During a traffic stop early Saturday morning, a group of men carrying rifles and handguns fled into the nearby woods off Route 95/128. Police initially reported the number as around eight men, later revising the total to 11 following arrests.
State Police Col. Christopher Mason told Boston 25 News that the men have identified themselves as part of a group called "Rise of the Moors," a group that "does not recognize our laws."
"Their self-professed leader wanted it very much known their ideology is not anti-government," Mason said. "Our investigation will provide us more insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is."
Police issued a shelter-in-place order for Wakefield and Reading residents until the issue resolved. The men made no threats, according to the Wakefield Police Department.
The group posted videos to YouTube throughout the incident, insisting the group is peaceful. The men in the videos also claim they are abiding by "federal laws and judicial opinions" of the United States, but do not specify state laws.
At least one of the men claims he has a body camera that has recorded the entire incident. One video showed the men standing in the middle of the highway holding a Moroccan flag.
The men said they have reassured the police they are not sovereign citizens, black identity extremists, anti-police or anti-government. The last video was posted around 7 a.m.
Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) officers arrested two of the individuals at around 6:40 a.m., handing them over to State Police. The remaining individuals were taken into custody around 10:30 a.m., ending the standoff.
Police lifted the shelter in place order shortly before 11 a.m.
The southbound lanes have reopened, but the northbound lanes remain closed while police conduct sweeps of the vehicles and wooded areas involved in the incident.