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The Move Massacre 26 Years Later: Philly City Officials Killed Innocent Babies And Got Away With It

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The History


Former Philadelphia Police Chief and Mayor Frank Rizzo ordered City Police to storm the Move Compound in 1978, and Police stomped and kicked  Pregnant Female Move Members, causing them to lose their Babies.

To obtain a complete and thorough understanding of the May 13, 1985 Move Bombing in West Philadelphia, we must take a look at the History that the John Africa Idealist Group known as M.O.V.E has had with Philadelphia City Officials dating back to 1978. Move has been well known for it’s Revolutionary Extremism, calling for a society without Government or Police. The Group adopted a Back to Nature lifestyle which mirrors Rahstafarianism, with their signature dreadlocks and wayward physical attire. Citizens living in the Palerton Village section of the City saw Move Members as odd or eccentric, but barring their unorthodox culture, many say that Move posed no significant threat to the Community. Perhaps the Anti-Government  and disdain for City Officials that Move overtly projected through their literature was the foundation that sparked a long standing conflict with the City of Philadelphia during the Post Civil rights Era.  The Palerton Community was no stranger to Police Brutality under a Mobbed Up Frank Rizzo Police Department. History reveals a well known fact that Italian and African American Communities have never been exactly cordial in Philly for decades. Rizzo likened  Move to Radical 60’s Groups like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. Under Rizzo, the Police standard operation procedure can only be depicted by an infamous Rizzo quote, “Get there Black asses”.  The African American Community in Philly became increasingly weary of unprovoked acts of excessive force in Rizzotown. The culminating incident occurred when a Move Member was beaten nearly lifeless by City Police. The Police sought to eradicate the Move Headquarters and used City Health Inspectors to obtain a Court Order condemning the Move Building and calling it inhabitable. Move fought back by refusing to grant further inspections of the dwelling by City Health Officials igniting a 15 month standoff with now former Police Chief, and newly elected Mayor at the time, Frank Rizzo. During the standoff which sparked mass local Media attention, it should be pointed out that local Journalist were granted access to the Move Compound. Those who conducted Interviews inside reported observing a well kept interior of the Building, described Move Members as fitness fanatics, witness female members training via boxing, and said their diet was of a Vegan nature. None of this would stop Move’s greatest adversary (Rizzo) though. The Mayor went on an all out Public Assault on Move, holding Press Conferences vowing to raid the Move Compound and enforce  the Court Order. Mean while City Police issued Arrest Warrants for the 20 adult Move Members living in the house, citing their failure to comply with Health Codes, and a Court Order. Move cited the numerous well documented cases of Police Brutality that Move Members as well as other Citizens in the Palerton Community had endured over the years, and took up arms, vowing to fight any attempt to siege the Building until the death. Rizzo made it clear that Police would not relent and said, “We’re going to crack their Black necks”. Rizzo’s patience wore thin on the posturing by both sides, and gave the police Chief the Order to remove the Move Members from the Building. At 3:00 a.m. Police moved in barricading streets for several Blocks. At Sunrise, City police gave their last command ordering the Move Members out of the House, and when Move refused, a Bull Dozer began to tear down the fence that fortified the Building’s Grounds. A shot suddenly rang out, City Police opened fire on the Move Building. There are conflicting accounts about who allegedly fired the first shot, but most witnesses say the shot came in a direction opposite of the Move Building, and away from Police. Officials never determined where, or who fired a weapon causing Police to retaliate with deadly force. When the dust was all settled, a City Policeman lie dead on the ground, Police entered the Move Compound and dragged the Members out of the house, some completely nude ( an act some say meant to humiliate them), Female Move Members were kicked and stomped causing them to have miscarriages. Perhaps the most chilling and disturbing act by Police was the death of a 15 month old child who was trampled to death when Police began to enter the Building. Also, News Media broadcast Video Footage of three Philly Cops repeatedly beating and stomping a Move Member like a rag doll. The Cops were later identified, brought to trial for  Assault, but the presiding Judge dismissed the Jury in the Case and made his own ruling acquitting them. In contrast, 9 of the Move Members were tried and convicted of 3rd Degree Murder. To add insult to injury, City Police under Direct orders from Mayor Rizzo, arrived with Bulldozers and other Heavy Demolition Equipment, and leveled the Move Compound just a few hours after they had dragged Move out of the Building.  Though countless inquiries by Watchdog Advocacy Groups, Court Appeals, and constant Protest by Move, and Move Supporters kept pressure on Officials requesting that the case be reopened, the Move 9 remain in Prison 31 years later. No Police Officer has ever been tried for the 15 month old baby killed during the assault on the Move Compound, nor for the stillborn fetus killed after Police kicked their pregnant Mothers in the stomach in retaliation for the death of their fellow Police Officer.

The 1985 Conflict

Former Philadelphia Mayor, and first Black Elected to Philly’s top Seat, Dr. Wilson Goode Sr. ordered City Police to drop a Bomb on a Black Neighborhood killing 11 people (including 5 children), and allowed the Fire to burn until it was too late. The Fire destroyed 61 Homes on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia.

Less than a decade later the bad blood between City Officials and Move, who was only 7 years removed from the Palerton Incident, gained momentum again on the heals of Citizen Complaints, alleging poor sanitation, foul odors coming from Move’s new home on Osage Avenue, and obscene broadcast coming from speakers mounted on the roof top of the Building at all hours of the night. Move had exhausted their campaign to have the Palerton Conflict brought back into Mainstream Media, at a time when no one was listening. Media circuits had gone numb on the story and considered it a close matter. move attempted to usher the Media back into the mix with the loud broadcast, which was almost certain to incite the interest of City Police, who by many assertion, were waiting for another opportunity to avenge the death of  one of their own. Like the 78 Conflict, City Officials cited the Move dwelling for what they called Health Code Violations, attempted to serve arrest warrants for some of the Move  Members, and again Move resisted. this sparked yet another face to face standoff with Move and City Police. As the long standoff ensued, Move Members bunkered down inside the house exchanged gunfire with police outside. At 5:30 that evening, a Philadelphia Police Helicopter dropped a bomb onto the roof of the house in an effort to drive Move members out. Accounts differ on why the fire wasn’t snuffed out, despite the dozen fire trucks surrounding the block. Ramona Africa, the sole surviving adult in the house, says Police fired on Move Members as they tried to escape the burning house. Police say the Move Members ran in and out of the house firing at them. Police ordered their officers and fire fighters to stay back. What is clear is that four hours later, 61 houses on the block were gone, and everyone inside the Move house, except for Ramona Africa and a 13-year-old boy, was dead.

The Aftermath


The city’s first Black Mayor had dropped a bomb on a Black Neighborhood.  In many ways, for African-Americans, it’s painful to remember. A commission that investigated, found that Goode and two other Officials, Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, and Fire Commissioner William Richmond, had been “grossly negligent.” The deaths of the Move Children “appeared to be unjustified homicide,” it said. Police had not taken them out of the house when they had the chance. They had used excessive force in firing 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the house. The plan to drop explosives was “reckless” and “unconscionable.” And they let the fire burn until it was too late to control. Sambor resigned six months later. Richmond retired in 1988. Goode apologized tearfully on TV and was re-elected in 1988. Everybody was shouting at the television set, ‘Put out the fire!’ The fact that five children died, huddled in the basement of the Move House, brings tears to the eyes of many. I can’t help but imagine those last hours for these innocent and defenseless kids down in the basement. In Waco, Texas (Branch Davidian), Ruby Ridge, and now Move, the children were not spared, and not one single person has ever been brought to Justice. Bastards!

The Peoples Champion

I’m David Adams

Self proclaimed geek, Advocate for the homeless, Social Change, Crime Blogger, and mobile technology enthusiast. Recognized journalist and Human Interest Writer championing the plight of the masses whom are without a voice of their own.

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