Update — 9/3/15: Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Orlando Baldwin were each sentenced in a federal court to seven years in prison.
Update — 6/2/15: Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Orlando Baldwin each pleaded guilty to four explosives and gun charges that will carry seven-year prison terms when they are sentenced Aug. 31.
Update — 4/2/15: Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Orlando Baldwin were indicted on additional charges involving the conspiracy to use bombs to commit "violent acts" and the illegal purchase of firearms.
Federal agents arrested two New Black Panther Party members (NBPP) in St. Louis on November 21, accusing Olajuwon Ali and Brandon Baldwin of illegal straw purchases of handguns. Some media have cited anonymous sources alleging that the pair also attempted to purchase pipe bombs.
One of the accused, Olajuwon Ali, 22, is the head of the NBPP’s St. Louis Chapter, but he also has been active in a very different extremist movement: the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement.
The sovereign citizen movement has experienced rapid recent growth, particularly in its Afro-centric “Moorish” offshoot. “Moorish” sovereigns emerged in the mid-1990s when members of the Moorish Science Temple (MST), a religious sect, attempted to meld their beliefs with that of the sovereign citizen movement. Sovereign beliefs have since spread widely among MST adherents, and later to other African-Americans, bringing new adherents to what historically has been considered a right-wing extremist movement.
Ali is typical of many new recruits to the “Moorish” movement. Although there is evidence that Ali may have encountered sovereign citizen ideology as early as 2010, when still a teenager, it was in April 2013 that he formally joined the movement, filing an “Abjuration of Citizenship” document declaring himself an “aboriginal/indigenous, free Sovereign Moor – Natural Person of the Land.”
The document, as well as a Moorish identification card that Ali has used, appear to come from an influential New Jersey-based Moorish group led by R. V. Bey. One of the signatures on the document seems to be that of one of R. V. Bey’s prominent disciples.
Another signature on Ali’s document belongs to Kusu ra Kush Bey, aka Chester Wilson, a St. Louis-based Moorish sovereign. In the same month that Ali filed his “abjuration,” the FBI arrested Wilson for his alleged involvement in a major multi-state car theft ring.
Ali himself had a brush with the law only months after declaring his sovereignty. In June 2013, St. Louis police arrested Ali for trespassing, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace following an incident in which Ali allegedly attempted to use a Moorish identification card at a convenience store to demand “tax-free” purchases. Ali, tased during the incident, later described his arrest as “unlawful” and himself as a “victim of police brutality.”
Ali’s legal troubles took up much of his time, but he found a new source for activism following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014. That month, Ali, calling himself a “Minister of Justice and Law,” offered a “Lessons of Law Class (Post-Mike Brown)” to inform African-Americans of their “Constitutional, Universal Human, and Indigenous Rights.”
The shooting also gave Ali an opportunity to join NBPP activism with Moorish activism. On August 13, Ali composed a lengthy, sovereign-style “Affidavit of Fact” directed to the mayor of Ferguson in which he asserted that claims the NBPP had encouraged violence were “false propaganda [sic]” released by “European owned” media stations. He also accused the city of Ferguson with the “GENOCIDE AND MURDER OF Aboriginal Indigenous American Michael Brown Jr.”