Home News Moorish Americans take over Southern Maryland gun range, defying … – The Washington Post

Moorish Americans take over Southern Maryland gun range, defying … – The Washington Post

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Wellcome, Maryland — Complaints about the property on Fire Tower Road were urgent, but nothing out of the ordinary in this rural area of ​​Southern Maryland.

But that was before the emigration of the heirs to the mythical North African empire, who claimed that their realm extended not only to the lost island of Atlantis, but also to five acres in Charles County. rice field.

when the episode starts gun enthusiast On Sunday, the 64-year-old Byron Bell began gathering on the wooded grounds for target practice.

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As the rally grew, along with the caliber of the weapons and the number of rounds fired, they caused the ire of their neighbors, even in this sparsely populated and gun-friendly area.

But things took some unexpected turns in September after county officials declared the site an illegal shooting range and took action by filing an injunction to stop its operations.At that time, a self-proclaimed group moorish american An offshoot of the militant “sovereign citizenship” movement whose members believe it is immune from dealing with the U.S. legal and financial system – essentially taking over the scope and “protected under Moroccan consular jurisdiction”. I am,” he declared.

There have been arrests, a flood of fake legal documents, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and neighbors describe shootings continuing over the weekend. Things escalated last week when sheriff’s deputies raided the house and seized what Bell said were about a dozen firearms.

With crumbling farmhouses and newly built homes linked by winding country roads, Welcome’s story highlights several enduring American loves: guns, conspiracy theories, property rights, and fruitless lawsuits. increase.

William Tomlinson, who owns the farm that backs Bell’s property, said decisive action by law enforcement had long been awaited. Chewing the timber is said to have moved his small herd of cattle to pasture where there was no danger of stopping stray bullets.

Tomlinson, who owns a gun himself, said he sometimes takes friends to target practice. But it doesn’t compare to what’s happening at Bell’s house, he said.

“We’re not here with fully automatic weapons, 40 clips and thousands of bullets,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a completely different situation. I use the word reckless danger.”

Belle, who moved into her home in 2019 and bought it earlier this year, believes she and her friends were unfairly chosen.

“Everybody’s shooting here. Then why are you trying to get me to stop shooting?” Bell said. “I thought it was about the people who taught me what to do with my land.”

But even Bell admitted things had gone too far, speaking to a Washington Post reporter at his home hours after he sat there in handcuffs while sheriff’s deputies searched the property.

“It went overboard,” he said.

“I don’t want to be shot”

Bell will begin hosting shooting days on his land in 2021. The event was organized by Social His media influencer and former DC security guard Mark “Chopper” Manley, who promoted the site as home to the “Chopper Community”, an incubator for firearms education and firearms education. African-American ownership.

On Sundays, under the smell of grilling burgers, kids take a basic firearms safety class with plastic pistols, while adults try target shooting with 9mm handguns and AR-style rifles. I was in line for practice. Manly targets black residents of the District and Prince George County specifically, arm for protection with violent crime on the rise. Ammunition was on sale, but visitors were not charged.

“It was like a family day,” said Manley.

Some of Bell’s neighbors, however, did not share that view. did. Southern Maryland News report. Tomlinson, in particular, said he was worried for his own safety because his farm was away from the bullet backstop on Bell’s property, which he said was “totally ineffective.” .

“We moved the animals to the other side of the farm,” he said. “I don’t want them to shoot me.”

Tomlinson said he first filed a complaint with the county about a year ago. However, it was not until September that government officials took decisive action, as a particularly large crowd was expected for Manly’s birthday on September 11. On September 9, the county attorney’s office filed an emergency petition seeking an injunction against the shooting on the property.

In an accompanying affidavit, the county’s planning supervisor said regulations prohibit gun ranges unless special exceptions are made for operations in areas zoned for agricultural conservation. No application for such an exception had ever been filed, she said.

The county attorney’s office declined to discuss the case with the Post. Charles County spokeswoman Jennifer Harris said in a statement, “Our agency’s top concern is the health, safety and welfare of our communities.” We do that by enforcing regulations that owners must follow.”

Judge Karen Abrams said shooting at a shooting range is illegal and not enforcing zoning laws “encourages citizens to ignore the very regulations in place to protect themselves and others.” I am doing it,” and acknowledged the order.

Manly cleaned up and started looking for a new location in Virginia. “It turns out that Charles County wasn’t going to give up,” he said.

Around the same time, however, county officials faced new challenges. It did so by submitting a complex document adorned with symbols including a star and crescent on the back of a dollar bill and the “Eye of Providence” at the tip of a pyramid, alleging that the dispute over Bell’s land was subject to conditions. was forewarned. A treaty signed between the United States and Morocco in 1836.

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Among these documents was a “false warrant” signed by a man who identified himself as Lamont Maurice El, claiming to be the consul general of the “Moroccan Consular Court of the Republic of Maryland.”

The consul, whose real name was Lamont Maurice Butler, had some experience with the Maryland judicial system. In 2013, he was convicted of multiple charges stemming from trying to occupy an apartment. 12 Bedroom Bethesda MansionThe ideology that fueled his escape was the same one he later brought into legal disputes over the Fire Tower Road estate.

“Empire of Morocco”

Moorish Americans, also known as Sovereign Citizens of the Moors, believed themselves to be heirs to a fictitious empire that stretched from what is now the Kingdom of Morocco to Mexico and North America, aptly populated by Atlantis. they say They claim the same protections afforded to foreign citizens from U.S. legal process, while claiming the right to inherit property. well equipped house owned by others — say they are still part of the “Empire of Morocco”.

Bell declared Moore American citizenship in September, according to court documents. He told the Post that he still struggles to understand many of the group’s doctrines, but found it “very educational.”

Among the things he learned was that he should be considered exempt from county legal action. This is because he was not mentioned in the Moorish version of Byron David Bell-Bey.

“They weren’t really talking to me,” he said.

Butler, who had been at a weekend shooting rally supervised by Manley, joined other Moorish Americans to reopen the shooting range, charge $25 per person, and place them under the jurisdiction of the Moroccan Consulate. Security will be fully enhanced for the safety and protection of everyone,” he promised.

Butler’s Moorish-American group did not respond to requests for comment via email and its website. Officials at the real Moroccan embassy in Washington also did not respond to a request for comment.

On November 13, Butler and another Moorish American, George Neil Bey, attempted to intervene when the Charles County Sheriff’s Deputy stopped a third member of the group.Moorish American later in video Post onlinebutlers — wearing camouflage uniforms, dark headscarves, and pistols around their waists — can be seen approaching the deputies on the side of the road. The fifth man pulls out his gun and waits.

Butler and Neil Bay were arrested and later charged with various gun-related charges. Butler was also charged with resisting arrest. A judge ordered them to be held without bail. A hearing in their case is scheduled for December 30, when he is in Charles County Circuit Court.

Their case files are beginning to thicken with documents containing esoteric symbols. On December 7, Butler filed a handwritten affidavit requesting recognition of his treaty rights.

Bell, who until recently ignored a court order to close the range and did not appear in a court hearing, is now facing a $350,000 fine for contempt of court. Under the terms, if no shootings take place on his property, the $1,000 fine will be waived for each week.) And just last week he could face more legal trouble. I found out

On the morning of December 21st, Bell and his wife Crystal were awakened by a loud knock followed by a door slamming. He said a group of sheriff’s deputies then searched his home and took away the gun and computer.

The warrant shared with Bell contained few details, but the investigation was conducted as part of an investigation into possible possession of illegally owned or modified firearms, including machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. indicates that

The sheriff’s office declined to comment.

Mr Bell said the police officers who searched his home were “very kind”.

“They may have cleaned up the house,” he said. “But they didn’t.”

It took a while, but the original issue with Fire Tower Road is now resolved. He said he got the point when darkness shrouded the windows of his kitchen on a lonely plot of land some 4,000 miles from Morocco.

“We have to follow the rules,” said Bell.

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