MOVE! Shootings, Bombings, Death & Destruction - Philadelphia 1985

MOVE was founded in 1972 as the "Christian Movement for Life" by John Africa, a charismatic leader who, though functionally illiterate, dictated a document describing his views known as The Guideline to graduate student Donald Glassey. Africa and his followers (the majority of them African-American), wore their hair in dreadlocks and advocated a radical form of green politics and a return to hunter-gatherer society while stating their opposition to science, medicine and technology. As John Africa himself had done, his devotees also changed their surnames to show reverence to Africa, which they regarded as their mother continent.



Pre-1978
The MOVE members lived in a commune in a house owned by Donald Glassey in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. MOVE members staged bullhorn-amplified, profanity-laced demonstrations against institutions which they opposed morally, such as zoos (MOVE had strong views on animal rights), and speakers whose views they opposed.

MOVE made compost piles of garbage and human waste in their yards which attracted rats and cockroaches; they considered it morally wrong to kill the vermin with pest control. MOVE attracted much hostility from their neighbors. Their actions brought close scrutiny from the Philadelphia police.

1978 shoot-out
On August 8, 1978, an end was negotiated to an almost year-long standoff with police over orders to vacate the Powelton Village MOVE house. MOVE failed to relocate as required by a court order.

When police later attempted entry, Philadelphia police officer James J. Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the head. MOVE representatives claim that he was facing the house at the time, which would therefore negate the notion that MOVE was responsible for his death.

Seven other police officers, five firefighters, three MOVE members, and three bystanders were injured in an unrelated crossfire. As a result, nine MOVE members were found guilty of third-degree murder in the shooting death of a police officer. Seven of the nine became eligible for parole in the spring of 2008, and all seven were denied parole. Parole hearings now occur yearly...

1985 Bombing
In 1981, MOVE relocated to a row house at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of West Philadelphia.

On May 13, 1985, after months of complaints by neighbors that MOVE members were broadcasting political messages by bullhorn at all hours and also about the health hazards created from piles of compost, as well as indictments of various MOVE members for various crimes, including parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats, the police department attempted to clear the building and arrest the indicted MOVE members, which led to an armed standoff with police.



The police lobbed tear gas canisters at the building and the fire department battered on the roof of the house with two water cannons. MOVE members fired at the police, and the police returned fire at the members. A police helicopter then dropped a four-pound bomb made of C-4 plastic explosive and Tovex, a dynamite substitute, onto the roof of the house.

The resulting explosion caused incendiary materials listed in the police indictment, and stored by MOVE in the house, to catch fire, therefore causing the house itself to catch on fire. The resulting fire ignited a massive blaze which eventually destroyed 65 houses nearby.

Eleven people, including John Africa, five other adults and five children, died in the resulting fire.

The firefighters were stopped from putting out the fire based on allegations that firefighters were being shot at, a claim that was contested by the lone adult survivor Ramona Africa, who says that the firefighters had earlier battered the house with two deluge pumps when there was no fire.

Ramona Africa and one child, Birdie Africa, were the only two survivors.



Aftermath
Mayor W. Wilson Goode soon appointed an investigative commission called the PSIC or MOVE
commission. It issued its report on March 6, 1986. The report denounced the actions of the city government, stating that "Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable".

No one from the city government was charged criminally.




In a 1996 civil suit in US federal court, a jury ordered the City of Philadelphia to pay $1.5 million to a survivor and relatives of two people killed in the incident. The jury found that the city used excessive force and violated the members' constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Philadelphia was given the sobriquet "The City that Bombed Itself."

On the 25th Anniversary of the 1985 Police bombing, the Philadelphia Inquirer created a detailed multimedia site containing retrospective articles, archived articles, videos, interviews, photos, and a timeline of the events.



More info here:
www.philly.com/philly/news/93137669.html

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