Local News

Mayor seeks to void Fayetteville proclamation for separatist group

Posted February 16, 2012 6:29 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2012 6:45 p.m. EST

— The ceremonial job of issuing city proclamations has created an embarrassing situation for Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne.

Chavonne last month declared the week of Jan. 8 Moorish American Week in Fayetteville, not realizing that the group is considered by some to be a separatist movement that views the U.S. government as illegitimate and refuses to pay taxes.

The Moors believe they were the first people to live in the Americas, but the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the group "Sovereigns in Black," referring to white, anti-government sovereign citizens groups.

City staffers cleared the request for Moorish American Week, and Chavonne signed off on the proclamation. Other cities nationwide, from Chicago to Tacoma, Wash., to Charlotte, have issued similar proclamations for the group.

"I think they should let the proclamation stand because we are abiding citizens," said Alim El Bey of Fayetteville.

The week of Jan. 8 was chosen for a proclamation because it's the birthday of the founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America, he said.

El Bey said Moorish Americans are nothing like sovereign citizens, adding that their heritage is worth proclaiming.

Still, he hedges when asked about the issue of paying taxes.

"Indians and those who are three-fifths of a person do not pay taxes, so that's what it's stemming from. It's from the Constitution," he said, adding that he pays taxes as a business owner.

Chavonne said he never heard of the group before issuing the proclamation, and he has asked city staff to draft paperwork to retract the proclamation and apologize for any confusion.

"It was never the intention of the city of Fayetteville to endorse or give credence to any separatist or sovereign citizen group," he said Thursday in a statement to WRAL News. "We sincerely appreciate the many contributions that all Americans have made to our country and regret any confusion or misunderstanding this may have caused."