MOVE Mythology And The Police
(Philadelphia Police beating suspects on video May 5th)
“There is a huge body of evidence to support the notion that me and the police were put on this earth to do extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with each other, except at official functions, when we all wear ties and drink heavily and whoop it up like the natural, good-humored wild boys that we know in our hearts that we are..These occasions are rare, but they happen — despite the forked tongue of fate that has put us forever on different paths”
-Hunter S. Thompson
I could never have been a cop. The pay sucks, the people you protect spit on you as often as they are grateful to you, there are laws that you may think are absurd that you must enforce anyways, and you hear more lies in a day than those of us “civilians” hear or tell in a lifetime.
It takes a certain type of person to become a Police Officer and I am not that person
When I worked in Philly, as a part of my job, I had to confront shoplifters. It was a dangerous thing to do and more than once I came home bruised and battered for my efforts. Although I tried my best to avoid physical contact with people who were obviously desperate addicts caught in the nightmare of stealing to support their habit, things did happen. The worst was when a crack-head came after one of my co-workers, screaming he had a knife, as he made jabbing motions towards us. Turning and running seemed to be a scarier prospect than standing and fighting, so we did the latter. A broken bottle over his head and my fist smashing into his face provided the distraction for my co-worker, an ex-Marine to come around the guy and a do a brilliant takedown of the guy and the fight was over.
Cops arrived moments later and as the adrenaline wore off and I noticed the throbbing in my finger and then the pain hit me. That was one of those things I won’t forget and neither will I forget how the people in the neighborhood were rooting for the crack-head. Our attacker was black and so was my co-worker, so I was puzzled and remained puzzled to this day why people were supporting someone who undoubtably was a blight upon their own community. Certainly, if he was stealing from our store, he would have no qualms about stealing from the neighbors who were cheering him on and cursed us when he went down. As it turned out, the thing he was jabbing towards us with wasn’t a knife, but a glass crack pipe, in the fracas however, it was impossible to tell, it really felt as if it were him or us. It is a situation that the Police in any city face on a daily basis and had we been cops and had been armed and shot the man who we thought was wielding a knife, we would have no doubt been considered “murderers” by many.
On that day, my respect for the difficulties the Police had to endure was raised considerably.
Another incident I can recall which brought the realities of a Police Officer’s job was yet another shoplifting incident gone violent. Confronted at the door, the guy made the choice not to run or give the merchandise back, but to throw a blow that thankfully missed. He was quickly wrestled to the ground and held there for what could have only been a few minutes, but seemed like an eternity. The Police arrived and I remember backing off and away from the scene of the incident when I heard a Sergeant, whom I sort of knew as he was dating one of my co-workers was screaming at the handcuffed man. In a crowded parking lot, and in a crowded area of the city, full of pedestrians, the irate cop very loudly something to the effect of “If my man gets sick because of you, I hunt you down and kill you in your mother’s kitchen”. This went on for a while and I am certain that to most people watching it was just another incidence of a white cop abusing another black suspect. What people did not know for the most part is that prior to being searched by a rookie cop, the man was asked if he had anything that “would poke or hurt” anyone who went through his pockets. The man was emphatic that he had nothing and as the young Officer stuck his hand in the pocket of the man’s pants, he was stuck by a needle that caused him to bleed. The man being arrested had apparently found his little trick amusing and laughed at the Police which led to the Sergeant to loose his cool.
Some months later, I ran into the rookie cop as he was coming out of our bathroom at work. I recognized him and quietly asked him how he was. A look of gloom took over his face as he went on to tell me that he had to be regularly tested for a host of diseases, the most scary of which was HIV. He finished by telling me that his new wife would “not touch” him since the incident, but was quick to tell me that so far all of the tests came back negative, but that he would have to be tested regularly for some time to come.
It was yet another reminder to me of the difficulties that cops face on a regular day.
I bring this up as the concept of brutal, Philadelphia Police, figures heavily into the pro-MOVE and pro-Mumia mythology. In MOVE’s case, it was the alleged killing of a six week old baby in 1976 which the cult claims was the catalyst for the August 8th 1978 confrontation (an incident that at least one former MOVE member denies was the cause of the child’s death). And as I am sure everybody knows now about the persistent falsehood of how Officer Faulkner was “brutally beating” Mumia’s brother when he was shot from behind by Jamal. And how corrupt officers were than instrumental in the “frame-up” of Mumia, which means the Police, the friends and co-workers of Officer Faulkner had sacrificed one of their own, knowingly allowing the real murderer to walk the streets in order to frame a perfectly innocent, un-employable journalist, turned cab-driver.
Any blank spots within the narrative are filled with tales of corrupt or murderous Police Officers. The theory currently in fashion with the Jamal supporters has a man named Kenneth Freeman as Faulkner’s murderer. He was apparently found dead of a drug overdose on May 13th 1985 and Jamal’s supporters claim, without one bit of proof, that it was the Police who did him in. This particular conspiracy theory has great value in that it provides the bridge between Jamal’s case and the purported “execution” of MOVE members.
I can recall yet another blank spot being filled in with yet another tale of brutal cops during an interview with Pam Africa. When asked about MOVE’s use of the bullhorn on Christmas on Osage Avenue, she mustered her bogus emotion and explained in her typical, manic, tone of how Mo Africa had been beaten by the Police and the bullhorn was the only means left to MOVE to air their grievances. She did not explain what MOVE’s neighbors had to do with this alleged beating. For MOVE, things like “proof” or coherence are often adversaries to their often overblown anecdotes.
Recently, Philadelphia Police were caught up in a maelstrom of controversy over the televised beating of suspects. The media reported on and showed the grim footage, but as far as I saw, omitted the fact that only days before yet another Philadelphia Police Officer had been killed in the line of duty. Arguably, the two events have nothing at all to do with one another. Maybe that is the case and maybe not.
But, one thing I know is that if I am in a situation I am not going to call MOVE to help. Are you?