Black History Month Part 6: "Kill them before they grow!"

MOVE is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by John Africa in 1972. MOVE is a loose-knit, mostly black group, all of whose members adopted the surname Africa, advocated a 'back-to-nature' lifestyle and preached against technology. The group lived communally and frequently engaged in public demonstrations related to issues they deemed important.

In 1981, MOVE relocated to a row house at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of West Philadelphia. Neighbors had complained for years that MOVE members were broadcasting political messages by bullhorn at all hours and also about the health hazards created from piles of compost. On May 13, 1985, after the complaints as well as indictments of numerous [quantify] MOVE members for crimes including parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats, the PPD attempted to clear the building and arrest the indicted MOVE members. This led to an armed standoff with police, who lobbed tear gas canisters at the building. MOVE members fired at the police, who returned fire with automatic weapons. PPD Commissioner George Sambor then ordered that the compound be bombed. From a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter, PPD Lt. Frank Powell proceeded to drop two one-pound bombs made of FBI-supplied water gel explosive, a dynamite substitute, targeting a fortified, bunker-like cubicle on the roof of the house.

The resulting explosions ignited a massive blaze that eventually destroyed approximately 65 nearby houses. The firefighters, who had earlier deluge-hosed the MOVE members in a failed attempt to evict them from the building, stood by and watched the inferno caused after the military grade C-4 bomb engulfed the first house, refusing to intervene because they feared being shot at by MOVE members (who had had a history of shooting at firefighters). Eleven people (John Africa, five other adults and five children) died in the resulting fire. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, stated that police fired at those trying to escape the burning house, while the police stated that MOVE members had been firing at police. –Young Chizz (February 7, 2015)

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