"MOVE'S WORK IS TO STOP
INDUSTRY FROM POISONING THE AIR, THE
WATER, THE SOIL, AND TO PUT AN END TO THE ENSLAVEMENT OF
LIFE - PEOPLE, ANIMALS, ANY FORM OF LIFE. THE PURPOSE OF
JOHN AFRICA'S REVOLUTION IS TO SHOW PEOPLE HOW CORRUPT,
ROTTEN, CRIMINALLY ENSLAVING THIS SYSTEM IS, SHOW PEOPLE
THROUGH JOHN AFRICA'S TEACHING, THE TRUTH, THAT THIS SYSTEM
IS THE CAUSE OF ALL THEIR PROBLEMS (ALCOHOLISM, DRUG ADDICTION, UNEMPLOYMENT, WIFE ABUSE, CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, EVERY PROBLEM
IN THE WORLD) AND TO SET THE EXAMPLE OF REVOLUTION FOR PEOPLE
TO FOLLOW WHEN THEY REALIZE HOW THEY'VE BEEN OPPRESSED,
REPRESSED, DUPED, TRICKED BY THIS SYSTEM, THIS GOVERNMENT AND
SEE THE NEED TO RID THEMSELVES OF THIS CANCEROUS SYSTEM
AS MOVE DOES."
"...all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security."
United States Declaration
During the early 1970's MOVE was based in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. Members valued the personal discipline and physical strength derived from hard manual labor,
and maintained a hefty work schedule of daily activities such as exercising, scrubbing floors,
running dogs, chopping firewood, shoveling snow, sweeping the street, etc.
Demonstrating their reverence for all forms of life, MOVE looked after neighbors' pets, helped homeless people find places to live, assisted the elderly with home repairs, intervened in violence between local gangs and college fraternities, and helped incarcerated offenders meet parole requirements through a rehabilitation program. After adopting MOVE's way of natural living, many individuals overcame past problems of drug addiction, physical disabilities, infertility and alcoholism.
MOVE purchased a large Victorian house at 309 North 33rd Street, which became their headquarters. One of MOVE's fundraising activities was a very popular car wash at this location. At regular study sessions for people interested in the teachings of JOHN AFRICA, MOVE welcomed dissenting views as an opportunity to showcase their belief and sharpen their oratorical skills, which they knew would be tested in their revolutionary struggle.
MOVE at Jesse Jackson PUSH Conference,
August 15, 1975
PUBLIC APPEARANCES AND MEDIA COVERAGE
MOVE began attending public appearances of such noted personalities as Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, Alan Watts, Roy Wilkins, Julian Bond, Richie Havens, Walter Mondale, Buckminster Fuller, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Caesar Chavez, and Russel Means. When questions were taken from the audience, MOVE challenged the speakers. Many were receptive, some were hostile, but none could refute JOHN AFRICA's wisdom.
To expose injustice, oppression and disrespect for Life, MOVE used strategized profanity and non-violent protest in demonstrations at zoos, pet shops, political rallies, public forums and media offices. By 1974, MOVE was appearing in public with increasing frequency protesting the abuse of Life in any form.
"IF OUR PROFANITY OFFENDS YOU, LOOK AROUND YOU
AND SEE HOW DESTRUCTIVELY SOCIETY IS PROFANING
ITSELF. IT IS THE RAPE OF THE LAND, THE POLLUTION
OF THE ENVIRONMENT, THE BETRAYAL AND SUFFERING
OF THE MASSES BY CORRUPT GOVERNMENT THAT IS THE
The mainstream media began a long history of inaccurate, distorted and misdirected coverage. MOVE's unique appearance, alarming profanity and unconventional behavior got prominent attention, but their penetrating analysis and proposed solutions were largely ignored as were their extensive community assistance efforts. While those who actually met MOVE members could see their remarkable strength and health, dehumanizing news accounts perpetuated the falsehood that members never bathed and were unhealthy.
Protests of unfair coverage by the Black-owned Philadelphia Tribune were resolved when the editor agreed to run a column entitled, "ON THE MOVE." Coordinated by JOHN AFRICA to be written by MOVE members, the feature ran for about a year, starting in June of 1975.
Rizzo's brutal cops
Throughout the 1970's, Frank Rizzo was the premier figure in Philadelphia government. He started as a street cop and rose through the ranks, eventually serving as Police Commissioner from 1967-71.
During this time, he gained notoriety for his "tough-guy" law enforcement tactics and racist attitude. In Philadelphia's Black ghettos, Rizzo's predominantly white police force was resented, feared and hated.
Capitalizing on his name recognition and tough on crime image, Rizzo mobilized sufficient voters to be elected mayor of the city for two terms from 1972 until 1980. Having built his career on opposing Black efforts to challenge the status quo, he ran the city with a prominent and heavy-handed police force that had a national reputation for brutality.
Philadelphia's overblown and unrestrained police department was a prime example of the type of injustice the system precipitated, so it was inevitable that MOVE would start to speak out against them. As with other issues, this was done using peaceful demonstrations. When MOVE successfully focused attention on police abuse, many community groups across the city sought MOVE's assistance with similar demonstrations in their own neighborhoods. As a result of this activism, the police began a concerted campaign of harassment against MOVE, breaking up demonstrations by arresting MOVE members on disorderly conduct charges or violations of whatever local ordinance could be made to apply.
The fact that MOVE's headquarters was located in an area of real estate speculation on the border of a university campus brought further legal entanglement. beginning in 1975, the complaints of some neighboring property owners led to involvement of the Department of Licenses and Inspections and ultimately a civil suit by the city against MOVE. On November 18, Judge G. Fred DiBona, one of Rizzo's associates, ruled that city inspectors with the assistance of the police, could enter MOVE's house to inspect it, but the case dragged on through numerous continuances and an appeal by MOVE to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
MOVE protests the killing of Life Africa, March 29, 1976
MOVE never let the threat of being taken to jail interfere with planned demonstrations. Only a pre-selected group, which excluded pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers, would plan to get arrested if the cops started trouble. Yet events soon proved that police harassment was not limited to demonstrations alone.
Late in the evening of May 9, 1974, two pregnant MOVE women, Janet and Leesing Africa, were taking a short walk to the corner store to get something to eat. They were stopped and questioned by police officers who became abusive and slammed Janet stomach-first against a police car. The two were subjected to a very rough handling and jailed overnight without food or water. Both women lost their babies due to miscarriages. MOVE immediately began demonstrating at the 18th District police station where the incident occurred.
By 1975, clashes between MOVE and the police reached increasingly brutal proportions, though the city denied it's role in any abusive handling. Members at demonstrations were getting beaten bloody on a regular basis, yet MOVE's deep commitment only led to more determined protests. On April 29, 1975 a MOVE demonstration against ill-treatment of jailed members at the police administration building led to several arrests. Alberta Africa, who was pregnant, was dragged from a holding cell, held spread-eagle by four officers and repeatedly kicked in the stomach and vagina by a matron named Robins, suffering a miscarriage as a result.
Despite police violence against MOVE individuals who had not even been born, many MOVE mothers did bear children, and did so naturally, without drugs or medical assistance, in accordance with JOHN AFRICA's teachings. Sue Africa, in spite of several police beatings throughout her pregnancy, had a son, Tomes, born at the 33rd street headquarters on August 4, 1975. Janine Africa's baby, Life Africa was born on March 8, 1976 but murdered by police less than a month later. (Tomes was later murdered by the city May 13, 1985.)
The day after the March 28, 1976 police attack
Joseph Coleman, Lucien Blackwell and his wife Jannie
are shown the body of Life Africa, April,2 1976
MOVE BABY MURDERED
On March 28, 1976, seven jailed MOVE members were released late in the evening and arrived home after midnight. Officers in at least ten police cars and wagons pulled up in front of the 33rd Street house and said MOVE was creating a disturbance. When Chuck Africa told police to leave MOVE alone, officer Daniel Palermo grabbed him and began to beat him as other cops pulled out nightsticks and set upon MOVE members. Six MOVE men were arrested and beaten so viciously they suffered fractured skulls, concussions and chipped bones. Robert Africa was struck over the head with a nightstick that broke in two from the force of the blow. Janine Africa was trying to protect her husband Phil Africa, when she was grabbed by a cop, thrown to the ground with 3-week-old Life Africa in arms, and stomped until she was nearly unconscious. The baby's skull was crushed.
The next morning, MOVE notified the media that the police had brutally attacked them and that a baby had been murdered. An officer's hat and the broken nightstick were displayed outside MOVE headquarters. Police denied that any beatings took place or that a baby was killed. and claimed that the baby probably never existed because there was no birth certificate. They then arrested the member who had shown the hat and nightstick to the press, on charges of receiving stolen property. To prove the death to a skeptical media, MOVE invited the press and local politicians to dinner at their headquarters. Those accepting the invitation included city councilmen Joseph Coleman and Lucien Blackwell, and Blackwell's wife, Jannie. After the meal, the guests were shown the baby's body. (Jannie Blackwell herself was later elected to city council in 1991.)
MOVE's column in the Philadelphia Tribune, which had documented the birth of Life Africa 3 weeks earlier, ran a series of pieces covering the March 28th attack. Interviews with several neighbors who had witnessed the incident were featured. Yet no charges were filed against the officers involved in the baby's murder. Instead the District Attorney's office pursued prosecution of the six MOVE members arrested that night. MOVE was prepared to present evidence of a long-standing Rizzo-directed campaign of harassment that culminated in the death of Life Africa.
But before all the testimony could be presented, Judge Merna Marshall dismissed the case, thereby thwarting the chance to prove a citywide conspiracy against MOVE in a court of law. Dismissing felony charges of aggravated assault on cops was virtually unheard of in Philadelphia.
MOVE outside city hall courtrooms
ran dumb mode