Providence, RI – Members of the black paramilitary group who were arrested on Interstate 95 on 4th of July weekend filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday against the Massachusetts State Police, several media outlets, and the judge who presided over their case.
Eleven members of the group the Rise of the Moors, which is based in Pawtucket, were arrested after an incident that began at about 1:30 a.m. on July 3 when state police troopers observed two vehicles on the side of the road that appeared to be out of gas, NPR reported.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Christopher Mason told reporters afterward that when the troopers stopped, they noticed some of the people standing by the vehicles were wearing “military-style” gear and carrying weapons.
“You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at 2 in the morning certainly raises concerns and is not consistent with the firearms laws that we have in Massachusetts,” Col. Mason said.
Troopers requested backup after the men refused to put down their weapons and said they “don’t recognize our laws,” NPR reported.
Police said some of the men fled into the woods but the apparent leaders of the group stayed behind and livestreamed during the standoff that shut down a major roadway on a holiday weekend.
“I reassured them that we are not sovereign citizens,” a man identified as the group’s leader, Jamhal Latimer, said in a Facebook live video. “I reassured them that we are not black identity extremists. I reassured them that we are not anti-police. I reassured them that we are not anti-government. I reassured them that these men here will not be pointing guns at them. I reassured them that we are trying to come to a peaceful resolution.”
“We’re going to our private land to train, which is our Second Amendment right,” Latimer said.
The group claimed their vehicles contained camping equipment and said they were just traveling through the area and weren’t subject to the laws of Massachusetts, NPR reported.
Eleven men ranging in age from 17 to 40 were arrested and 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.
The lawsuit, filed on July 23 in the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, claimed members of Rise of the Moors suffered defamation, discrimination of national origin, and deprivation of their rights under the color of law, The Providence Journal reported.
The Moors’ filing challenged Massachusetts’ state court jurisdiction over their cases and claimed they were sovereign citizens of Moroccan descent and therefore immune from state law.
The suit cited a 1787 treaty between the Empire of Morocco and the United States, according to The Providence Journal.
“If the state courts continue their unlawful prosecution and or conviction, they will be violating the claimants [sic] civil, national and human rights,” the Moors’ complaint warned.
The lawsuit argued that the group members were exercising their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms and their inalienable right to have a well-regulated militia when they were arrested, The Providence Journal reported.
Latimer launched the lawsuit from the Middlesex House of Corrections and named a number of state troopers individually.
He also sued CNN-owner AT&T News Media, Comcast NBC Universal News Media, Viacom News Media, News Corporation News Media, and CBS News Media, The Providence Journal reported.