A New Jersey woman was preyed upon by a fast-growing extremist group that claims its members are sovereign Moors, not bound by U.S. laws.
The official-looking letters started arriving soon after Shanetta Little bought the cute Tudor house on Ivy Street in Newark. Bearing a golden seal, in aureate legalistic language, the documents claimed that an obscure 18th-century treaty gave the sender rights to claim her new house as his own.
And so it was with surprise that Ms. Little found herself in her yard on Ivy Street on a June afternoon as a police SWAT team negotiated with a man who had broken in, changed her locks and hung a red and green flag in its window. He claimed he was a sovereign citizen of a country that does not exist and for whom United States laws do not apply.
Ms. Little was a victim of a ploy known as paper terrorism, a favorite tactic of an extremist group that is one of the fastest growing, according to government experts and watchdog organizations. 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.