Group has had confrontational, controversial history in Putnam
May 9, 2002
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton -- Wednesday's arrest of United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors leader Malachi York is the latest in a long string of troubles for the fraternal organization and Putnam County.
For more than nine years, York and his followers have been at the center of one controversy after another, involving massive amounts of litigation in both state and federal courts. County officials have accused people associated with the group of incidents of harassment and intimidation, and Nuwaubians have repeatedly denounced county officials, alleging they discriminated against them based on their race and religion.
At various times during the conflict between the Nuwaubians and county officials, members of the fraternal organization and Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills publicly warned of the potential for a violent confrontation.
The entire controversy has centered on Malachi York, now facing state and federal charges of child molestation, and his ability to convince people to follow him.
Before coming to Putnam County in 1993, York was the leader of an Islamic sect known as the Ansaru Allah Community in New York City.
In the early 1990s, he was the subject of an FBI investigation that tied York or members of his organization to arsons, bank robberies, welfare fraud and extortion.
When York initially came to Putnam County, he claimed to be an alien from the planet "Rizq," and the Nuwaubians dressed in cowboy attire.
During his nine years in Georgia, York's organization has been known by a number of names: the Yamassee Native American Tribe, the Ancient and Mystic Order of Malchizedek, Holy Tabernacle Ministries and, most recently, the Nuwaubians have claimed to be members of the "Al Mahdi Shrine" organization and the "Holy Seed Baptist Synagogue." York has claimed heritage to Native Americans and Egyptians.
York and the Nuwaubians have made unsuccessful efforts to purchase the Shrine temple on Poplar Street and Tabernacle Baptist Church on Second Street in downtown Macon.
Black superiority a constant theme
While the group's publicly stated beliefs and associations have changed frequently, the one message in York's teachings that has remained constant since before coming to Putnam County is a message of black superiority. York repeatedly refers to whites as "the devil" and teaches that the color of their skin is caused by leprosy. In his teachings, York intertwines aspects of Islam and Christianity.
In 1997, after refusing to allow the county building inspector onto the property, the group came to the attention of newly elected Sheriff Howard Sills.
A series of lawsuits were filed, centered on a building that was issued a building permit as a 100-by-50-foot storage building that the Nuwaubians turned into a nightclub.
The lawsuits immediately set the Nuwaubians at odds with county officials. The Nuwaubians began producing hundreds of pamphlets that they distributed on the streets in Eatonton, targeting primarily county officials, judges and members of the media.
Also in the pamphlets, the Nuwaubians repeatedly accused Sills of trying to spark a "Waco"-type confrontation.
The Nuwaubians have received a string of prominent supporters since spring 1999, when Joe Beasley of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition came to Putnam County.
Jackson himself visited the Nuwaubian village a year ago. Civil rights leader Al Sharpton spoke at the village. Macon Mayor Jack Ellis has visited the village. Former state Sen. Leroy Johnson has acted as York's attorney.
State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a Democrat and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, has repeatedly spoken out in support of York. In 1999 - about the time York was ordered to appear before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Hugh V. Wingfield III on a contempt of court motion - Brooks sought help for York from the "Georgia Rangers."
The Rangers carried credentials stating they had arrest powers throughout the state, but the law cited is the law that provides for citizens arrests.
Shortly after the Rangers became involved in the dispute between the county and the Nuwaubians, Sills and agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided the Rangers headquarters in Atlanta and made arrests on charges ranging from possession of a firearm by a convicted felon to impersonating a public officer.
But in the past two years, the tension between county officials and the Nuwaubians has eased significantly. Dorothy Adams and Frank Ford, the attorneys who represented the county in almost all of Nuwaubian-related litigation, were fired by the county a year ago. Adams and Ford were two of the most frequent targets of the Nuwaubian fliers. A lawsuit filed by the county in 1999 ended in a bench trial earlier this year. The new county attorney, Bob Prior, assisted in creating a deed that got York dismissed as a defendant in the suit and paid the recording fee for the deed himself at the Superior Court clerk's office.
In summer 1999, when events seemed to have reached a pivotal moment, Everett Leon Stout appeared on the scene. Stout, who at the time was a fugitive from Tennessee and connected to militia organizations, called on the county coroner to arrest the sheriff and attempted on behalf of the Nuwaubians to sue various county officials for $1 million in a "common-law" court.
Stout's lawsuits never materialized, and he disappeared a few days later.