There have been many unthinkable travesties inflicted on Black people in this place the slaves called “merica.” We know about the lynchings, rapes, and thefts that were all too common and the many atrocities protected by law. In fact, because these horrors were done under cover of law they were useful tools to suppress the people of the stolen tribes of Africa. It continues today with the countless police killings. Not many people are aware of just how extreme and the lengths these people went to use some of these extreme forms of brutality. For example, what happened in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921 where the government bombed and destroyed an entire black community.
They bombed Tulsa in 1921, the same thing was done to a black community in modern times. There was a radical organization called MOVE in West Philadelphia; there was a group originally called the Christian Movement for Life, founded in 1972. Its founder, John Africa, was functionally illiterate, or so they say, dictated a document called The Guideline to Donald Glassey, a social worker from the University of Pennsylvania. Africa and his contemporaries, mostly African American followers, wore their hair in dreadlocks. They advocated a radical form of green politics and a return to a hunter-gatherer society while stating their opposition to science, medicine, and technology.
As John Africa himself had done, his devotees also changed their surnames to Africa to show reverence to the continent, which they regarded as their mother continent. John Africa’s MOVE members lived in a commune in a house owned by Glassey in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. They staged bullhorn-amplified, profanity-laced demonstrations against institutions that opposed morally, such as zoos (MOVE had strong views on animal rights) and speakers whose views they opposed. MOVE activities drew scrutiny from law enforcement authorities because of complaints from neighbors and the community.
As tensions grew, on August 8, 1978, a deadly end came to an almost year-long standoff with police over a court order requiring MOVE to vacate their Powelton Village house. When police attempted entry, shooting erupted and Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) Officer James J. Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the head. MOVE representatives claimed that he was facing the house at the time and denied any responsibility for his death. Seven other police officers, five firefighters, three MOVE members, and three bystanders were also injured. Nine MOVE members were each sentenced to a maximum of 100 years in prison for third-degree murder for Ramp’s killing. Seven of the nine first became eligible for parole in the spring of 2008 – all were denied.
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 about the health hazards created by piles of compost. On May 13, 1985, after the complaints as well as indictments for numerous MOVE members for crimes ranging from parole violations, 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 had been given orders to let the fire burn. Officials feared that MOVE would shoot at the firefighters as they had done before. 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.
Mayor W. Wilson Goode a black mayor who was complicit soon appointed an investigative commission called the PSIC (aka MOVE Commission), which issued its report on March 6, 1986. The report denounced the actions of the city government, stating that “Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.” No one from the city government was charged criminally.
In 1996, a federal jury ordered the city to pay a $1.5 million civil suit judgment to survivor Ramona Africa and relatives of two people killed in the bombing. The jury found that the city used excessive force and violated the member’s constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Philadelphia was given the sobriquet “The City that Bombed Itself.”
Ramona Africa, the lone survivor, acts as a spokesperson for the group and has given numerous talks at leftist events throughout the US and in other countries. Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner, was closely involved with MOVE. MOVE continues to advocate for Abu-Jamal’s release as well as that of imprisoned MOVE members, whom the group regarded as a political prisoner.
The problem as I see it was not that they bombed a black community. They have done things like this before and worst, but that it was ordered by a black mayor. Never forget what they think of black people’s lives! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
“Let The Fire Burn” Full Documentary