Monday, September 27, 2021

The Moorish Sovereign Citizens

The Sovereign Citizen movement originated among white supremacists in the 1970s and made the news several times in the 90s. The central belief is that its members are independent states unto themselves, not bound by the laws of the US or any other nation. I have always found it an interesting thought exercise. What argument can one use against such people except force? We have police and an army, and you don't, so buzz off. I can't think of anything else one could say to them.

Since everyone in the US has been so focused on racial divides lately, it has been an interesting to watch as this peculiar ideology spreads among black radicals. 

Known as the Moorish sovereign citizen movement, and loosely based around a theory that Black people are foreign citizens bound only by arcane legal systems, it encourages followers to violate existent laws in the name of empowerment. Experts say it lures marginalized people to its ranks with the false promise that they are above the law. . . .

This past summer the Moorish movement exploded into public view, after Ms. Little posted viral TikTok accounts of her ordeal and when the police pulled over members of a militant offshoot of the group on a Massachusetts highway. That subgroup, known as Rise of the Moors, engaged in a standoff with the police for more than nine hours, claiming that as sovereign citizens, law enforcement had no authority to stop them. No one was injured; 11 people were arrested and charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, among other offenses.

Increasingly, across the country sovereign citizens have clashed with the authorities, tied up resources and frazzled lives in their insistence that laws, such as the requirement to pay taxes, obey speed limits and even obtain, say, a license for a pet dog, do not apply to them.

People who claim to be Moorish sovereign citizens believe they are bound mainly by maritime law, not the law of the places where they live, said Mellie Ligon, a lawyer and author of a study of their impact on the judicial system in the Emory International Law Review. (NY Times)
You have to love that detail about maritime law. What?

The major nuisance caused by these folks lately has been claiming property as their own, based on deeds and titles they issue to themselves. Sometimes they claim (as in the case in the Times story) that the property in question is their "ancestral estate," other times that it is due to them as reparations for slavery. 

If there's one thing in the US that unites people of all races, it's cranky antigovernment conspiracy theories.

1 comment:

David said...

Based on the NYT article, I think the maritime law reference may have something to do with early treaties between the United States and the sultan of Morocco. The persons in question seem to claim not so much to be independent sovereigns themselves as representatives of something they call the Al Moroccan Empire.

In the same vein, I'm struck that this sovereign movement seems to reflect less a critique of state power than a desire on the part of these individuals to acquire some badass state-like power for themselves. Hence the tendency to gin up claims to other individuals' property. Maybe one could call a book or article about them "Swaggering Like a State."