Bank Robber, a ‘Moorish National,’ Makes Spectacular Jail Escape
One of two bank robbers who made a daring jail break Tuesday morning, shimmying 15 stories down the side of a high-rise lockup in downtown Chicago on a rope of bedsheets, claimed at his trial to be a “Moorish national,” exempt from federal laws that forbid such things as taking large sums of cash at gunpoint from terrified tellers.
More than 24 hours after the escape, the robbers, Kenneth Conley, 38, and Joseph Banks, 37, the self-proclaimed “Moor,” remained at large today with dragnets of heavily armed federal and local law enforcement officers on their trail.
The men were last seen in a south suburb and are believed to be traveling together. The FBI offered a $50,000 reward this morning for the escapees’ capture, which is about $550,000 less than Banks reportedly took in just two robberies where, brandishing a pistol, he vaulted bank counters and stuffed stacks of money into a bag.
So-called Moors are typically black nationalists who, like their kissing cousins in the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, deny the jurisdiction and authority of the government. For the Moors, that is based on the theory that they are the real sovereign natives of North America, and the whites who came later and their government have no right to rule them. As a rule, the various Moorish groups have produced little or no violence, even if their view of history is unique.
The sovereign citizens movement, on the other hand, originated in a white supremacist ideology that basically said that America was given by God to the white man, and that as a result no government can impose its laws and taxes on them. (Today, the white supremacist aspect of the ideology, which said that black people could not be sovereigns, has been largely forgotten and many sovereigns are black.) Sovereigns are best known for filing bogus court documents, including property liens against their enemies — so-called “paper terrorism.” Several have murdered law enforcement officials in just the last few years.