A New Jersey woman was forced to call in authorities after a member of an identified Black Nationalist group occupied her home, declaring – unilaterally – that it now belonged to him.
Hubert A. John, 39, of Los Angeles, was arrested by a SWAT team last Thursday after he entered into the home in the Upper Vailsburg section of Newark and placed a Moorish flag in the window, police said. He now faces charges of criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass and terroristic threats.
The incident emerged into the public domain after the homeowner, who purchased the property in February, told the story in a series of short videos on TikTok.
John, who claimed to be a sovereign citizen of the Al Moroccan Empire — which has been labeled an extremist group — was said to have locked himself inside the unidentified woman’s home and declared it his ancestral property.
“This is a really bizarre, crazy situation,” said the woman on TikTok in a re-telling that spanned nearly 50 videos.
The woman said she purchased the home from a bank and was preparing to renovate it. She had not moved in yet and would check on the property in her free time as renovations got started.
She said she had received a letter dated May 20 from a group called Al Moroccan Empire Consulate at New Jersey State Republic telling her the home belonged to them. She said that she also received a second letter in June from the same group with red fingerprints and seals on it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the Al Moroccan Empire is part of a group of Moorish sovereign citizens, who espouse a doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society that grants them immunity from laws.
“Members of the Moorish sovereigns, called Moors, have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website reads. “Recently, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violent confrontations with law enforcement.”
In the TikTok video, the woman says that her front door lock was changed and a side door lock had been sawed off. She only found out about the lock changes last week, she says, when she went to the property to let the gas company in.
The woman called police, and responding officers “requested the documentation from the four suspects, who claimed to be sovereign citizens of the Al Moroccan Empire and that their status permitted them access to the property,” according to a statement from Newark police provided to NBC news.
The men followed officers’ instructions to leave, and the homeowner called for a locksmith to come to Ivy Street, officials said.
But John returned before the locksmith could change the locks, “used a key and entered the home before placing a Moorish flag in the window” about 2:40 p.m., O’Hara said. That drew Newark police’s Emergency Services Unit to the scene. Officers entered the house and arrested John.