Ok, so I know what some people might be thinking: “Krish that Tulsa thing happened like a hundred years ago! Things have changed. We got a Black President, followed by two of the whitest men you could ever imagine. Everything is different now!” Well don’t forget one of those white dudes is responsible for setting up the institutionalized racism in this country and the second benefited from it!
We still see this kind of violence in our society today. And stories like this are often hidden from the public. We can see that in the way police brutality videos are hidden from the public. I’ll use a conservative’s favorite line when it comes to privacy: “If you don’t have anything to hide why don’t you just let the public poke around in those body cam footages?!”
Another one of America’s hidden human rights violations was in 1985 when the Philadelphia police department blew up a neighborhood in West Philly. Some of you might know West Philadelphia as the homeland of Will Smith before he gained his royal status. To a lot of people it’s the proof of one of the worst domestic atrocities America has committed.
This story starts in 1972 when a man named John Africa started the MOVE organization. The name is not an acronym for anything. Their philosophy was “Everything that’s alive moves, if it didn’t it’d be dead”. MOVE were primarily naturists. The whole family took the name Africa! They believed in Nature’s Law. They stated “true law is self-explanatory & self enforcing”. Contracts with them were like a page or so, and very easy to read and comprehend. They barely used words like ‘thee’ ‘thou’ or ‘client’. They don’t have any fine print, which is only used by assholes who are definitely trying to take your first born child.
Their point of view of right & wrong was a bit more nuanced. They believed that just because something is a law that mean it’s right. As they point out on their website, slavery was legal and so was killing Native Americans. Until recently it was legal for the police to put their knee on your neck as way to “subdue” you. We the people realized that was fucked up pretty damn quick! We didn’t need to have a complexly worded document to determine that. The MOVE organization would render lawyers obsolete and the film “Liar Liar” would become an art piece instead of some people’s first R-rated lawyer movie they saw!
They were huge environmentalists and believed all life on this planet is equally important. So they were huge advocates for animal rights! And they were such big animal rights activists that they had several different types of animals at their house. They also buckets of raw meat for them, which the neighbors would often complain about.
They were also anti-technology. Part of their philosophy was go back to the hunter gatherer days, but another part of their philosophy was anti-corporation and anti-capitalist. They believed that technology and science in the hands of capitalism and greed would end up destroying the planet. So to them the best thing to do is get rid of all technology and move to simpler form of life.
MOVE believed in a minimalistic community living and community parenting. Women in MOVE would give unassisted births and believed in breastfeeding. They also had the entire family raise the kids. MOVE really took the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” very seriously! Where as some people in America believe parenting is putting on Youtube and letting that parent the child. And as we all know by now, Youtube is a sinister bitch that will show your child hardcore porn involving superhero butts.
MOVE also believed they should be armed not just for hunting purposes but also self defense. In fact they held political rallies in favor of the second amendment, which often offended their neighbors, who’d call the cops on them. I have watched large white men enter a Starbucks like it was a predator movie & people just go “oh that’s just cooky Carl, with his arsenal!” But black folks exercising their rights to the second amendment yields an army to stop them. This is why racism is objectively dumb. Racist believe black people to be an inferior race but fear them for using the same weapons they do for self defense. Give them the gold medal for Mental Gymnastics in the next olympics.
Most of the altercations with the police would often turn violent – go figure. The cops would use water cannons and force their way into their homes. During these bouts of violence the MOVE women have reported miscarriages due to the attacks from the police. In fact Life Africa, Janie Africa’s child, was killed in ones of these incidents. The police denied the existence of the child all together. Give those cops the Grand Dragon Racist Achievement Award! Big round of applause for being a vicious racist & a gaslighter of the highest order. If you’re wondering if the Jedi Mind Trick can be used for evil, the Philadelphia Police got you covered! They’re basically all Sith Lords who traded their lightsabers for a gun and a badge.
In 1977 the city obtained a warrant to evict the MOVE organization. They ended up staying in that home for an extra year. And they made a deal with the city to turn over their guns if members of their organization were let out of prison. The city kept up their end of the bargain, but MOVE didn’t.
In 1978, MOVE was forcefully taken out of their homes in a shootout with Philadelphia police. This ended when an officer was shot and killed. Everyone thought MOVE did it, but medical evidence shows that the officer was shot from the back when the members of MOVE were in front of him. Much like the Kennedy assassination, the official report in response to the public’s questions are: Shut the fuck up!
By 1985, they were in a second house that they reconstructed. They added additional layers of concrete and other tactics to make the house more bulletproof. These precautions were taken because of the amount of abuse they took from the cops. They were still doing their loud anti-capitalist rallies. The neighbors also complained they were playing profane music. There’s a Karen somewhere that just clutched her pearls at the mere thought of this!
At this point the cops had obtained a warrant for the MOVE organization because of parole violations, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms & making terroristic threats. Most these threats were likely telling the people the truth about how toxic the Capitalist system actually is.
500 police officers descended on the house to serve the warrant. I’m sure someone thought, maybe they could send one squad car to the house but the Commissioner decided “eh, it’s a Tuesday lets the get whole force out there! Making a fun racist bonding experience! We can all go for ice cream later! EVERYONE WILL HAVE VANILLA! NO CHOCOLATE!”
The cops came in on the loudspeaker yelling “This is America!” And they were right. It was America. A large group overly armed, white thugs ready to murder a group of environmentalists who biggest crime was a noise violation and having more meats than Arby’s.
The Philadelphia police’s onslaught on the Africa family started with pumping water through a water cannon at their house. Then they pumped 10,000 rounds into the house. This is where their bulletproofing came in handy. The additional concrete barriers protected the people inside house. This went on for an hour and half. Sure if you’re watching Lord Of Rings, they haven’t even started their journey yet, but 90 minutes of bullets is absurd no matter how you shake it!
After a few hours Mayor Wison Goode, who hated the MOVE organization, approved Commissioner Gregor Sambor to use an explosive on the house. Using a helicopter they dropped 2 C4 bombs on the house. One of them connected with a gas generator on the roof setting fire to the whole house! As the fire raged on the Police Commissioner told the Fire Chief to let the fire burn and to put out later. Apparently Commissioner Sambor thought all Firemen were also pyrokinetics! And of course, the fire burned out of control.
As members of MOVE would try to come out of the house, the cops would shoot at them forcing them back into the burning house. Its like that game you would play as a kid: would you rather die in a house fire or being shot to death by the racist police? And my question is always, why the fuck are we playing this game? Why are these the only options available!?
By the end of this 11 people were dead, including John Africa and 5 of them were children. 60 houses were completely destroyed and 250 people were left homeless. The only survivors from the Africa family were Ramona & 13 year old, Birdie. Ramona was arrested and incarcerated for 7 years for rioting & conspiracy, after the cops bombed her house. This is like punishing a serial killer’s victim’s family for not being “careful” enough!
“Well Mrs. Rodney if you were a better parent your son wouldn’t been eaten! Now we’re going to let Mr. Dahmer go back to his house and live his days as upstanding citizen who’s taken population control under his supervision!”
A commission that investigated the incident found the event unconscionable and determined that the neighborhood wouldn’t have been bombed if it were a white neighborhood. But no penalties were awarded to any of the officials involved in the bombing. Because in America racism isn’t a crime, just a way of life. Mayor Goode did make a public apology because it was bad PR if he didn’t.
And I’d love to say that’s where the story ends, but nope! This is the post credit scene of the horrific MOVE bombing.
The residents of the neighborhood were promised rebuilt homes. The city chose a cookie cutter contractor to rebuild the houses on the cheap, which yielded in the homes having some problems. And one of the mayor’s straight up said he doesn’t care about that neighborhood. Most the residents left and the ones that remain are holding out, trying to prevent gentrification.
This is what they do to primarily low-income, black neighborhoods around the country. They create conditions that make the area unlivable and then force the people out to gentrify the space. People need homes not another shop that sells pottery at an unaffordable price in a mini-mall!
And I’d like to tell you that’s the worst thing about this post credit scene, but it is not! After the bombing, it was really hard to figure out which bodies belonged to who since most of them were badly mangled. But 2 of the children, Tree & Delisha Africa’s remains were taken from the crime scene, mishandled during transport & given to Penn State & Princeton for academic purposes. The parents, who were in prison at the time of the bombing, were not notified and their permission was not given.
2 prestigious school, where you have to be very rich or open to a massive amount of debt to attend, used 2 kids bodies from a war zone for studies. As they learn the anatomy of the human body they didn’t learn the anatomy of their racist institutes that thought it was fine to use 2 black children’s bodies for science without the consent of their family. It shows you how deep racism has permeated into our society that even academia is colored with it. Penn State made a public apology but no apologies were given to the mothers. Princeton wanted to know what their annual income was before they made an apology, because the poors don’t count.
Look you don’t have to agree or disagree with MOVE to see what the cops did as a crime against humanity. The worst thing they did was be loud and have meats in their backyard. If that’s awful to you, then don’t visit a college dorm. Raw meat smells like roses compared to the smell of sweat, spunk and missing ramen!
And with this information not addressed or talked about there’s a likelihood it’ll repeat. It also shows you why some of these newer Civil Rights & Activist movements are decentralized yet very organized. Because if they were centrally and publicly organized the cops, the intelligence agencies and politicians will blow them up like they’re the final act of a Rambo movie! The real question is knowing all this how can we the people actually trust the justice system in America?
America’s history is full of these sort of atrocities. From the treatment of the Black Panthers, the non-stop McCarthyism, the treatment of the indigenous, Julian Assange and so much more, it’s hard say that this is a country of good guys! So for them to come out and chastise another country because they don’t live up to the American standard is a double standard! And when you call these atrocities out, people keep telling you that “if you hate it here then go back to where you came from!”
There is no perfect country. And that’s not even the point. Look, I call out injustice and inequality everywhere. Those things aren’t exclusive to America; it’s a humanity problem. We have to be less cruel to each other. We have to learn how to detect manipulation when we see it.
The reality is that I live here in America. Which means this is the country I physically see the citizens in pain. This is where I know I can try to make a more just & equal world for everyone. This is why sharing these stories is important. And these stories are why America can’t claim they are bastions of Human Rights.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!