(Picture of MOVE member "Mo" Africa boarding up MOVE headquarters prior to the murder of John Gilbride)"Fuck you Judge! Fuck You!
You have just sentenced yourself to die. You have condemned yourself and sentenced yourself to death. Long Live John Africa
-Mumia Abu-Jamal to Judge Sabo after being sentenced to death
The recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer
reporting that film-maker Tigre Hill had been threatened by supporters of Mumia can hardly be called surprising. Hill has apparently done something that has stoked the ire of Jamal supporters. Precisely what is hard to know, but for MOVE and their supporters, threatening people is old hat.
For if MOVE has been consistent with anything it has been their threats and the disturbing fact that they occasionally make good on such threats.
As for myself, I believe MOVE to be enough of a threat that I left the Philadelphia area and now must keep my current place of residence a closely guarded secret for fear that one day one of those MOVE devotees who assured me that I would "go down" decided to come and make good on their crude prophecy.
In preparation for this piece I quickly realized that if I were to go through every documented threat MOVE members/supporters have made over the years that I would be sitting at this computer for the next couple of weeks, so I will try to keep this concise enough while still making my point through the words of MOVE members themselves.
One could say that MOVE’s history of threats started with the inception of MOVE, back in the early 1970's. The co-op members where John Africa and his protégée and MOVE co-founder Donald Glassey resided at the time found themselves on the receiving end of some pretty heated verbal bombast and physical threats. Something that left these "progressives" un-nerved emotionally and ill-equipped to deal with. In what would become a pattern, these residents capitulated to MOVE’s commands.
From that point things went downhill. MOVE’s presence in liberal Powleton Village became more a nuisance and anyone who voiced complaints about the group was not treated with kid gloves. Many instances of threats of violence occurred and a number of neighbors were roughed up by MOVE members, bringing one radical periodical of the time to brand MOVE as a fascist entity.
From conflict with neighbors there began conflict with the police which led to the 1978 "confrontation" in which Officer James Ramp was killed and several other police officers and firemen were wounded. Prior to the shootout MOVE had this to amongst many other messages for the police:
"Come on in. You’ve been wanting to come in. But call home and make sure your insurance policy is paid up"
A chilling statement considering not long after it was made Officer Ramp was shot dead.
Another disturbing threat was made by long-time MOVE member Alphonso (Mo) Africa at the closing arguments of his trial where he was being accused of making, you guessed it, "terroristic threats" against a police officer. During closing arguments the scary MOVE adherent made the point that enemies of MOVE had:
"suffered heart attacks or a bullet in the head"
At his preliminary hearing Alphonso is reported to have said:
"Beat me, be prepared to die. If I don’t get you...MOVE Underground will kill you"
It should surprise nobody that Mr. Africa was found guilty.
After the conflict in Powelton, MOVE headquarters was relocated to the quiet, working class, Osage Avenue that would in 1985 go up in flames. But before the literal flames of hell swept across the tightly packed row-homes, the residents of this neighborhood were forced to endure another kind of MOVE torture. Of which there are countless examples and I would advise anyone interested in the subject to read "Burning Down The House", which in great detail chronicles the misery MOVE inflicted on it’s neighbors.
Just one quick example.
-MOVE neighbor Butch Marshall was jumped after being threatened by MOVE members. After being attacked by a male MOVE member he was pounced upon by three MOVE women and when taken to the hospital it was discovered that he had bite marks on his face, back, and in the groin area.
MOVE’s beleaguered neighbors begged for relief from the city, but received nothing but empty rhetoric and un-fulfilled promises.
It seems that nobody knew what to do with the group that had quite literally taken over a block, barricade it’s home, and blasted profane invective and threats at all hours of the night and day. This occurring all while the home was frequently inhabited by a large number of children.
Eventually, after two years of this going on the city could no longer ignore MOVE. Charges were filed against several MOVE members in the house and arrest warrants had to be served.
John Africa was finally getting what he wanted, a confrontation with authorities. In a letter authored by Ramona Africa to Mayor Wilson Goode, MOVE promised that:
"The raid will not be swift, and it will not be clean. It’s gone to be a mess...We going to burn them with smoke, gas, fire, and bullets...We will burn this house down and burn you up with us"
Prior to the raid, MOVE was especially vocal over their loudspeaker, which the police had the presence of mind to record. Some of the excerpts I include here. The speakers vary and I am not clear on the exact time-line, but all of what follows is MOVE uncensored.
"John Africa gonna kill this motherfucker. John Africa gonna put this city in the ground and it’s goddamn administrator, including you, Nigger Willie (MOVE’s term for Mayor Goode)...We gonna drop you motherfuckers and let you swim in your own motherfuckin blood...We ain’t got a motherfucking thing to lose, come and get us. Remember we killed Ramp...We got something for you motherfuckers...all you motherfuckin faggots."
MOVE members would go on like this for hours ad-nauseam. The peace loving and life loving MOVE Organization. The words. The reality. The words that eventually turn into bullets fired at police who were lucky enough to avoid being killed or wounded, although some were struck by rounds in their bulletproof vests.
The six children that MOVE members were holding hostages that day were not so lucky as they lost their lives in the MOVE inspired conflict. As did five MOVE adults who were the protagonists in this terrible drama that unfolded in 1985.
Through the years, MOVE members came out of prison and the group would re-surface, this time as the chief supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The MOVE members brought with them to this new movement their penchant for threats. Numerous journalists have been on the receiving end of MOVE’s threats as they have attempted to cover Jamal’s case and the ensuing movement to free him. The incident with Tigre Hill is just the most recent example of attempts at intimidation.
I would be remiss not to mention John Gilbride. He was threatened numerous times according to court documents. He was told by MOVE members that "my attitude towards my wife was going to cause a situation that would involve my death". He was also told and MOVE stated publicly that they would "never" turn his son over to him for visitation as the court had ordered. And just seventeen days before his death, John was in court testifying that a MOVE supporter named Mario (Hardy) Africa had threatened to kill him.
Finally, with regards to the issue of threats I can honestly say that I spent a good eight years around MOVE and supporting Mumia. I had many a heated conversation with those who opposed what I was doing, but was never physically threatened by any member of law enforcement or anyone else for that matter.
It was only after leaving MOVE that I was finding myself being threatened by members of my former "family". It was only after leaving that knuckle draggers were posting on my blog that they were going to "kick my ass". And it was only after leaving MOVE that I found myself censored in many a forum by those who claim to be the advocates for, and biggest proponents of, free speech.