In 1972, a group called the “Christian Movement For Life” was founded by John Africa. Africa and his followers advocated a radical form of green politics, calling for a return to a more natural hunter-gatherer type existence while being opposed to things like scientific advancement and technology. Is this starting to sound similar to certain modern right-wing groups yet?
Africa and his followers, who were almost exclusively African-American, eventually renamed their group to MOVE. The members established a commune in a house in West Philadelphia. They participated in demonstrations against institutions they opposed by using bullhorns and shouting out their opinions at all hours of the day or night.
MOVE’s activities drew the scrutiny of law enforcement over time. This culminated first in 1978 when a nearly year-long standoff with police who were ordering MOVE to leave their collective home ended in violence. MOVE members would not vacate so police decided to break into their home and force them to leave. When this happened, shooting started and a policeman was killed. MOVE claimed none of its own members shot the officer, as he was shot in the back of the head and was facing towards the house at the time. Seven other officers, five firefighters, three MOVE members, and three bystanders were injured also. As a result of the shooting, nine MOVE members were all sentenced to a maximum of 100 years in prison for third-degree murder over the officer’s death.
After the shooting and arrests, remaining MOVE members continued on and in 1981, they re-established their commune in a row house in West Philadelphia. After they settled in, they began the same bullhorn-aided protests they gained notoriety for previously. As before, they got onto local law enforcement’s watch list.
Neighbors began complaining about the protests and filed health complaints about piles of compost that the group kept on their property. Further pressure from police resulted in indictments of MOVE members for crimes like parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats. Is this starting to sound even more like certain right-wing groups yet?
Eventually, then-Mayor Wilson Goode classified MOVE as a terrorist organization.
On May 13th, 1985 all hell broke loose. City manager Leo Brooks arrived with a sizeable police contingent in order to force the eviction of all MOVE members from their home, and arrest of indicted MOVE members. This quickly turned into an armed standoff with police, who began firing tear gas into the rowhomes. Gunfire began, with police returning fire with automatic weapons.
This is the most insane part. Police Commissioner Sambor then ordered that the compound was to be bombed while the MOVE members were still inside. A police helicopter dropped bombs on the roof of the house. Explosions and fires ensued that destroyed sixty-five nearby homes. Firefighters that were on scene stood idle and allowed the fire to continue burning the homes. The same firefighters were just earlier trying to flood the members out of the homes with their hoses.
Below is a picture of the aftermath of the MOVE bombing and ensuing fires:
One of the survivors, Ramona Africa, said that police were firing at those who were trying to escape the burning buildings. The firefighters were given orders by the police to allow the fire to continue burning. This allowed the fire to spread to adjacent homes and left two hundred and fifty people homeless. Eleven people (six adults, and five children) burned to death in the fire. Ramona Africa managed to escape the gunfire and flames by crawling out through a broken basement window, even though she suffered severe burns.
A commission was quickly formed to investigate the police response, which denounced the actions of the city government, but did not press any criminal charges against anyone involved.
Let’s compare this, to the response of police and federal law enforcement to the Bundy Militia’s armed seizure of a federal public building.
Literally not one person from law enforcement is on the scene, as per Oregon Live:
During Saturday’s rally, not a police officer was visible. And so far law enforcement agencies have not approached the refuge or blocked access to the territory. The FBI is in charge because the refuge is federal property. The Harney County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police are engaged as well.
Source: Oregon Live
MOVE was living in their own private home, or homes at the time. Each time, the Bundys were occupying property that did not belong to them.
MOVE was classified a terrorist organization. The Bundy militia has yet to receive this distinction after the same amount of incidents as MOVE had occurred.
MOVE was ready to shoot, but cops went in anyway. The Bundys are ready to shoot, and the cops are afraid to move in because they didn’t want to cause a scene.
MOVE ended up in a standoff with cops twice, and violence and death were the results both times. The Bundys have been in a standoff with cops twice, and each time authorities are afraid to act against people literally pointing guns at them because of how it will look if they do.
Let’s face it. MOVE was mostly black. The Bundys are mostly – if not all – white. Militias seem to be the new pinnacle of the white privilege pyramid in America. How shameful for us all.
Featured image via Phillymag