Traffic on Interstate 95 is diverted Saturday in the area of an hours long standoff with a group of armed men that partially shut down the highway in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Credit: Michael Dwyer / AP

UPDATE: Members of the Rhode Island-based militia group who held a 9-hour standoff with Massachusetts police on Saturday said they were traveling to the Bangor area when they were stopped. Read the full story here.

The Rhode Island militia members arrested in Massachusetts last weekend after a standoff on Interstate 95 were traveling in vehicles with unregistered Maine license plates.

The members of the Rise of the Moors militia were driving in two vehicles with Maine plates, a 2018 Ford transit van and a 2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck. Massachusetts state troopers ran both vehicles’ identification numbers and found that they were not registered in Maine. Massachusetts registrations for both had been revoked in 2020, according to documents from Malden District Court, where their cases are being handled.

It’s the second Maine connection to emerge for the group, some of whose members have claimed they are foreign nationals subject to the terms of an 18th-century treaty between Morocco and the U.S.

The group’s leader told police the heavily armed militia was on its way to Maine for training, though it’s unclear where in Maine the group was apparently heading. In court on Tuesday, a prosecutor said the group was taking its guns to a property the militia’s leader, Jamhal Latimer, had in the state. Latimer’s wife, Julissa Amurra Adonay El, said in a video posted to the social media that her husband had been traveling to “family property,” though she didn’t specify where it was.

News Center Maine obtained the court documents and first reported on the Maine license plates. The documents included an application for a criminal complaint, arrest reports and a police affidavit.

None of the members was licensed to carry firearms in Massachusetts or any other state. None had driver’s licenses, either.

According to additional documents obtained by the Bangor Daily News, Latimer told troopers that he advised his fellow militia members to not carry anything that could “identify us due to the nature of what we’re trying to do.” He also told troopers that they were exempt from firearm license laws because they were a militia.  

In addition to the unregistered Maine plates, Massachusetts state troopers recovered an arsenal of varying gun types and ammunition from the militia members, who were wearing body armor and military fatigues and carrying pistols and long guns when they were arrested, according to the affidavit.

Ten men and one 17-year-old boy were arrested on charges including illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of large-capacity firearms, improperly storing firearms, providing false information to police, conspiracy to improperly stow firearms and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony.

Among the guns recovered were several semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic shotguns, and rifles. Camping gear such as sleeping bags was also recovered, as well as two dogs, and other military equipment including night-vision goggles and ballistic helmets. Two men have refused to identify themselves, while other members were arraigned in court earlier this week, with some sparring with the judge during the proceedings.

Several have hearings on Friday to determine if they’re a danger to the public.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss said that Maine state troopers and the Maine Information and Analysis Center had been working with Massachusetts State Police to determine the Moors group’s destination but weren’t able to confirm a connection to Maine.

While Latimer, who also uses the name Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, told police that he owned private property in Maine, a search of property deeds and other documents in all 16 counties showed nothing registered under his legal name or alias.

Rise of the Moors is a Moorish sovereign citizen group based in Rhode Island.

Moorish sovereign citizens hold anti-government beliefs and believe in some tenets of Moorish Science, a religious movement that advocates for both Black nationalism and adhering to Islamic beliefs, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Moorish sovereign citizens believe that Black people are indigenous to the Americas and that Moors believers are outside of U.S. federal and state law and are only subject to an obscure 1787 treaty between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S.

The leaders of the Moorish Science Temple of America told the Boston Globe that Rise of the Moors members did not accurately represent Moorish Science beliefs.

“They are on the imaginary island of ‘I Am’ — meaning, whatever they want it to be,” Chief Minister Shayik Ra Saadi El told the Globe. “Now you’re going to see the island of ‘I Am’ meet ‘We the People.’”

During arraignment hearings on Tuesday, two defendants, Quinn Khabir Cumberlander and Robert Rodriguez, refused public defenders and claimed that they were foreign nationals and were not subject to U.S. law.

A trooper had pulled up behind the militia members to offer assistance around 2 a.m. Saturday on I-95 near Wakefield.

Prosecutors told Malden District Court Judge Emily Karstetter that they had stopped to refuel their car on the side of the road and that they didn’t go to a gas station because they didn’t want to alarm other motorists with their military attire and firearms.

The trooper then called for backup, after which a 9-hour standoff ensued, shutting down part of the highway on the holiday weekend.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.