Accusations Of Racism
The Macon Telegraph, August 8, 1999
By Hilary Hilliard and Rob Peecher
Throughout the legal disputes, the Nuwaubians have lobbed
accusations of racism and religious persecution, leaving
county officials angry and defensive.
"It's a group of black separatists who believe white people
are genetically inferior mutants," said Dorothy Adams, an
attorney for Putnam County. "They try to make us look like a
bunch of big-bellied rednecks."
McDade called those claims ridiculous, saying that although
the group is predominantly black, it includes members who
are white, Asian and of other descent.
"We don't see this as a black-white issue," McDade said.
"It's a matter of religious persecution."
But despite what is said in interviews, commissioner Sandra
Adams said the Nuwaubians have repeatedly made race an
issue. Adams, who is black, said she has been called a
"house nigger" by Nuwaubian protesters.
"They do not want to solve these problems; they want to call
attention to themselves," said Sandra Adams, who is not
related to the county's attorney. "When the racism card is
played, everybody stops what they're doing and converges on
little old Putnam County."
National publications from Time magazine to the New York
Times have covered the Nuwaubian issue this summer.
And while she believes racism still exists throughout the
United States, Sandra Adams said it is not an issue in the
The four voting members of the Putnam commission are evenly
split - Poole and Steve Layson are white, Sandra Adams and
Jimmy Davis are black. Chairman Ralph Perdomo is white, but
votes only to break ties.
"It is not my concern who they pray to or what color they
are, just that they are citizens of Putnam County," Perdomo
said. "I will bend over backwards to assist any citizen, but
I won't break the law."
But the commissioners are aware of just how different the
Nuwaubians are from traditional Putnam residents.
"There are going to continue to be ripples all along the way
because they are a cult," Poole said.
"I don't care what they say, that's not the norm in a
society, and we're a small town."
Chance said it is difficult to continue to believe that
county officials are supportive in the face of the legal
stalemate they have reached. In the case of the alleged
nightclub, which the Nuwaubians call the Ramses Social Club,
Chance said the group spent months trying to have the
building rezoned, but were never given clear directions from
"They gave us a list of 19 violations of the club," Chance
said, "then padlocked it before we could fix them."
Keeping the Peace
Sills sees himself as the man in the middle, charged with
keeping things cool.
"I have been willfully obstructed and opposed by armed
individuals, and I have simply turned around and left, even
with court orders," Sills said. "It is my professional
opinion that they are desperately seeking a confrontation."
Sills said he has overridden department policies, forgone
arrests and not responded to threats and behavior that would
land other citizens in jail, all in the interest of
preventing a showdown. He said he has ordered his deputies
not to stop Nuwaubian drivers for minor violations such as
license plate problems, or for speeding at less than 75 mph.
"There are lots of things I could arrest them for that I
have not," Sills said. "I accept responsibility for not
doing that, but police discretion is something I have. I
don't want an armed confrontation ever."
But Sills is losing patience with the group that, despite
his pains, has called him a "demon" and, he said, threatened
him. Sills takes the threats so seriously that he no longer
lets his children stay in his home overnight.
"I've done it under an onslaught, never seen in this state,
of propaganda slandering me, and I've never raised my
voice," Sills said.
Sills has however appeared in a New York television news
report about the Nuwabians and has compared the group to
other well-known cult organizations.
Sills said the group - which he calls "the so-called
Nuwaubians" - presents no real threat to members of the
public, outside of law enforcement.
Government officials, however, do perceive a potential
political threat from the Nuwaubians as their numbers
continue to grow in the region.
In a taped speech, York said the group would establish an
independent nation with passports, taxes and laws on the
Putnam County land. Members already carry those passports,
which grant them access to the land.
"I have a problem with them wanting to take over," said
commissioner Sandra Adams. "If they're not going to follow
the established laws, do I have to follow the laws they put
in place? Does that leave me at their mercy or do I have to
pack up my little bongos and boogie out of town?"
The Nuwaubians, whose published literature extols American
government and demands loyalty to the country, deny any
desire to establish a sovereign nation and said York's
comments were taken out of context. Chance said York was
speaking of creating a theme park similar to Disney parks in
Florida or California.
"We did not come as a political threat," Chance said. "We
have had the FBI and GBI here. If we were lawbreakers, we
would not ask for help from the federal government."
One of their cornerstone publications, "Little Guide Book
for Nuwaubians," reprints the entire U.S. Constitution. The
same book, which includes rules for Nuwaubians, forbids
disorderly conduct and demands total cooperation with
Perdomo dismissed concerns of a political threat. Tama-Re is
in the same voting district as Lake Sinclair, which Perdomo
said is the fastest-growing district in the county and
therefore unlikely to feel much political impact from the
But they have already made their presence felt in local
political groups. Some 125 of the 550 members of the Putman
County NAACP are Nuwaubians, giving them a voice in the
"If they do take over," Poole said, "a lot of people will
The heart of the problem, according to Poole and Perdomo, is
that the Nuwaubians lack the technical expertise to build
and win approval for their developments.
Progress has been smoother when the Nuwaubians have enlisted
the help of expert contractors and engineers, but
commissioners said those experts have not been used on a
consistent enough basis to solve the disagreements.
The Nuwaubians are still petitioning for permits that would
legitimate the padlocked buildings and clear the way for
future building. But McDade is concerned that there may not
be an end in sight.
"What is the next reason for saying 'no' to the Nuwaubians?"
Whenever it does come, Perdomo said there is only one
"It's going to end with them obeying our laws," he said.
"That's the only way it can end."