The woman who was arrested after allegedly attempting to burn down Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home appears to have posted about the imprisoned leader of a controversial conspiracy-fueled Black supremacist sect in the hours leading up to the incident.
Laneisha Henderson was arrested on Thursday and charged with attempted arson in the second degree and interference with government property after witnesses observed her pouring gasoline on the historic site in Atlanta. On Facebook, the final post on a profile that appears to belong to Henderson was made roughly four hours before the incident and features a reference to the leader of the “Nuwaubian Nation.”
“Fam(ily) Affairs #FreeMalachiZYork,” Henderson wrote in the post.
Dwight “Malachi” York is currently serving a 135-year federal prison sentence following a 2004 conviction on charges that included over 100 counts of child molestation, racketeering, and transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes. York, who variously claimed to be African royalty and a leader of a lost Native American tribe, originally rose to prominence in New York City preaching a mixture of Ancient Egyptian philosophy, New Age spirituality, Black supremacy, and Illuminati conspiracy theories.
Amid mounting legal pressure, York moved his followers to Georgia where he established a massive compound called “Tama-Re” that featured two 40-foot pyramids and a sphinx statue. People Magazine, which produced a documentary investigation on York’s “cult” reported last year that his conviction came after “several of York’s victims came forward with accounts of slavery, starvation and sexual abuse that dated back decades.” Despite the dark allegations, various offshoots of York’s “Nuwaubian” movement and groups calling for his freedom remain active to this day.
The police report about the incident at King’s former home describes a harrowing incident where bystanders restrained Henderson after observing her dousing the building with gasoline. According to the report, Henderson was placed into custody and taken to a local hospital “for a psychological evaluation.” One of the witnesses told the New York Times that “very distraught” members of Henderson’s family arrived at the scene shortly after police because they had followed a signal from her phone. The witness said Henderson’s family described her as a veteran who was experiencing mental health issues.
Henderson and members of her family did not respond to requests for comment. On Facebook, the profile that seems to belong to Henderson matches photos and videos of her released by police after the incident. It also features pictures of her serving in the U.S. Navy.
Most of the content on the page is personal snapshots; however, the two most recent posts, which were made in the past week, include cryptic political content. On Wednesday evening, Henderson shared a pair of photos along with a picture of a Tarot card featuring an former President Trump and the word “JUDGMENT.”
The image came from a 2017 cover of the The Economist magazine, which used Tarot cards to highlight major stories from that year. Online, conspiracists have latched onto the image to draw completely opposite conclusions. Some have cited it as evidence Trump was part of the New World Order while others have adopted the QAnon-adjacent idea that the picture proves the former president was attempting to take the Illuminati down.
In the hours before the attack, Henderson made her post about York. It included a photo of her clad in an all black outfit that matches the one in video footage of the attempted arson.
The ideology of York and his followers is all over the map. However, some of the groups calling for his release have made references to both Trump and King. During Trump’s presidency, some of York’s supporters noted his penchant for pardoning allies and expressed hope he might release the sect leader. York’s movement has also attempted to cast him as a victim of the same government surveillance and countermeasures that dogged King during the Civil Rights movement.
In an email to TPM, Anthony Grant of the Atlanta Police Department’s Public Affairs Unit declined to comment on whether they were investigating links between Henderson and York’s movement.
“I cannot confirm that information at this time as the investigation remains open and active,” Grant wrote.