The Realities of MOVE
MOVE: The Reality
by Tony Allen
"The MOVE Organization has clearly detailed the law of life, an we know what to do about those who go against life."
-John Africa, MOVE’s Guidelines
"I was told that my attitude towards my wife was going to cause a situation that would involve my death,"
-John Gilbride, who was murdered on Sept 27th, 2002 after being engaged in a bitter custody dispute with MOVE leader Alberta Africa
I have written plenty about my time with the MOVE Organization and have also, in a previous article "A Radical Fraud" dealt with the issue of the MOVE Organization attempting to pass itself off to the left-bank of the body politic as a viable and respectable force. What I did not include in any of my polemics was an examination of why people feel the need, even after it has been made clear that MOVE is a dangerous sect, to support the group. It is a topic to be explored and I am remiss for not initiating the discussion before now.
I have noticed that since my very public split with MOVE that there are fewer and fewer people who bother with making excuses for MOVE members’ actions, and fewer still who would actively propagate the group’s ideology. And while I do find this encouraging and a vindication of the forcefulness of my cause, I, by no means, am deluded enough to think that MOVE is beaten. They are still out there, but since my appearance on the scene, they have had to tone down the rhetoric a bit. To be sure, they are not as quick to spew hateful and vicious propaganda as they once were because they know that the minute they do, someone will be there to confront them.
With that said, the question could be posed, Why not just leave MOVE alone? Why not live and let live? The fact is that I am not allowed to ignore them, they are too busy, they are on a mission from "god" to destroy anybody or anything that gets in their way.
MOVE members and their supporters have threatened my family, been implicated in two murders, and were convicted for the murder of Police Officer James Ramp and have cowardly used their own children as human shields. I am in no position to let the people that committed these crimes off the hook.
MOVE members and their close supporters represent a cult of death and they are wedded to destruction. It never ceases to amaze me how many people refuse to accept this notion. They insist that MOVE’s actions are a protest against something, or a justified reaction to some injustice that MOVE members have been dealt. They are right to an extent: as long as there are people who do not accept MOVE’s ideology, or who question the divinity of John Africa, the grievances of MOVE can never be satisfied.
Interestingly enough, it was not Frank Rizzo or some other reactionary entity that was the first to stand up to MOVE. It was elements of the far left, who had observed and had been on the receiving end of MOVE’s authoritarian tendencies. One writer made the astute observation that MOVE was dedicated to the destruction of all man-made ideas in order to replace them with the "teachings of John Africa" and made the deduction that this was little more than a thinly disguised brand of fascism.
Of course, some fascists are more successful than others. Hitler built a nation and even Mussolini made the "trains run on time" before they nearly destroyed the world. MOVE’s brand of authoritarianism has been a resounding failure and they have primarily managed to rain chaos upon only themselves, a fact that we should not allow ourselves to take too much comfort in. You see, MOVE likes its martyrs not to be grown adults who can chose to die for their stupid cause, but rather little kids. A grotesque example of this was when in May of 1985, John Africa surrounded himself in his barricaded home with children and dared the police to attack. These children were not his, they were, for the most part, not even the children of other MOVE adults in the house. Rather, they were the children of imprisoned MOVE members who could do nothing to prevent John Africa from carrying out his "suicide by cop" action, even if they still had the mental capacity to do so.
So why is it that people would find it necessary to take up for a group like MOVE? For me, it began with the belief that MOVE had been victimized by the authorities. I did not believe that MOVE was a cult and I saw the "MOVE 9" (MOVE members in jail for the killing of a police officer) as political prisoners. I was largely innocent to the arguments against these claims and against MOVE and wrote off anyone who dared to challenge this view of peaceful and righteous MOVE members as "racist" or worse.
So now, armed with the fortune of hindsight I think that I am in a good position to try and educate people about what it is that MOVE is really about, what they really stand for, and to help people decide if this is a group worthy of support or contempt.
A fair place to start is to explore some of the arguments that people have given to me as to why they support MOVE and what my response has been.
"The MOVE 9 are ‘political prisoners’ who were framed by the police after a botched police assault that left one officer dead, a victim of ‘friendly fire.’ Even if MOVE members did have guns in the basement of the house it would have been ‘physically impossible’ for them to have shot James Ramp. How can 9 people be convicted of murder when there was one bullet that killed one person?"
Essentially, a political prisoner is anyone held in prison, /wiki/Prisonor otherwise detained, because their ideas or image either challenge or pose a real or potential threat to the state. In many cases, a facade of legality is used to disguise the fact that someone is a political prisoner. Trumped-up criminal charges may have been used to imprison the political prisoner, or he or she may have been denied bail unfairly, denied parole when it would reasonably have been given to another prisoner, or special powers may be invoked by the judiciary.
Based upon this definition, the surviving eight members of the so-called MOVE 9 should not be considered political prisoners, as it is quite clear that they were guilty of the killing of James Ramp. As well, their prosecution and subsequent convictions were not motivated by politics, but by a desire to do justice.
The MOVE 9 were convicted and sentenced to 30 to100 year jail sentences in 1981 for the murder of police officer James Ramp and for the attempted murder of seven other police officers and firefighters during a MOVE instigated 1978 shoot-out in Powelton Village in West Philadelphia. Roughly a dozen police and firemen suffered bullet wounds, an unlikely scenario for "friendly fire," as well as being more then merely one bullet in question.
The trial of the nine MOVE members lasted 19 weeks and cost the taxpayers of Philadelphia in excess of $400,000, reportedly the longest and costliest in Philadelphia history.
At sentencing, Judge Malmed said that he found the notion of rehabilitation for MOVE members to be " absurd" and that each must share equally the guilt for the killing and attempted murders.
Despite MOVE members and their supporters claims to the contrary, the case against the MOVE 9 could not have been clearer.
MOVE started the confrontation that ended with the death of Ramp and the maiming of other officers and firefighters when they denied entrance to a city health inspection and threw an eight-foot barricade around the house, covered its windows with slats and equipped its walls with floodlights and bullhorns. A half-dozen members also staged a show of force there, brandishing rifles and handguns one spring day in 1977.
In 1978, the City of Philadelphia finally surrounded the place with 675 police and erected a blockade in an effort to force MOVE to leave their home without bloodshed. The police officers were met with threats of violence.
"You better call home and make sure your insurance policy is paid up," one MOVE member chillingly said over their battery powered loudspeaker.
Prosecutors, citing eyewitness testimony and videos, contended during the trial that MOVE members fired first at officers who had surrounded the MOVE house and were attempting to tear down the barricades that MOVE had erected . The defense presented a smaller number of rebuttal witnesses, including a handful of journalists, who said the first shots seemed to come from outside the compound, although the witnesses disagreed about precisely where.
Probably the most damaging prosecution testimony came from a police ballistics expert, civilian Anthony L. Paul, who said that tests showed that a semiautomatic, clip-loading rifle found inside the MOVE house was the weapon used to shoot Ramp and two other officers. That weapon, a .223 Ruger, had been observed in the possession of at least one MOVE member in the basement that day. Police and firefighters also testified that they saw all five male defendants with guns shortly before the shooting.
Prosecutors also said a "palm print" on a federal firearms purchase form demonstrated that the rifle, as well as two others, had been bought by MOVE member William Phillips, known to members and supporters of the group as Phil Africa, before the shoot-out with police. In all, police seized 11 rifles and handguns from the compound and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
For its part, MOVE claimed it had fired no shots at all that day. And if shots were fired, the defense lawyers pointed to the testimony suggesting that police had fired first - and said MOVE had only shot back in self-defense. Now it is claimed by MOVE that neither the police nor MOVE shot first, they claim rather that the first shot came from the upstairs window of a house half a block away on Bering Street. This claim is countered by the statements of MOVE’s own children who, at the time, told authorities that MOVE had fired the first shots because, in their words, the "cops wouldn’t."
MOVE has also long contended that James Ramp was killed not by a member of MOVE, but was instead killed by "friendly fire." To support this contention, they cite a very preliminary ballistics report that Ramp was shot in the "base of the neck, with the bullet traveling downward." According to MOVE, it would have been physically impossible for MOVE members in the basement of their home in Powelton Village to have shot Ramp.
In reality Ramp was felled by a bullet from MOVE after he had ran to aid another officer who had, himself, just been hit by gunfire from MOVE members firing from the basement. It was proven, quite conclusively, in court that the bullets trajectory that killed Ramp could have only come from one location...the basement where MOVE members were shooting.
MOVE members made the claim that the destruction of the house immediately after the confrontation violated their right to a fair trial and was nothing but an attempt to destroy the evidence that would exonerate them. Prosecutors countered that the plan to bulldoze the house was in fact in place before the shootout and was done to keep MOVE members not involved in the confrontation from entering the still fortified home to continue the assault against the police. According to Judge Malmed, the city "understandably had no wish to permit the site to re-emerge in the fashion of the Hydra or the Phoenix" and ruled against MOVE’s motion for dismissal on these grounds, as has every appellate court since. Unless MOVE members win in their appeals, none will be available for parole until 2008
"There is nothing wrong with female MOVE members as young as twelve being married off and impregnated. This happens frequently in society and in the past such couplings were the norm."
You might call the above statement, the "shit happens" argument, because it essentially strips guilty parties of responsibility and makes what is criminal seem natural. Of course there is a nugget of truth in it, there are plenty of children having children in this world. And, yes, back when our life expectancy didn’t reach too far beyond thirty, it was customary for the very young to wed and bear children. What is, however, disturbing about the above statement is the fact that it is being floated by people who ought to know better.
One person recently posted the following on an Independent Media Center website: "When I exposed the lame cult architecture of the Move organization, you should have seen how quickly the anarcho-feminist males at this site defended the slavery imposed upon Move's female members." Unfortunately, it appears that a certain segment of the "left" has deemed the forced rape of children an acceptable cause and worthy of a defense.
What these advocates of forced penetration of illiterate children fail to realize is that nothing in MOVE happens by accident. The impregnation of these children is, in fact, a matter of policy and not of chance. It is a violent mechanism of control designed to keep these young girls completely dependant upon the group and ostracized from society. For these unfortunate victims, there is no notion of "choice," or family planning, or a chance to deviate from their expected role of baby maker. For them, they can only do as they are told. There is no possibility of a career, of college, of a life outside of the group, nothing. Few, if any, are allowed to learn to read and write above a first or second grade level, which they have only begun to even receive in the most recent years.
The only education they are allowed to have is in the ways of John Africa. Their children are treated as if they are the property of MOVE’s leaders. It is, in fact, a state of slavery. One that is being practiced in modern day America and is being defended by people who make claim to be "progressive" including, a living deity of the modern fringe, left, Mumia Abu-Jamal
Long-time MOVE supporter and John Africa adherent, Mumia Abu-Jamal recently penned an article from death row decrying the abuse of women at the hands of religious fundamentalists. As mind-numbingly stunning as Jamal’s hypocrisy is, I cannot be surprised by it. As Orwell was fond of saying "that which is right in front of your nose is often the most difficult to see."
A bit of advice to Mr.Jamal: In general, its highly unwise to critique the crimes of religious crackpots when you are way out of your league on issues of moral equivalence. It could also be considered detrimental to your cause to remind people of the rights of women when you claim allegiance to a group which deprives its young girls of the most fundamental of rights, and visits upon them a form of patriarchical violence far more vulgar than MOVE members frequent uses of profanity.
To be sure, chief Jamal advocate, cheerleader, and fundraiser Pam Africa not only endorses this MOVE practice of child-rape, but she has quite willingly given over her two young daughters to serve as examples. One of her daughters gave birth at 12, the other was not much older. I find it hard to believe that Jamal is ignorant of these facts, given the close relationship he has with Pam Africa and other MOVE members.
For those who would doubt my assertions, I have only to ask that you query MOVE directly about the nature of my claims. You can reach Ramona Africa via e-mail at email@example.com. You can also reach MOVE "headquarters" at 215.387.4107. I challenge people to ask MOVE’s leaders directly about why MOVE forces its young, semi-literate children, to become impregnated by grown men.
"The MOVE Organization is a revolutionary group, one that is at constant war with "the system."
MOVE would go further than even that. According to MOVE’s "Guidelines," the group is "the most powerful organization in the world." MOVE’s teachings are riddled with such bellicose pronouncements and delusions of extreme grandeur. Everywhere throughout John Africa’s teachings, there is talk of MOVE being the "vanguard of the revolution," MOVE being the "example" for all others to follow. John Africa is declared to be the solver of all the world’s "problems". The sum total of the "Guidelines" is that John Africa is God, that MOVE members are the chosen ones and that they have a divine mandate to carry out whatever terrible tasks that they feel need be done.
Again, according to Menken "any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to the rest of us."
It is this belief that they are god’s chosen ones that makes MOVE dangerous. For when an extreme sense of exceptionalism is wedded to a violently anti-human ideology, the only result can be what we have already seen of MOVE throughout its history. MOVE, an Organization allegedly born of a desire to preserve life, has been surrounded by death and misery.
And is MOVE at war with the "system?" To answer that, you would first have to adequately describe MOVE’s concept of what the system is. For MOVE, if you are reading this you are a part of the "system". In the eyes of John Africa and his heirs, the ideas of Bakunin and Marx are as vile and worthless as are those of George Bush. According to MOVE, anything that is not of MOVE, is of the system and is in fact evil.
f MOVE ever had their way (and thankfully they never will), mankind would be forced by the barrel of a gun into a forced state of devolution. Much in the way that Pol-Pot forcibly evacuated cities in order to fulfill his dream of an a agrarian utopia, MOVE would take things a step further by forcing mankind back in time to a time before agriculture, before language, before history. It is of course an unrealizable and silly vision of the world that MOVE members espouse, but that does not make it any less genocidal and does not make MOVE members any less responsible for their authoritarian agenda.
"MOVE keeps changing its story regarding John Gilbride because the known facts keep changing. John Gilbride was a provocateur and if he was killed it was at the hands of the government."
For those of you who don’t know, John Gilbride was, at one time, married to Alberta Africa, the leader of MOVE and the widow of MOVE founder John Africa. On Sept 27th, 2002, John was found dead in his car, the victim of a shooting. This murder happened only seventeen days after John recounted in court how his life had been threatened by MOVE, and just hours before he was to have an unsupervised visit with his son. Alberta Africa swore that this visit would never happen. In her own words she would say "John knows that my belief would never allow me to just hand him over my son like that."
John’s murder was the last act in a vicious and merciless war waged against him by MOVE members and close supporters. It was alleged by MOVE that John was a deadbeat and an abuser. They alleged that if left alone with his son, the child would be in great peril. Those of us who were close to MOVE, unfortunately, believed this lie and acted accordingly.
MOVE had us MOVE supporters (myself included) dress up with fake press passes to try and interrogate John’s family. A demonstration was set up against the Gilbrides accusing them of being child molesters. And MOVE even attempted to get John fired from his job by telling his supervisors at US Airways that John was part of a terrorist group.
It was a campaign of a hatred and viciousness that could have been ripped from a COINTELPRO, how-to manual, but it failed. John wouldn’t give into MOVE’s demands that he not see his son. And in Sept of 2002, John paid the ultimate price for standing up to MOVE. It is a murder that remains unsolved, although media reports have indicated that Alberta Africa is a person that is considered a suspect.
MOVE, for its part, has floated a number of theories as to what happened to John. The most recent allegation involved sending out a letter attacking John’s father and accusing him of murdering his own son.
The theory that has garnered MOVE the most attention, however, is their assertion that John was killed by the government. To believe this, you must first believe that John must have presented a clear and present danger to the well being of the republic. You would have to believe that in the government’s zeal to persecute MOVE that they would kill someone who is no longer with the group, who is in a bitter custody dispute with the leader of the said group, and who clearly had contempt and scorn for the stated mission of the group.
Of course, this makes no sense, but it gets worse. In explaining this theory to the media and to
MOVE supporters, Alberta Africa alleges that John was killed to "hurt" her. As if this assertion was not mind-numbingly narccisisitc enough, she goes onto say that she and John were on the verge of reconciliation. Keep in mind, as these words were coming from her mouth, she was sitting in a house that was boarded up for battle and there was no evidence that John wanted anything to do with her or MOVE.
On the contrary, it was made quite clear by John Gilbride that he wanted only to be able to see his son. This reconciliation concept was as contrived as were her tears that were shed for the sake of the media.
The other half of the "government hit" theory is that John was killed so that MOVE members could be framed for murder, that a set of events would be put into place that would lead to another May 13th.
Yet, what I have gleamed from eight years of experience with MOVE, is that the only entity on earth capable of creating another May 13th is, in fact, MOVE. It is MOVE who chose to handle a custody dispute by boarding up its house and preparing themselves for war. It is MOVE, who turned a situation between two parties into an international affair because they did not want to restrict their vanity or egos. Furthermore, if the government wanted to create another May 13th by killing John, they are a little slow in getting around to it. If history provides any precedent, the only way that another confrontation will start is if MOVE wants to start one.
I vividly recall as a MOVE supporter, tearing up boards that were being placed as slats over windows at MOVE headquarters, thinking to myself how MOVE said that my activism on their behalf was structured to prevent another May 13th; yet, here I was assisting them in paving the way for another disaster, a disaster that was to be born from the womb of insidious cynicism, arrogance, and a complete disconnection from reality. I no longer wanted to be a part of it, the same as John no longer wanted to be a part of it.
No, John was not killed by government "special forces" as a means to get at MOVE. John was murdered for the crime of wanting to see his son and not backing down from his justified position. He was killed because MOVE had painted themselves into a corner through their rhetoric and actions. They said that they would not allow for John to see his son, and quite obviously, they meant it.
Now, of course, MOVE has presented other conspiracy theories as to what happened to John, the only common thread between all of which is that they deflect blame from MOVE onto something else. Whether it be a "mystery woman" or a MOVE invented gambling problem, it is all fiction. It is a deceitful enterprise that is designed to obstruct justice and muddy the waters of reality enough so that people will lose sight of the fact that the only people who had anything substantive to gain from John’s death were MOVE members and their closest supporters.
"Government persecution led to the May 13th, 1985, bombing of MOVE headquarters. The attack was part of a COINTELPRO type operation waged against MOVE members, who were a threat to the power structure."
In examining the MOVE confrontation one discovers that , there is slim evidence of a plan - a realistic one - at all on the part of the Police and other authorities to deal with the confrontational, armed MOVE members. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"The elements: an army of police spraying 8,500 rounds into a heavily fortified rowhouse; a police commander, Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor, who has accused city officials of "sitting on their posteriors" during the building storm; a decision to drop a powerful bomb - neither the weight nor contents of which police officials say they knew. Those explosive elements combined - and were compounded by the bombing - to settle a problem that Philadelphia had tangled with, and that had claimed the life of Police Officer James Ramp, in 1978.
Experience provided little guidance this time around. What began as an effort to uphold the law was, by the end of the day, an exercise in frustration, a police operation run amok.
There is an unsettling scenario emerging as the MOVE post-mortem unfolds. It is a portrait of a city administration that tried desperately - and for crucial months - to keep its political distance from a no-win MOVE confrontation. Then, forced to act, it dumped the task in the once-burned lap of the Police Department. That set the stage for a mission that unraveled into chaos, improvisation and a raging unchallenged conflagration."
As one might expect, the historical revisionism as offered by the professional fabricators of MOVE does not mesh well with reality.
To hear MOVE members and their close supporters tell the tale of May 13th 1985, one might believe that the only choice MOVE had was to re-enact the Alamo in a Philadelphia neighborhood.
The fact remains, however, that it was MOVE who initiated the confrontation with authorities. It was MOVE members who, under the orders of John Africa, fortified their row-home and begin a relentless campaign of harassment of neighbors (which included physical violence) and threats against government officials.
It was MOVE members who brought in the children of imprisoned MOVE members to use as human shields as the crisis progressed. It was Ramona Africa who sent a letter to the mayor’s office threatening his life in a flagrant attempt to incite the government to act. It was MOVE members who created the conditions for violence and destruction and than who complained when they were successful at bringing death to their own doorstep.
Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell summarized the MOVE confrontation perfectly when he said "adult MOVE members effectively murdered their children and than killed themselves."
MOVE members could have released the children before the confrontation began, they had plenty of chances to do so before they began shooting at police officers. MOVE members acted with unparalleled recklessness and a cruel disregard for the lives of innocent children, but they did not act out of character. MOVE’s ideology is fundamentally anti-life and their history is one of needless suffering and death.
Strip MOVE’s revisionist retelling of history bare and one finds a naked and indefensible parade of lies. Unshrowd it’s ideology and one observes a contemptible and confusing orthodoxy that instead of celebrating human life, cheapens it. Confront MOVE’s leaders and you will find yourself at the recieving end of crudely constructed, but no less believable, threats of violence. Demand that MOVE acknowledge your right to be a parent to your son, like John Gilbride did and you will find out that those threats were not empty words.
For more on my involvement with MOVE and the fate of John Gilbride please see the following articles. If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org