August has barely broken its first week, when police gunfire shattered the tense early morning air. It was West Philadelphia, 1978, just blocks from Drexel University.
For over a year, Philadelphia police occupied the neighborhood of Powelton village, under orders of the city’s racist Mayor, Frank L. Rizzo. Why were they there?
Ostensibly, to arrest members of the naturalist MOVE organization, allegedly for failure to obey court orders to appear.
In fact, they were there, in Rizzo’s words, to “starve them out” – and to drive them from their communal home.
In truth, they were there to kill MOVE members.
The homes across from the MOVE house were occupied by heavily-armed cops, many armed with sniper rifles and automatic weapons.
MOVE members living there endured months of terrifying psychological pressure. People living in the neighborhood were denied entry, unless they could produce IDs to cops.
On August 8th, 1978, all hell broke loose, when cops opened fire on MOVE’s home. The shooting forced MOVE people to seek safety in the basement. Then the police used fire hoses to try to drown them there.
When MOVE left their homes, all present were arrested. Some, like Delbert Africa, were brutally beaten, kicked, rifle-butted and then arrested.
All 9 people were charged with killing one cop.
From that point to this, MOVE members were treated like a disease.
From the preliminary hearings, to trial, and a handful of appeals, MOVE members have been judicially assaulted, denied every alleged constitutional right, from the right of self-representation, to a fair judge, to sentencing and beyond, all MOVE members have ever heard is: “No!”
Judge Edwin Malmed (now deceased), who presided over the trial, told this commentator during an on-air interview on the Frank Ford talk show, that he hadn’t “the faintest idea” who killed the cop during the day-long shoot-out. “They were tried as a family; I convicted them as a family”, he said.
These 9 people were sentenced to 30 to 100 years.
MOVE members were, in fact, convicted of being MOVE members.
That was their crime.
They should all be free.