|Major actions||1978 and 1985 fatal shootouts with police officers|
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The group is particularly known for two major conflicts with the Philadelphia Police Department. In 1978, a standoff resulted in the death of one police officer, injuries to several other people, and life sentences for nine members. In 1985, another confrontation ended when a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the MOVE compound, a row house in the middle of the 6200 block of Osage Avenue, causing a fire that killed eleven MOVE members, including five children, and destroyed 65 houses in the neighborhood.
The group's name, MOVE, is not an acronym. Its name was chosen by John Africa to dictate exactly what they intend to do. Members intend to be active because they say, "Everything that's alive moves. If it didn't, it would be stagnant, dead." When members greet each other they say "On the MOVE" The group was originally called the Christian Movement for Life when it was founded in 1972. Its founder, John Africa, was functionally illiterate. So he created MOVE's foundation document, called The Guideline, with the help of Donald Glassey, a social worker from the University of Pennsylvania. Africa and his contemporary, mostly African-American followers wore their hair in dreadlocks, as popularized by Caribbean religion. They advocated a radical form of green politics and a return to a hunter-gatherer society, while stating their opposition to science, medicine, and technology. They identify as deeply religious and advocate for life. MOVE members believe that so all living beings are dependent and therefore their lives should be treated in equal importance. They advocate for justice that does not lie always within the institutions. MOVE believes in order for something to be just it must be just for all living creatures. As John Africa had done, his devotees changed their surnames to Africa to show reverence to what they regarded as their mother continent.
John Africa's MOVE members lived in a commune in a house owned by Glassey in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. They staged bullhorn-amplified, profanity-laced demonstrations against institutions that they opposed, such as zoos (MOVE had strong views on animal rights) and speakers whose views they opposed. MOVE activities drew close scrutiny from law enforcement authorities.
In 1977 the police obtained a court order requiring MOVE to vacate their Powelton Village house at 311 N 33rd Street. The group had begun to occupy the residence and it wasn't long before MOVE's living style exhausted their neighbors' patience. MOVE members made a treaty with the police. They agreed to move out of the premises and surrender their weapons if the police released members from city jails. The police held up their end of the deal but MOVE members failed to comply. Nearly a year later, police had come to a standoff with members of the community, who had not left. When they attempted entry to the house, shooting erupted. Philadelphia Police Department officer James J. Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the neck. MOVE representatives claimed that he was facing the house at the time and they denied MOVE's responsibility for his death. Shooting broke out and Ramp was killed by a single bullet. Prosecutors alleged that Move members fired the fatal shot and charged Sims Africa and the other eight with collective responsibility for his death.
According to an account in The Guardian newspaper of June 18th 2018 'Eyewitnesses, however, gave accounts suggesting that the shot may have come from the opposite direction to the basement, raising the possibility that Ramp was accidentally felled, by police fire. After the raid was over, weapons were found within the property. None were in operative condition.' The standoff lasted about an hour before MOVE members began to surrender. Video footage shows police officers brutally beating Delbert Africa. Delbert was taunting the police officers from his position inside the house during the standoff but surrendered with his hands in the air. Seven other police officers, five firefighters, three MOVE members, and three bystanders were also injured.
The MOVE 9
Nine MOVE members were convicted and each sentenced to a maximum of 100 years in prison for third-degree murder for Ramp's murder. Seven of the nine first became eligible for parole in the spring of 2008, but they were denied it. Parole hearings now occur yearly.
In 1998, at age 47, Merle Africa died in prison. In 2015, at age 59, Phil Africa died in prison. On June 16, 2018, Debbie Sims Africa was released on parole and reunited with her 39 year-old son. The remaining six in prison are Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, and Eddie Africa.
In 1981 MOVE relocated to a row house at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of West Philadelphia. After the move, neighbors complained for years that MOVE members were broadcasting political messages by bullhorn. The bullhorn was broken and inoperable for the three weeks prior to the bombing of the row house.
The police obtained arrest warrants charging four occupants with crimes including parole violations, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats. Mayor Wilson Goode and police commissioner Gregore J. Sambor classified MOVE as a terrorist organization. Residents of the area were evacuated from the premises. They were told that would be able to return to their homes after a twenty-four hour period. On Monday, May 13, 1985, nearly 500 police officers, along with city manager Leo Brooks, arrived in force and attempted to clear the building and execute the arrest warrants. Water and electricity was shut off in order to force MOVE members out of the house. Commissioner Sambor read a long speech addressed to MOVE members that started with, "Attention MOVE... this is America". When the MOVE members did not respond the police decided to forcefully remove the members from the premise.
This led to an armed standoff with police, who lobbed tear gas canisters at the building. The police said that MOVE members fired at them; a gunfight with semi-automatic and automatic firearms ensued. Police went through over ten thousand rounds of ammunition before Commissioner Sambor ordered that the compound be bombed. From a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter, Philadelphia Police Department Lt. Frank Powell proceeded to drop two one-pound bombs (which the police referred to as "entry devices") made of FBI-supplied water gel explosive, a dynamite substitute, targeting a fortified, bunker-like cubicle on the roof of the house.
The resulting explosions ignited a fire from fuel for a gasoline-powered generator in the rooftop bunker; it spread and eventually destroyed approximately 65 nearby houses. The firefighters, who had earlier deluge-hosed the MOVE members in a failed attempt to evict them from the building, stood by as the fire caused by the bomb engulfed the first house and spread to others, having been given orders by Commissioner Sambor to let the fire burn. Despite the earlier drenching of the building by firefighters, officials said they feared that MOVE would shoot at the firefighters. Mayor Wilson Goode testified that he ordered the fire to be put out after the bunker had burned. Police Commissioner Sambor said he received the order but the fire commissioner testified he did not receive the order. Eleven people (John Africa, five other adults, and five children aged 7 to 13) died in the resulting fire, and more than 250 people in the neighborhood were left homeless. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, said that police fired at those trying to escape.
Mayor Goode appointed an investigative commission called the PSIC (aka MOVE Commission), chaired by William H. Brown, III. Police commissioner Sambor resigned in November 1985, reporting that he felt that he was being made a "surrogate" by Goode. The MOVE Commission 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." Following the release of the report, Goode made a formal public apology. No one from the city government was criminally charged. The only surviving adult MOVE member, Ramona Africa, was charged and incarcerated for seven years on riot and conspiracy charges.
In 1996 a federal jury ordered the city to pay a US$ 1.5 million civil suit judgement to survivor Ramona Africa and relatives of two people killed in the bombing. The jury had found that the city used excessive force and violated the members' constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Philadelphia was given the sobriquet "The City that Bombed Itself."
2002 shooting of John Gilbride
After John Africa's death, his widow, Alberta, married John Gilbride, Jr. Together they had a child, Zackary Africa, circa 1996. The couple divorced in 1999. After a custody battle, a court ruling granted Gilbride partial custody of Zackary, allowing him unsupervised visits. Gilbride, by this point a former MOVE supporter, moved to Maple Shade, New Jersey.
On September 10, 2002, in the course of a bitter custody dispute, Gilbride testified in court that MOVE had threatened to kill him. On September 27, 2002, shortly after midnight and prior to Gilbride's first visitation date with Zackary, an unknown assailant shot and killed Gilbride with an automatic weapon as he sat in his car parked outside his home. The case remains unsolved. MOVE initially made statements claiming that the U.S. government had assassinated Gilbride in order to frame MOVE. Alberta Africa denied that the murder had occurred, stating in 2009 that Gilbride "is out hiding somewhere." Tony Allen, an ex-MOVE member, maintains that MOVE murdered Gilbride.
In 2012, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Gilbride had told friends and family that he had recorded incriminating evidence in a notebook as security against a "hit" by MOVE. Gilbride said he had placed the notebook inside a locker for safekeeping, but the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office declined to follow up on the claims.
Ramona Africa acts as a spokesperson for the group. She has given numerous speeches at events in the United States and other countries. Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner, was closely involved with MOVE. MOVE continues to advocate for Abu-Jamal's release as well as for that of imprisoned MOVE members, whom the group regards as political prisoners.
Birdie Africa, also known as Michael Moses Ward, the only child survivor of the 1985 MOVE bombing, accidentally drowned in 2013 in a hot tub on board Carnival Dream while cruising in the Caribbean.
MOVE maintains a website encouraging visitors to support imprisoned MOVE members.
On the 25th anniversary of the 1985 bombing, The Philadelphia Inquirer created a detailed multimedia site containing retrospective articles, archived articles, videos, interviews, photos, and a timeline of the events.
- David Shrager – trial lawyer who represented Michael Ward's father in a lawsuit against the city for injuries suffered in the fire.
- Partisan Defense Committee
- "MOVE | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia". philadelphiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- Trippett, Frank (1985-05-27). "It Looks Just Like a War Zone". TIME. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
- Account of 1985 incident from USA Today.
- "About MOVE – On a Move". onamove.com. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
- "John Africa". books.google.com. Google. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
- "MOVE | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia". philadelphiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "An inauspicious beginning". philly.com. philly.com. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
- John Anderson and Hilary Hevenor, Burning Down the House: MOVE and the tragedy of Philadelphia, W.W. Norton & Co., 1987, ISBN 0-393-02460-1
- "CNN – Philadelphia, city officials ordered to pay $1.5 million in MOVE case – June 24, 1996". cnn.com.
- 25 Years Ago: Philadelphia Police Bombs MOVE Headquarters Killing 11, Destroying 65 Homes democracynow.org. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- "'Let The Fire Burn': A Philadelphia Community Forever Changed". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
- "Survivor Remembers Bombing Of Philadelphia Headquarters". philadelphia.cbslocal.com. CBS Philly. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
- Demby, Gene (May 13, 2015). "I'm from Philly 30 years later I'm still trying to make sense of the MOVE bombing". Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- The video from all the documentaries was shot from 310 N 33rd Street facing East-Northeast
- "Nose to Nose: Philadelphia confronts a cult". TIME magazine. August 14, 1978. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- Emilie Lounsberry (February 28, 2008). "MOVE members due for parole hearing". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- Lounsberry, Emilie (June 5, 2008). "MOVE members denied parole". The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. pp. B06.
- Move Death Merle Africa's Demise Labeled `Suspicious'
- Phil Africa, of Black-Liberation Group Move, Long in Prison, Dies at 59
- Pilkington, Ed (Jun 18, 2018). "'This is huge': black liberationist speaks out after her 40 years in prison". The Guardian.
- Abu-Jamal, Mumia; Bin Wahad, Dhoruba; Shakur, Assata (1993). Still Black, Still Strong. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e). p. 128. ISBN 9780936756745.
- Shapiro, Michael J (June 17, 2010). The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy and Genre. Routledge. p. 108. ISBN 9781136977879.
- Stevens, William K. (14 May 1985). "Police Drop Bomb on Radicals' Home in Philadelphia". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
- Frank Trippett (May 27, 1985). "It Looks Just Like a War Zone". TIME magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
The Move property on Osage Avenue had become notorious for its abundant litter of garbage and human waste and for its scurrying rats and dozens of dogs. Bullhorns blared forth obscene tirades and harangues at all times of day and night. MOVE members customarily kept their children out of both clothes and school. They physically assaulted some neighbors and threatened others.
- Brian Jenkins (April 2, 1996). "MOVE siege returns to haunt city". CNN.com. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
- Terry, Don (1996-06-25). "Philadelphia Held Liable For Firebomb Fatal to 11". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
- "Philadelphia MOVE Bombing Still Haunts Survivors". NPR. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
- I Was Expendable, Sambor Learned After Move Fiasco
- "Philadelphia Special Investigation (MOVE) Commission Manuscript Collection". Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- Goode Offers His Apology For Move
- Odom, Maida. "Ramona Africa Given Jail Term For Siege Role". philly.com. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- G. Shaffer; C. Tiger; D. L. Root (2008). Compass American Guides Pennsylvania.
- Larry Eichel (May 8, 2005). "The MOVE Disaster: May 13, 1985". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- October 23, 2003, Yanney, Monika Yant, "Talks of threats before slaying" http://www.religionnewsblog.com/4817/talks-of-threats-before-slaying
- September 12, 20012, "A clue hidden in a lost locker?" http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-blinq/A-clue-hidden-in-a-lost-locker.html
- Birdie Africa, child of MOVE, dies at 41 Davies, Dave Davies, www.newsworks.org, Sept. 25, 2013.
- On A Move – Website of the MOVE organization Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- "MOVE 25 years later". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2010-05-09.; http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20131020_A_haunting_look_at_when_Phila__burned.html
- Rapold, Nicolas (October 1, 2013). "Dropping In On Tragedy, As If You Were There". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
- John Anderson and Hilary Hevenor, Burning Down the House: MOVE and the tragedy of Philadelphia, W.W. Norton & Co., 1987, ISBN 0-393-02460-1.
- Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Discourse and Destruction: The City of Philadelphia versus MOVE (1994) University of Chicago Press
- Johanna Saleh Dickson; (2002) Princeton: Architectural Press
- Toni Cade Bambara The Bombing of Osage Avenue Philadelphia: WHYY. DVD OCLC 95315483
- Margot Harry, Attention Move! This is America (1987) Chicago: Banner Press, ISBN 0-916650-32-4
- Maurantonio, Nicole (2014). "Archiving the Visual:The promises and pitfalls of digital newspapers". Media History. 20 (1): 88–102. doi:10.1080/13688804.2013.870749.
- Michael Boyette & Randi Boyette, Let it Burn! (1989) Chicago: Contemporary Press, ISBN 0-8092-4543-4
- Ramona Africa (Contr. Author). "This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA" (Arissa Media Group, 2009) ISBN 978-0-9742884-7-5
- Official MOVE website
- "John Africa's MOVE Organization" – collection of pro-MOVE documents
- "French website"
- E-library of documents concerning the group (registration required)
- Philadelphia: 1980s, MOVE siege – 30 photos related to the 1985 incident from The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- 25 Years Ago: Philadelphia Police Bombs MOVE Headquarters Killing 11, Destroying 65 Homes – video report by Democracy Now! May 13, 2010.
- MOVE Bombing at 30: "Barbaric" 1985 Philadelphia Police Attack Killed 11 & Burned a Neighborhood. – video report by Democracy Now! May 13, 2015.
- The Empire Files: An Unparalleled Act of Police Terror. The Real News. February 27, 2016.