Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MOVE's Co-Founder

"They could come and kill me. They're raving lunatics,"
-MOVE co-founder, Donald Glassey commenting on the group after May 13th 1985

Once one abandons a set of beliefs, it is natural that you seek out others who have done the same. It is, at least in part, a way to validate yourself, as well as to appease curiosity, and for some, a means of attaching oneself to a new community, one that understands where you come from and vice versa.

If you are somebody who has left MOVE and are inclined to search others who have left the group the first name that pops into your head is Donald Glassey.

To be frank, without Glassey, there would be no MOVE Organization.

For it was he, with John Africa (who was than still known as Vincent Lephart) who formed MOVE around 1972. It was Glassey who became Africa’s first convert and it was Glassey who first put Africa’s message to paper, (the latter of the duo being effectively illiterate).

I must confess, that until I began to do some research for this particular article that I have had a sense of ambivalence concerning Glassey, a man whom I have never met. On the one hand, he and I share the commonality of once being under the influence of MOVE, while on the other I have to hold him accountable for his role in the genesis of a group that has wrought so much havoc on the lives of so many people.

I can now say that my antipathy towards Glassey has dissipated immensely as I have looked deeper into his motivations and his life and the things he has done and said to counter MOVE’s violence.

Like nearly everyone else who comes into MOVE’s orbit, Glassey entered with a great sense of empathy and desire to right wrongs and stand against injustice. According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer article written right after the May 13th calamity, that Glassey was interviewed for:

“Glassey said the dream was lost and the philosophy perverted by John Africa into a violent, vulgar movement that the gentle social worker with high ideals could neither understand nor support. He broke with MOVE and his former friend - "the so-called Mr. Africa," he says bitterly now - in 1977 and later turned government informant. At the 1981 federal weapons and conspiracy trial of John Africa and MOVE member Alphonso Robbins, Glassey was the main prosecution witness”

Now, it should be noted that Glassey’s departure from MOVE was at least partially self serving and it was not the better self of Glassey that I am speaking of. He had been arrested for federal gun violations and began working with the ATF, who was at the time attempting to put together a case against MOVE in general and John Africa in particular. Due to his cooperation, Glassey was able to avoid prison and received only two years probation.

Despite the assistance of Glassey, the Federal Government failed to make it’s case against John Africa and Alphonso Africa and the two were acquitted. Another former MOVE member who was set to testify against John Africa and his co-defendant, William Whitney Smith, who had not followed Glassey’s lead by going into the witness protection program was found dead under “suspicious circumstances” before he could testify. In a twist of irony, MOVE would blame Smith’s death on the government, just the same as they would many years later after John Gilbride was found dead. (For more information on the 1981 case against John Africa, visit my website under the John Africa section.)

Although it took an “intervention” of sorts on the part of the government to wrench Glassey from MOVE, he had begun to have doubts of his own long before he actually left the group. This is hardly a rarity in cult situations and I can attest from my own personal experience that sometimes it takes years of doubts to overwhelm the fear of leaving the group that you have grown so attached. According to Glassey, as MOVE grew, so to did John Africa’s authoritarian tendencies:

"People start getting power over people's lives," he said. "It feeds their egos. The more you get, the more you want. He wanted absolute control over everyone.”

Moreover, Glassey was not surprised back in 1985 when John Africa ended his life and dragged 10 of his followers with him, the conclusion of Africa’s “suicide by cop” confrontation with authorities. Again, according to Glassey, who had observed MOVE’s metamorphosis from a sect purportedly dedicated to protection of life to a terroristic cult:

"They're insane. They're out of touch with their senses," he said. "The strongest instinct is survival, and they were even out of touch with that.”

I, at first, wanted to speak with Glassey in preparation for this article. But as I have chosen my own path of healing the wounds of cult involvement, so to has Glassey. And at what he has done he has done successfully and he has done it without uttering a word publicly about MOVE for a very long time. This despite being deemed a “Judas” by MOVE and told by his former comrades that his life would be nothing without the cult that he helped to find. Mr. Glassey has done quite well for himself. So that all being the case, I think that he has told enough of his story, and deserves to live the rest of his life without being hounded by me or anyone else about MOVE.

As for MOVE, when the issue of Glassey or anyone else who leaves the group comes up, one gets nothing but an earful about “traitors” and “infiltrators” and on and on...But what nobody in MOVE can dispute is that Glassey and everyone else who has left MOVE in the past two decades has done far more with their lives above ground than their venerated leader, John Africa, has below ground. And that is something that nobody, not even MOVE’s most zealous followers can deny.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Herr Schiff Responds...(Sort of)

Michael Schiffmann recently penned a “response” to my “Guten Tagg Herr Schiff” posting from a couple of weeks ago. As for the delay, Schiffmann informed me that he had not responded to me

“because it came in during my Germany tour together with Linn Washington and pressing other needs”.

(For those of you who don’t know, Linn Washington is a long time Mumia apologist from Philadelphia).

As I read and reread the response a couple of times I was again struck by the idea that the “movement” to “Free Mumia” is one that is based in faith and faith alone. Quite literally, there is no one outside of the crackpot left who still believes in the myth of Mumia’s innocence.

One can consider the Mumia cause as a kind of junction between hope, ignorance, and political ideology. Most of the people who have encountered the movement have realized that it is a cause that has had it’s day and should be relegated to the graveyard of bad ideas. Others have come to the similar and equally true conclusion that the “Free Mumia” movement was, and is, nothing more than a way for the MOVE cult to secure funds and new members.

Yet, there are those like Schiffman, who still seek to profit from the murder of Officer Faulkner and seek to hoist Jamal aloft as some kind of hero, a victim of “the system”, and a “voice of the voiceless”.

In his “response”, Schiffman shiftily avoids dealing with the issue of MOVE entirely. He provides no explanation as to how he believes Officer Faulkner was killed, as if none is needed. And for Schiffman and those like him, none is needed. For he and his “fellow travelers” all that is needed to be known is that Mumia is a good leftist who has toted the party line faithfully and relatively successfully.

The masters of the Mumia propaganda machine proceed viciously from conclusion to premise with a shameful disregard for common sense or any respect for those who dare to question their validity or motivations. This mythology produced is presented as if it were primordial truths, unquestionable and unassailable.

Those like myself, who do dare to cast doubt upon the product of the rusting Mumia machine are shamelessly vilified and cast as evil characters in some kind of silly “us versus them” paradigm.

According to the reality as offered by Schiffman and company, if you believe Mumia is where he is because he put himself there through his own stupid actions, than you are in concert with the “most reactionary elements in official American politics”. And while this is ad-hominem in its most squalid fashion, it does serve a purpose, and that is to disqualify anything that I might say as the deluded rant of a born-again, Bushite, ready to push the needle of death into Mumia’s arm all by my little lonesome.

I am posting Schiffman’s response to my post for a number of reasons, the least of which is that he makes the point better than I can that he and the current crop of Mumia devotees have no sense of intellectual curiosity, no shame in blaming the victim, no legal grounds to stand on, and furthermore are so hysterical that they cannot recognize what everybody else already knows and that is that Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered Daniel Faulkner.

What is obvious is that Schiffman, and Dave Lindorff, whose book he apparently garnered most of his arguments from, are people with a political agenda. It is a radical and anti-American agenda and it is no coincidence that it is one that they share with Mumia Abu-Jamal.

As for the other side of the equation. Maureen Faulkner, the prosecutors, the witnesses in the case who saw what happened that night back in 1981, they wanted justice. Does Mr. Schiffman actually contend that Mrs. Faulkner would stand for a conspiracy to get Mumia just because of his politics, while the true killer of her husband got away? The same would go for Faulkner’s friends and colleagues who came upon the scene and saw a person they cared for blown to bits? Does Schiffman expect anyone to believe that Mumia’s own brother would not immediately finger the actual shooter or testify on behalf of his brother at his trial? What did Billy Cook say when police arrived on the scene? He said that he “ain’t got nothing to do with it”. He could have exonerated his brother on the spot. Why didn’t he? Because he knew his brother did it.

But what about Jamal himself? When he murdered Officer Faulkner, his life, personal and professional was in a tailspin. Here he was, a talented, bright, by all accounts compassionate human being relegated to driving a cab late at night in one of the murkiest corners of Philadelphia.

But he had come under the spell of MOVE and John Africa and just like so many others who have entered MOVE’s orbit, the end result was death and destruction. As one friend of Jamal put it at the time of the trial

I believe that Mumia saw MOVE as people who were family, who were totally loyal to him," said WDAS news reporter E. Steven Collins, a longtime friend of Abu-Jamal's. " They were capable of giving him the inner strength he needed for the ordeal."

Mumia had watched the MOVE members on trial for murdering police officer James Ramp. These men and women of MOVE who would daily stand up and heap scorn upon the “system” would become Jamal’s heroes. Where the Panthers had failed to live up to the expectations Mumia had placed upon them, here was MOVE, filling the void. Mumia would spend his spare time not with his family, but with his new friends in MOVE. I have an audio cassette made by Jamal just months before he murdered Faulkner. It is supposed to be an interview with incarcerated MOVE members, but in it, Jamal barely speaks, barely a question is asked. It is all MOVE and their vile rhetoric and it goes on ad nauseam.

So there he was, a head emptied of rationality replaced by MOVE’s convoluted version of reality and he sees his brother in an altercation with a police officer. So he follows in the footsteps of his MOVE heroes. He gets out of his cab, unholstered his weapon, and the rest as they say, is history.

And for me. I wish that I could say that Mumia was innocent. I wish that I could agree that he was framed and is in jail unjustly and that my years laboring on his behalf were not years of my life that were squandered. But I cannot say that. I cannot say that because I am a “cop” or on some kind of government payroll. I cannot say it because the facts and my conscience cannot allow me to.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the trial transcripts yourself and also read the ever evolving and ever outlandish defense theories. Also pay close attention to how the Mumia movement has been in a literal and rhetorical state of retreat and disembodiment ever since the small but persistent voices of reason have been heard over the mindless chants of the “Free Mumia” factions.

And by all means, read Schiffman’s desperate attempt to impeach my credibility and his nearly hilarious attempts to create imaginary issues for which he and his cohorts can attempt to mine some kind of rallying cry. Take for example this gem from Schiffman:

"Mr. Allen, Mr. Smerconsish, and all the others who claim this: Would you please stand up and name all those mythical cases that Mr. Antony Jackson won between 1978, when the death penalty was reintroduced in Pennsylvania, and 1981? Twenty murder cases in three years? While he was working full time as an attorney for a civil rights organisation devoted to the struggle against police brutality, which is why Mumia chose him? This is just preposterous. Once more, to arguments, you are just answering with rants and raves. With your new friends in high places now, again, Mr. Allen: Please produce the names and trial records of all the homicide/capital defendants that were defended and saved by Anthony Jackson!

The above is just pathetic to the point that I have grown from being mostly amused by Schiffman to actually pitying him.

I do not have to produce the “mythical cases”. Why? Because during the 1995 PCRA hearings Anthony Jackson himself provided the information as to his legal background. Rants and Raves indeed. Consider the following:

Q. How many murder cases had you tried, sir, prior to December, or I should say June the 2nd of 1982?
A. My best recollection is a minimum of 16, perhaps 20 cases, 20 murder cases before Mr. Jamal's case.
Q. And how many of those defendants were convicted of first degree murder? Just round numbers if you can. Percentages if you can.
A. A half dozen.
Q. So out of 20 murder cases, six people convicted of first degree murder. And ostensibly, those six people faced the judgment of life or death by a jury, I presume?
A. That is correct, sir. Let me correct it. This is tough. I think there may have been two, possibly three that were convicted of first degree on waivers, with the judge.
Q. Nevertheless, the two possible penalties for first degree conviction are only a life or a death sentence; is that correct?
A. That is correct, sir.
Q. Of those six people -- that was prior to Mr. Jamal's –
A. That is correct.
Page 93.
Anthony Jackson, Esq. - Cross
Q. -- none of those people received the death penalty, did they?
A. No, sir.
Q. Okay. And since you had had 20 murder trials, more or less, before Mr. Jamal was tried, where did you have time to squeeze all those in between the D.A.'s Office and the Police Department and the prison system and Pilcop?

A. I worked real hard. I did, I could try to tell you. 1975 was the year because I think I left the D.A.'s Office in January, maybe February of 1975. During that time again I was staff counsel for the Prison Master, it was not full-time. During that first year of being in private practice, I think I was appointed to three, maybe four criminal cases, criminal homicide cases. I was privately retained for one.
Q. Major cases, sir? And by that I mean every case is major if there's a murder involved?
A. Right.

At this point I think it is clear enough that Mr. Schiffmann has embarrassed himself and that is too bad for him. But from my view, the greater tragedy in all of this is all of the wasted time and energy that is devoted to Jamal by people like Schiffmann and so many others.

You can read his "response" for yourself at his website. Just follow the Mumia links and his response is at the bottom of the page

Saturday, March 11, 2006

James Sullivan, Scientology, And MOVE

The most recent edition of Rolling Stone Magazine features one of the most comprehensive articles on Scientology that I can recall seeing in some time.

While many people would be of the opinion that there is a wide gulf of difference between MOVE and Scientology, I would be quick to disagree. What I was quick to notice as I read the article was that if you stripped Scientologists of their veneer of slick corporatism and MOVE of it’s faux radicalism you are left with essentially the same totalitarian elements and methodology.
Take for example how Scientologists deal with former members who speak out:

"Scientology has been extremely effective at attacking its defectors, often destroying their credibility entirely, a policy that observers call "dead agenting." Some of the church's highest-profile critics say they have been on the receiving end of this policy. In the past six years, Tory Christman claims, the church has spread lies about her on the Internet, filed suit against her for violating an injunction for picketing on church property and attempted to get her fired from her job. Rinder dismisses Christman as a "wacko" and says her allegations are "absolute bullshit."
When Christman split from the church, her husband and most of her friends -- all of them Scientologists – refused to talk to her again. Apostates are not just discredited from the church; they are also excommunicated, isolated from their loved ones who, under Scientology rules, must sever or "disconnect" from them. Scientology defines those associated with Suppressive People as "Potential Trouble Sources," or PTS."

I would encourage anyone who is interested in MOVE or in combating the ills of authoritarian sects to check out this article and to also drop Rolling Stone a note of support. Scientologists are notoriously litigious and I am sure that as I write these words that some entity within the church is coming up with some way to attempt to punish the magazine for it’s efforts. And on a lighter note Comedy Central will be airing the South Park episode of Scientology, and it is also something I would say is worth seeing.

On a much more serious note, the millionaire, bastard, James Sullivan was found guilty on all charges. Court TV covered this trial from beginning to end and I had to say it was as riveting a real-life drama as one could be, with a bereaved and embattled family on one side and a cold and revolting killer on another. Thankfully, the good guys won out after nineteen years of the pursuit of justice.

In brief, James Sullivan, a frugal and unscrupulous millionaire had his soon to be ex-wife, Lita Sullivan, gunned down by an equally unscrupulous hit-man who had lured the woman to her front door posing as a flower delivery man.

Due in part to his large fortune and a largely circumstantial case, James Sullivan has managed to elude justice until now. But now, after nearly two decades of evading his just due, a jury of his peers has convicted him and he now faces execution, if that is the punishment the jury is to hand down.

I happen to be sitting at my computer with Court TV tuned into the background when I heard that a verdict had been reached and I quickly piped up to hear what the jury had decided. I had been following the trial with great interest as I noticed some interesting parallels between the murder of John Gilbride and Lita Sullivan.

As the foreman of the jury read the verdict the Court TV cameras were focused in on the parents of Lita Sullivan and they just broke down as the verdict was read, guilty, guilty, guilty. I chocked up myself with emotion as I observed two parents who had for so long struggled with dignity and passion to see that the murderer of their daughter would finally be brought to justice weep and hold one another.

This case, I think, shows just how far our justice system has come over the years.

There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago that no white man, especially a very wealthy white man, would ever be convicted for murdering a person of color. That was just the reality of our justice system. Today we learned that no criminal, no matter their race or the race of their victim, or the amount of money in their Swiss bank accounts, can escape from justice forever.

True it is, that our system of justice is, and will be forever, flawed, as those who authored it were, but we are moving in the right direction. And that is a fact that is unescapable.

So as I see James Sullivan led away in handcuffs to a prison cell that he will likely spend the rest of his life in, my thoughts turn to Alberta Africa, who sits smugly in her upper-middle class abode believing herself shielded by her money and the devotion of her misguided followers. Every night before she goes off to sleep in the house that she once shared with her murdered husband, I wonder if she is gripped by a moment of panic and worry that night may be her last night under a free sky. I wonder if the thought of the bullets her devotees slammed through the father of her only son, turn her dreams into nightmares and if pangs of guilt and hunger for repentance drive her further towards dementia and emotional fatigue. I wonder if the un-avenged apparition of John Gilbride makes visitations to her to torment her mind? And most importantly, I wonder when justice will come for Alberta. Perhaps it will take 19 years as in the case of Lita Sullivan, but justice will be done for John and for his son. I truly believe this, because despite all of MOVE’s best efforts, we who care about truth and what is right and against all that is wicked and cruel in this world will never forget John and what was done to him.
Till justice is done...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Few Words on A Few Things

Courage. More than once, I have received correspondence from those who consider my speaking out about my experiences with MOVE as repeated acts of courage. And while my sense of vanity raises up to embrace such praise, I think, that at the end of the day, it is praise that I am wholly unworthy of.

It is a plain fact that I would not be able to do what I do and say what I say without the medium through which I am currently expressing these thoughts. In other words, it is only the fact that the internet provides an even playing ground with some degree of anonymity and freedom that I am able to convey my message. Without this technology at my disposal, there is little likelihood that I would able to wage this campaign with any degree of safety or effectiveness.

So, no, I am not altogether that brave. I could go on ad nauseam about those whom I find to posses a superior physical and moral bravery to that of my own.

In the interest of context of time and to not be excessively long winded I will provide one example of someone that I believe exhibited true courage and bravery against the most daunting of odds.

John Gilbride.

I realize that I speak of John often and part of this redundancy has to do with my admiration for him, and secondly as a counter to MOVE’s attempts to erase the man’s life from and accomplishments from the planet. And I would have to add that if my mention of the name of John Gilbride makes you the slightest bit uncomfortable, than you had better be willing to re-examine your positions or at least be prepared to defend them.

For as it stands now. No MOVE spokesperson or “supporter” has dared uttered the man’s name willingly and I don’t think they will anytime soon. This abhorrent silence is telling and disturbing to me, but not surprising, given what I believe happened to Mr. Gilbride at the hands of his former comrades.

But enough on that for now.

One thing that seems to be of great interest to people who correspond with me is just what life “inside” MOVE was like. To me, however, what I find far more compelling is what life without MOVE is like. And ultimately, to me anyways, this is what is more important to me at this time.

It is no secret that those who leave highly demanding authoritarian sects must contend with a whole host of issues once their extrication is complete. I feel somewhat lucky in this regard, being that I never fully bought into MOVE’s ideology and spent a good deal of time educating myself about leaving such groups before I actually did so. This is a luxury that few who leave extremist cults often do not have and it is this utter lack of preparedness that leaves many who abandon groups like MOVE to wallow in the muck of despair and addictions and a whole host of other terrible consequences that trouble them for the rest of their lives. I, myself, would be remiss and dishonest to say that my own escape from MOVE has been problem free. But at the end of the day, or say the beginning, I suppose, I make the choice to survive and make that day better than the next in spite of adversity. And with running the risk of sounding overly self-congratulatory, it is a task that I believe I accomplish more often than not.

Another thing that has been on my mind of late, is the idea of what some might see as a moral disconnect that one may experience when leaving a tyrannical cult. There is a hypothesis and it is one that is not without merit, that once one is free from the austere atmosphere of rules, dictums, and control via fear, that one gets lost in the jungle of new found freedoms and descends quickly into a world of depravity.

Certainly this is the case for many people. I have corresponded with some of them and have read stories of many others whose lives in the post-cult world have been less than fruitful and where fear and loathing is the order of the day.

How does one avoid such pitfalls?

I have found my own way of doing so. I have a small, but dedicated circle of friends who understand where I come from, and who, if not exactly sure why I do what I do, support me nevertheless. Than there is my family. True family. Not a MOVE faux family whose allegiance to you exisists only when you allow yourself to be wholly subservient to them. That is not a family, that is a despotism, and a quick ticket to psychological destruction. True family will stick by you regardless of how dumb you are. Regardless of whether you waste a good portion of your life attempting to free clearly guilty people from jail while you put your own life on a back burner and live to serve the whims of leaders who claim to be servants. True family will be there for you. Your cult “family” will not. They will turn on you the moment the whiff of autonomy enters their nostrils. And they will not just turn on you, they will attempt to demonize you. One minute they are your “brothers and sisters” and the next they are branding you as a "racist", a "cop", an "infiltrator". No evidence is necessary and no proof is asked for. The leaders speak and the flock follows, repeating the charges with the zeal of any other type of vulgar mob infected with the curse of “group think”.

There are other ways of coping as well. Exploring new worlds. I have always been a reader. But I usually kept within me a a less than quiet contempt for works of fiction and the authors who made their livings off of what I considered to be mostly valueless tracts. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I have some new friends now. The are Dostoevsky, Dickens, Joyce, and Fitzgerald. They are very much friends with a great capacity for forgiveness. I can put them down on a whim and than sometime later on pick them up and they are by no means insulted. Embracing fictional works has allowed me perspective that I had not had so much of before. Here I sit, in the greatest nation that the earth has ever known, full belly, with no sense of chill in my bones and no real want for anything and yet I have the capacity to manufacture complaints at a moments notice. I live in a country that as I write these words, people are literally dying to come here for the countless opportunities that this nation provides. And I can sit here and bitch about my cable bill.

Perspective. Read any works by Dickens and you will learn perspective. “A Tale of Two Cities” is in part, a tale of my ancestors caught up in a post-feudal/pre-capitalist society that is inhabited by masses of people who are not so much alive, but are merely existing. Of course we have far to go, but in order to see where we have to go we must see from where we have come. Literature is an amazing tool to help you accomplish this, but more than that for me, I have found literature a source of moral force and constant inspiration.

Truthfully, I would much rather argue with anyone as to whether the specter of Hamlet’s father was an agent of good or evil, than to have to revisit the stupid and at this point, silly, “debate” about the guilt or innocence of a certain dread locked cop-killer who is slowly decaying in a Pennsylvania jail cell.

I know there are those of you who are reading this who are anxious to get a hold of John Africa’s “guidelines”. I know this because several readers of this blog have emailed me to let me know of this fact. And I do assure everyone, that, at some point, when time and technology intersect I will get all of the guidelines of John Africa that I have and make them available to the public. Something that MOVE will never do, something that MOVE cannot afford to do (and I don’t mean in a monetary sense).

But I do have to say, that if you combine all of John Africa’s mostly incoherent and contradictory aphorisms you do not reach the level of wisdom espoused in a recent book by author Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, a survivor of the Dresden firebombing of World War 2 and prolific author has declared that life is meant for “farting around”. I think he is right. In fact I know he is right. And that is what I am going to do right now. “Fart around”. But no worrys...I will be back...back on MOVE's ass...until justice is served.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Media Covers Reward For John's Murder

From The ABC News Affiliate Station in Philadelphia

CrimeFighters: Murder of John Gilbride

March 5, 2006 - It was September 27th 2002 when 34-year-old John Gilbride was ambushed outside his Maple Shade, New Jersey apartment.

He was shot to death inside his car, the doors wide open, the car still running. He had just finished his shift as a baggage handler at Philadelphia International Airport.

Gilbride was locked in a very bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, Alberta Africa, a member of the radical group MOVE. And he had just won court ordered time with his son.

Burlington County prosecutor Robert Bernardi says there is no evidence linking the custody fight or the MOVE organization to the murder. Nor is Gilbride's job or the gambling trips he took connected. Bernardi also rejects the conspiracy theory.

Right now authorities have no murder weapon, no eyewitness and very little in the way of forensics. That's why they are hoping a 20-thousand dollar reward will rejuvenate this cold case murder.

Copyright Action News, 2006. All Rights Reserved

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