Five Times an Ex-Member of Murderous Miami Cult Has Popped Up at Trump Rallies

via @mahoneysthename
Maurice Symonette's story is baffling, to put it mildly. Symonette, who also goes by the name Michael the Black Man, somehow went from being part of the murderous Yahweh ben Yahweh cult to getting acquitted of murder charges himself to being a staple at Donald Trump's presidential rallies all over the country. Even among the rogue's gallery of rodeo clowns and Bond villains who make up Trump's core cadre of supporters, Symonette might legitimately be the weirdest person hovering around Trumpworld.

After Michael the Black Man turned up at a Tampa-area Trump rally last week and led anti-press chants, it's worth taking note of all the bizarre places he's materialized since becoming a prominent Trump supporter:

1. At the original October 2016 Trump rally where he first popped up on TV:
Conservative Twitter is abuzz this afternoon with a trending hashtag: #BlacksForTrump. The spark is clear: Thousands have retweeted photos from Trump's rally in Lakeland, Florida, this afternoon showing a small group standing directly behind the Donald while enthusiastically waving "Blacks for Trump" signs.

"Blacks are for Trump and the left can't stand it," writes @LawlessPirate, with another pic of the sign-waving man wearing a shirt reading "Trump & Republicans Are Not Racist."

So who is this new face of Trump's elusive black support?

He's none other than Michael the Black Man, also known as Maurice Woodside or Michael Symonette, who has made waves in Miami in recent years with protests against the Democratic Party and rallies for the GOP.

He's also a former member of the murderous Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, which was led by the charismatic preacher Hulon Mitchell Jr., who was charged by the feds in 1990 with conspiracy in killings that included a gruesome beheading in the Everglades.

Michael, along with 15 other Yahweh followers, was charged for allegedly conspiring in two murders; his brother, who was also in the cult, told jurors that Michael had helped beat one man who was later killed and stuck a sharpened stick into another man's eyeball. But jurors found Michael (and six other Yahweh followers) innocent. They sent Mitchell away for 20 years in the federal pen.

In the years that followed, Michael changed his last name to Symonette, made a career as a musician, started a radio station in Miami, and then reinvented himself as Michael the Black Man, an anti-gay, anti-liberal preacher with a golden instinct for getting on TV at GOP events. He's planned events with Rick Santorum and gotten cable news play for bashing Obama.

Since 1997, he's been charged with grand theft auto, carrying a weapon onto an airplane and threatening a police officer, but never convicted in any of those cases. 
2. At a Trump rally in Bayfront Park in Miami just before the election:
3. At a rally allegedly organized with the help of Russian agents:
A federal grand jury filed charges against 13 Russian nationals [in February 2018] for allegedly stealing identities, wiring money overseas, and staging a small series of flash mobs to help tip the 2016 election in Donald Trump's favor. It's unclear whether the social media campaign had any actual impact on voting, but the FBI alleges Russian money indeed affected one small group of Miamians who unknowingly used Russian cash to pay for supplies for an unnamed rally the September before the presidential election.

There still seem to be online traces of that Moscow-funded rally.

Only one publicized, pro-Trump rally appears to have taken place in the Miami area — #LatinosConTrump in Doral at 1 p.m. September 11, 2016. The event was pitched as an "anti-media" protest outside the town's Univision offices. The national group Latinos With Trump created flyers for the rally and noted that virtually all of Miami's most prominent pro-Trump groups — Cubans 4 Trump, Hispanas for Trump, Latinas for Trump, and the official Miami Trump Volunteers — would attend.
4. At a 2017 Trump rally in Phoenix, per the Washington Post:
And so it was Tuesday night before a crowd of Trump supporters in Phoenix who had come to watch another show. There was the president, whipping up the wildly cheering crowd, and then there was Michael the Black Man, chanting just beyond Trump’s right shoulder in that trademark T-shirt.

The presence of Michael — variously known as Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside and Mikael Israel — has inspired not only trending Twitter hashtags but a great deal of curiosity and Google searches. Internet sleuths find the man’s bizarre URL, an easily accessible gateway to his strange and checkered past.

The radical fringe activist from Miami once belonged to a violent black supremacist religious cult, and he runs a handful of amateur, unintelligible conspiracy websites. He has called Barack Obama “The Beast” and Hillary Clinton a Ku Klux Klan member. Oprah Winfrey, he says, is the devil.

Most curiously, in the 1990s, he was charged, then acquitted, with conspiracy to commit two murders.
5. With noted racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the U.S.-Mexico border just last week:

Via our sister paper Phoenix New Times:
Former sheriff Joe Arpaio filmed a video at the U.S.-Mexico border with a former Florida cult member who goes by the name Michael the Black Man.

In the video posted on Thursday, Michael has his arm around Arpaio as the ousted former sheriff promotes his improbable race for Arizona's open Senate seat during a visit to the border fence in Naco, Arizona.

Michael was a follower of the Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, a black-supremacist religious sect in Florida. In 1990, the feds charged Michael and over a dozen fellow cult members with conspiracy related to brutal murders in Florida.

Alongside Arpaio and Michael in the video is an independent Senate candidate in Massachusetts, Shiva Ayyadurai, who shared the live video on Twitter.

Born in India, Ayyadurai is a scientist and MIT graduate who claims that he invented email. He began his Senate campaign as a Republican before switching to run as an independent. Ayyadurai’s campaign uses the slogan, “Defeat #FakeIndian Elizabeth Warren,” as a derogatory jab at his Democratic opponent.

“First of all, I’m from Massachusetts, so of course I’m supporting this great guy,” Arpaio says of Ayyadurai in the video. “He’s gonna win.”

Michael says, “We’re at the border right here, between Arizona and Mexico.” He turns to Arpaio to ask if he has anything to say to the camera. The aging former sheriff brings up his law enforcement background.

“It’s great to see the border again; I haven’t seen it in a while,” Arpaio says. 
If you've got any info on who's paying Symonette's travel bills to Trump rallies, email [email protected] or [email protected]
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.