moorish sovereign citizen movement,” he says.
The Washitaw Nation appears to be the earliest sovereign citizen group that began merging Moorish identity and heritage with sovereign citizen concepts. In her book Return of the Ancient Ones published in 1993, Verdiacee Turner Goston, “Empress of the Washitaw Nation,” asserts that Moors were among the earliest settlers to America and the rightful owners of all lands ceded to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Clint D. Nelson Bey writes in the book’s preface, “This book begs you to start asking questions and do your own personal research regarding your Moorish history and then allow your mind to connect the two.”
“You can’t fool a Washitaw as we, the original Muurs (Moors) of Dugdahmoundyah,” Goston writes on page 202. “We must realize who we are and what we are doing in this land and how we have been preserved for what special purpose.”
Goston later writes on page 203, “My people were here when the white man came to this Afmuurican [sic] continent. They were the Muurs…In later years called the Moors from the land of Tadmor (Palmara or Palmares).”
Other examples of Moorish sovereign citizen groups include the Free Moorish Nation, the United Mawshakh Nation of Nuurs, the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors and the Al Moroccan Empire. These groups primarily operated throughout the Southeastern, Northeastern and Midwestern United States.
In particular, the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors likely played a key role in spreading Moorish sovereign citizen ideology to other key American cities. In her book The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control, Susan Palmer writes, “In mid-June, 1999, several Montana Freemen came to town (e.g. Eatonton, Georgia)… One of them introduced himself to the Nuwaubians as a ‘common law judge.’ He moved into Tama Re to work with them.”
So, when the Nuwaubian group’s compound in Eatonton, Georgia, was raided by federal, state and local law enforcement officials on May 8, 2002, and essentially shut down, many Nuwaubian Nation members (who were now knowledgeable of sovereign citizen tradecraft) were displaced and fled to other areas of the country bringing with them Moorish sovereign ideology.
Moorish sovereign citizens espouse an antigovernment doctrine in which its members claim to be part of a sovereign nation. For some who identify themselves as “Moor,” “Moorish” or something similar, there is a belief that a 1787 treaty (fictitious) between the United States and Morocco grants them immunity from U.S. law. Others, such as the Washitaw Nation, may falsely claim to occupy United Nations Indigenous People’s Seat 215 — there is no such thing — and create their own birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.
Moorish sovereigns believe their status as members of a sovereign nation imparts immunity from federal, state and local authorities. They use this perceived immunity to justify refusing to pay taxes, buy auto insurance, register their vehicles and to defraud banks and other lending institutions. Many Moorish sovereigns also profit by selling bogus registration, licensing and insurance documents on websites promoting Moorish sovereign beliefs and doctrines. In several instances, this belief in immunity from legal authority has led some Moorish sovereigns to initiate violent confrontations with law enforcement.
Moorish sovereign citizens often display an emblem that consists of a scarlet red rectangular banner or flag with a five-pointed green star located just left of center. In Moorish legal filings, Moorish sovereign citizens refer to themselves with a series of Africanized names that incorporate the words “bey,” or “el,” or a combination of the two.
The Moorish sovereign citizen movement has no unified leadership. Most operate as individuals and get information about Moorish sovereignty online or from paid seminars taught by sovereign gurus. In contrast, Moorish sovereign citizen groups generally are small, consisting of a couple of dozen followers, many of whom are nominally led by one or two charismatic individuals who profit from the promotion of Moorish doctrines and the preparation and sale of bogus legal documents to those embracing their Moorish nationality or heritage.
There are no reliable figures available on the number of active Moorish sovereigns. A recent survey of Moorish sovereign-related social media sites consistently indicated about 3,000 to 4,000 followers. Furthermore, an official website for submitting petitions to Congress featured a Moorish American sovereignty petition which had over 6,200 petitioners. Self-declared Moorish sovereigns have also been arrested in all regions of the country and many major cities within the United States.
Moorish sovereign citizens have loose ties to the MSTA which has caused confusion among the media and law enforcement who mistakenly link both groups together. Moorish sovereign citizens have also been known to affiliate with other Black Nationalist groups as well as with criminal organizations. Moors have participated in rallies, conferences, and other events with groups, such as the Bloods street gang, the Latin Kings street gang, the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelites, according to law enforcement sources. Areas of common interest between Black Nationalists and Moorish sovereigns include their African-American heritage, assertions of entitlement to certain geographical areas, targeting of police and other government officials, violent reaction to incidents of perceived police brutality and engaging in crimes of opportunity.
Since emerging in the early-1990s, Moorish sovereigns have no known involvement in paramilitary training activities. They do, however, conduct training seminars and videotaped classes that teach financial scams and frauds common to sovereign groups. Members also have been known to wear paramilitary style uniforms with patches of the Moorish flag, and to operate vehicles modified to resemble police patrol cars (equipped with a police insignia on the door panels and light bar).
Moorish sovereigns sustain themselves by selling bogus legal documents, fraudulent auto insurance forms, fake license plates, counterfeit passports and various other documents. They also save money by practicing tax avoidance schemes or tax fraud. They have perpetrated large-scale financial fraud, including creating false money orders, fraudulent cashier’s checks, and bogus financial instruments. In some cases, their fraudulent activity is part of a larger sovereign practice called the “redemption doctrine.” It declares that Moors (like all sovereigns) can incorporate themselves, thereby allowing individuals to use themselves as personal assets worth tens of millions of dollars.
Moorish sovereigns have recently engaged in violent actions such as shootings, bank robberies, murders and armed confrontations with law enforcement. A few Moorish sovereigns have also been reported to possess illegal firearms as well as fraudulent concealed weapons permits. Overall, Moorish sovereigns have not shown widespread interest in deploying explosive or incendiary devices. Even so, a small number of Moorish sovereigns have pursued more violent paths and participated in terrorist plots. In 1993, the only American-born suspect connected with the plot targeting New York City landmarks, Clement Rodney Hampton-El (including the successful bombing of the World Trade Center), espoused Moorish ideology. Also, some members of the Liberty City Seven terror cell in Miami, Florida, adhered to Moorish ideology.
Federal, state and local law enforcement have encountered Moorish sovereigns committing a wide range of minor or white collar criminal activity including traffic violations, house squatting, tax fraud, financial scams and violations of government regulations. Of further concern, Moorish sovereigns have recently engaged in violent retaliation against police, court officers and other civil authorities beyond the mere filing of false liens against them and other forms of harassment. Some Moorish sovereign citizens have also been known to target their own for financial scams and other criminal activity.
Criminal Activity and Violence
Like most sovereign citizen groups, Moorish sovereign ideology breeds anti-government, anti-law enforcement sentiment through its radical ideology which can inspire members to intimidate, threaten, and harass government officials and law enforcement officers. Moorish sovereigns are also known to produce fraudulent legal documents which they use against perceived enemies — especially publically elected officials they view as corrupt. Several recent incidents highlight Moorish sovereigns’ propensity for violence and criminal activity:
- On September 11, 2017, Marcel A. Walton, a self-proclaimed “Grand Sheik” of a Moorish temple in Chicago, was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison for causing the Internal Revenue Service to issue more than $3.2 million in fraudulent tax returns. Walton filed similarly fraudulent returns for 17 other people on the false pretense that temple members were entitled to remuneration from the United States government for its purported use of Moorish lands.
- On January 9, 2017, Markeith D. Loyd, a Moorish sovereign, shot an Orlando police officer multiple times when she confronted him outside a Walmart near the Pine Hills neighborhood in Florida. After shooting the Orlando officer, Loyd fled the scene in his vehicle and ran over an Orange County Sheriff's Deputy attempting to stop him.
- On July 17, 2016, Gavin Eugene Long, an alleged member of the Washitaw Nation, ambushed six police officers, killing three with an assault rifle in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- On April 5, 2016, an improvised explosive device detonated at a residence in Columbus, Ohio. Alphonso D. Mobley, Jr., a Moorish sovereign citizen, lost both hands in the explosion. Mobley, and Roberto M. Innis, Jr., (who was not injured) were each charged with possession and manufacture of an explosive device which they reportedly intended to use during a bank robbery.
- On October 29, 2015, Deonte Lanier, accused of first-degree murder in the 2012 death of Johnny Peay, declared himself a Moorish National stating that the judge had no authority over him.