July 05, 2009

Putnam County members work to bolster better image of United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors

Savannah Morning News
May 15, 2002
By Kevin Conner

Eatonton -- Members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors spent much of Mother's Day handing out literature alleging a government conspiracy in last week's police raid at the group's compound in rural Putnam County.

Last Wednesday, police arrested the group's leader, Dwight York -- also known as Malachi York -- and his companion, Kathy Johnson, on charges of sexual exploitation of minors. York and Johnson are accused of transporting minors from out of state to Georgia for sexual purposes.

The arrests came just prior to a raid on the Shady Dale Road compound, which features two pyramids, a sphinx and other Egyptian-style construction.

The sect has Athens ties, with construction of a Nuwaubian bookstore still ongoing on West Broad Street. People were seen working on the faux-Moorish structure Sunday. York also owns a $525,000 home on Mansfield Court that was searched by federal authorities Wednesday.

In a search of York's Athens home off Timothy Road, federal agents found some $128,000 in cash, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Nuwaubians were spread throughout Eatonton on Sunday, handing out the flyers at places like Sumpter and Oconee streets, the Ingles shopping center on Georgia Highway 16 and a shopping center near downtown that has a Family Dollar, Food Max and CVS Pharmacy.

"We don't give interviews," said a Nuwaubian man dressed in black and handing out flyers at the corner of Sumpter and Oconee streets. Several other Nuwaubians at various locations also refused interviews.

The flyer likened the raid tactics used by federal agents and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department to the 1993 police raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas.

The flyer alleged the FBI and sheriff's department had entered the village to gather testimonial evidence against York and Johnson and held village residents "hostage" through the afternoon and night. The flyer -- no author was mentioned -- stressed that Nuwaubians are peaceful and shouldn't have been subjected to the large-scale raid.

"Everyone was told that they were not in trouble, and that they were not under arrest, even though each individual's right to travel and leave as they pleased was impeded," the flyer read, in part.

Sheriff's officials have said that about 200 law enforcement officers, including federal agents, had surrounded the village, but haven't disclosed what evidence or materials have been taken. About 80 to 100 people were at the village at the time of the raid, the sheriff's department has said.

Since moving from New York to Putnam County in 1993, members of the group have clashed with local officials, mostly over zoning issues regarding the structures at the compound.

Joe Griner, an Eatonton resident of five years who was shopping in the town Sunday, said he wasn't surprised at the arrests and raid at the compound, given the group's history of run-ins with local law enforcement.

"It didn't surprise me a bit," he said. "Them and the law have battled quite a bit over the last few years. They've made national news several times."

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