Saturday, May 24, 2008

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?


At 3:14 PM , Blogger Nas Dawud said...

To me whether the cases had anything to do with each other is irelevant.

It's the cops job to show restraint and follow procedure.

Yes they are underpaid and overwhelmed, but at the risk of sounding dismissive, they signed-up.

If it is too much then quit. If they pay isn't good enough then talk to the union.

But it always seem the understanding is expected from those who receive the beat downs.

At 4:39 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

I am of two minds about this and I hope that was reflected in this article.

Find someone to advocate police brutality and I will rake them over the coals and have no problem in doing so.

Gone are the days (for the most part) where cops can beat their way thru the ghettos with impunity.

In this one incident, four cops lost their jobs, a 15 year vet was demoted, 3 other cops were disciplined, and this was before any of them had so much as a hearing.

I am down for punishing out-of-control cops, but I am also skeptical about what seems to amount to a new kind of politically correct, quasi-vigilante, Sharpton esque "justice",

I am glad that there are those willing to go thru the brutal conditions and shitty pay so that I don't have to be so concerned that some violent thug is going to plough thru my door and try and commit atrocities.

And it is hardly a brave, nor moral, nor intellectually honest position to shit upon them relentlessly, while resting comfortably with the knowledge that 9-11 is a few keystrokes away from you on your cell-phone.

It is arrogant, solopistic, and naive. It is fine to look out for the underdog and a priority to guard the rights of the least of us, but let us not forget who it is that keeps a lid on our somewhat civil society.

At 5:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a retired PROUD member of the old Stakeout Unit now SWAT...walk in my shoes. Sure, things happen..but brutality..I do not believe it was in the hearts of these Officers when chasing the shooting suspects. I'm disappointed in the Commissioners decision regarding these Officers who were granted LESS rights than the criminals

JD, retired Stakeout Unit, 1985

At 12:04 PM , Blogger Nas Dawud said...


With most of your entries on this blog it quite hard to discern that you are of two minds on the situation (meaning police brutality in general not just Philly's most recent incident.

I'm also not sure what you mean by " new kind of politically correct, quasi-vigilante, Sharpton esque justice". Not to debate Sharpton but what justice and vigilante justice is he responsible for? Shaw nBell" Cops walked, despite all his antics, because Bells friends were "unsavory." Amads Dillao? No justice there?

I think part of the issue is those who are chosen to be police are not properly trained nor do many posses the proper disposition to be cops in the first place. An example; in Vermont a gentlemen was denied being a cop because he tested to high and the department felt he would find the job to "boring." Not to mention he had a college education. I would contend these are the very idividuals that should be officers. NOt the all to often undereducated and poorly disciplined folks that often wear the badge now.

"Gone are the days (for the most part) where cops can beat their way thru the ghettos with impunity." I would argue this is an understatment. Thos day are not gone. In fact with the Bell case and Philly's most recent debacle the issue deeps coming up. Then it plays out like a predictable movie. Cops say they were scared, white public understand, and people of color are asked to be reasoable.
Yet these type misunderstandings almost never happen in white communties. I have dealt with Police on many occasions and when by myself it has more then not been farily professiol, yet any time I have been with person of color it almost always a very tense encounter. Maybe I'm making the issue to personal but to me there are just to many similar stories for me to beleive it is the exception to the rule.
No doubt when one has to deal with the worst of any segment of society it is understanble that they can become quite cynical. But in my humble opionon it is those in power who MUST show the most restriant and reason, and bear more of the responsiblity.
Once your given a badge and a gun your responbilbity doubles.


"Sure, things happen..but brutality..I do not believe it was in the hearts of these Officers when chasing the shooting suspects"
This is the very dismissive attitude that concerns me. In the Philly case were the "suspects" indeed involved in a shooting? ALl information I have on the case says no, and futher more they were all unarmed.
If I'm on the receiving end of the kicks and punches I don't care what's in the persons heart but I think it quite naive and presumptious to judge their hearts either way by just watching a video. Thier actions spoke volumes.
I know a cop had recently been murdered. But am I to understand when a cop is harmed or murdered the public must now stand back and allow them to meet out justice? No, this would seem to be the very situation in which cops should indeed check themselves. Are we saying a cops life is worth more then a cilvilians?

I do not mean to belabour the point but I do think dialouge on this issue is quite necessary.

At 6:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

They, suspects, fled the scene of a reported shooting. Why? Why not stop when ordered by the Officers. Did the Officers KNOW the subjects were not armed? When the Officers approached the vehicle, did the subjects relent or did they resist?
Do you believe the Commissioners actions in firing several Officers BEFORE an investigation was complete was justified and fair?

As for me, I would not Monday morning quarterback until ALL the facts were investigated inspite of what the video shows


At 7:46 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

Unlike pro-Mumia websites or pro-MOVE websites I pride myself on allowing for a free exchange of ideas.

I think that my article and subsequent comment are clear enough and do not need further elaboration.

I will say this however. There are plenty of websites to trash the police on. The focus of this site is deal with MOVE and Mumia specifically.

To pluck a couple of my opinions regarding police out of an article
how MOVE and their supporters have constructed myths out of alleged police miscondcut and focus on them instead of the larger issue I think only provides a distraction from the real issue at hand.

I will personally be much more amiable to discussions about which this website is dedicated to than to play mental masturbation games over largely subjective issues.

Furthermore, this website is also a rallying point of sorts for those who have, for whatever reason, had the misfortune of being in MOVE's orbit and I don't appreciate cheap, pot-shots, being taken at people who have already gone thru enough at the hands of MOVE's supporters.

I think this "discussion" is more reflective of just how "brave" people can pretend to be while denouncing some amorphous "system", or their agents, while not finding anything within themselves to speak out concerning MOVE.

The commenter, "Nas Dawud", like myself is or was supportive of MOVE and people should take that into consideration when reading his comments.

At 12:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading the above comment N.D....what are your comments regarding MOVE...the convicted 9 of 78 and the affirmed convicted murderer and MOVE supporter. Mumia Abu Jamal? Just the FACTS and no speculation or inuendo.


At 12:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is N.D. a current Move supporter or has he seen the light and escaped them?

If he has left them he seems to still have some of their ideas in his head. I know it is sometimes hard to break from their brainwashing. I commend Tony for being able to thank for himself and make his decisions based on facts and reality.

At 10:36 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

I am not going to presume anything about N.D. and hope that he returns to this site to answer for himself the questions that have been raised.

What I do know of the man is that he held the views he is expressing here before being a MOVE supporter. Certainly one can have strong feelings about the police without being a part of MOVE.

Also, and to his credit, he never gave himself over to MOVE in the way that many of us who supported the group did. When I knew him he did not live his life for MOVE or allow himself to be controlled by the group.

When I was with MOVE, I considered him to be like a brother to me. And though we obviously maintain very different views on things, I credit him for taking the time to read my work and offer his views.

At 10:56 AM , Blogger Nas Dawud said...

First of all I do not beleive i took pot shots at anybody. I beleive I brought up legitimate questions in a fair and reasonable manner. The piece was opened with personal antecdotes about positive encounters iwth police officers which led me to beleive it was a bit of an open conversation about polcie conduct. I understand it was not.

Consequently this is the second time my character has been assisnated on this blog due to legitimate questions I brought up.

The condescending attitude displayed by the host and commentators on this blog seem to belie the stated openess to reasonable dialouge. "Tony" is quite aware of the fact that I have put together demonstrations and publicy made my concerns with police brutality known. To intimate that comments my were "mental masturbation" and some how cowardly was quite disappointing.

As "Tony" stated I never have given myself completley over to MOVE or any organization, party, Union, or other entity for that matter. So I never been "brain washed" or compelled to "see the light." I'm my own man and need no vallidation outside of myself.

If any commentor want to ask me a question, then do so, no need to ask "Tony." I speak and read englsih, so you can ask me yourself.

Yes, I still suport Mumia receiving a new trial. I beleive the prosecutor(s)and the Judge handled many of the issues involed in a poor manner. I also beleive that Mumia made numerous mistakes, but when discerning whether a new trial should be granted to anyone, such a reading normally has more to do with the conduct of judicary then with the defenses.

As far a MOVE. Again as has been noted I have always been at arms length in my support. In fact I was often chided behind my back for not being dedicated enough. Probably still that way. So what. I do Yes, I have some issues with MOVE's positions, most notably their stance on homosexuals and the young age many of the girls are married off and conceive children. But I will also say that MOVE members and supporters have generally been quite good to me and I never felt pressured to give more then I chose to. It was my experience that those who gave themselves over as it were did so on their own valition.
That said I respect MOVE's right to live as they wish, and Tony's, as well as others, right to be critical.

Since it was deemed necessary to take into condsideration my past affliations in reading my comments I would be quite remiss in not pointing out that MOVE was not the first cult "Tony" was involved in. So please bear that in mind when considering his comments.

Nas Dawud

At 12:19 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

Obviously, there is more going on here between ND and I than just a difference of opinion.

We have a history together, which to be frank, for the most part is nobody's buisness, other than the obvious fact that it is seemingly making an otherwise difference of opinion a personal matter.

He and I both share strong opinions and after re-reading my response to his initial comment, I realize I came off too harshly and made un-warranted personal attacks. It shouldn't have been done and that is the bottom line.

Also, anyone who knows me knows that I hardly hold myself up as a paradigm of human perfection, for if I did doing a blog about MOVE is not really the best way to show how together I have it.

That said, I hope that people will judge me off of what I am doing now and not how I screwed up in my youth as I am first to admit the follies of my youth and certainly my involvement with MOVE.

I do respect what ND has to say, despite the places where we may disagree and I hope that we can treat each other, all of us, with a degree of dignity.

I realize that people who have been supportive of Mumia and MOVE have come on this site and behaved horribly, but that is not what ND is doing and that needs to be recognized.

I think it ok to call bullshit on someone, but lets not call each other bullshit while doing it.

At 4:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to here what two intellectual men have to say. It is clear they both are passionate on their ideas.

I am glad Tony welcomes other comments and not everyone has to agree with him. I hope the dialogue between Tony and N.D. keep their dialogue going.

Well done to you both.

At 7:49 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

I like the term "intellectual man".

If at all possible, I think I am going to introduce myself as such from now on. Book hotels under that moniker, get tables at resturants, have myself introduced as such on radio shows etc..

Good stuff.


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