WAKEFIELD, Mass. — The Massachusetts State Police have identified eight of the 11 males who were arrested following an hourslong armed standoff that partially shut down Interstate 95 on Saturday. The group told police it was headed to Maine for “training.”

The suspects were charged with a variety of offenses, including unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and the use of body armor in commission of a crime, state police and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

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 it adheres to “Moorish Sovereign Ideology,” police said.

One of the people arrested was a 17-year-old boy and two others refused to give their names.

The standoff began early Saturday when a Massachusetts State Police trooper stopped to offer assistance to 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 I-95 in the area during the busy holiday weekend and some area residents were told to shelter in place.

“The group claimed that it was traveling from Rhode Island to Maine to conduct what it refers to as ‘training,’” the news release said.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, Dave Procopio, told the Portland Press Herald on Sunday that authorities didn’t know where in Maine the men were headed, as far as he was aware.

On Sunday, a Maine State Police spokeswoman said she could not confirm if the group was heading for Maine or not and that an investigation was underway.

A spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, Kristen Setera, declined to answer questions about the incident.

“We are going to decline comment in order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation,” she said in an email to the Press Herald on Sunday.


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 anti-government 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.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Rob Wolfe contributed to this report.

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