Saturday, November 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

MOVE through the years

1970's 
1972 — Vincent Leaphart, a West Philadelphia handyman and high-school dropout distrustful of education, medical science and the criminal-justice system, gathers followers in Powelton Village, where he forms a “back-to-nature” cult.
Early 1970s — Donald Glassey, a college teacher with a master’s degree in social work, helps Leaphart, who has changed his name to John Africa, to define MOVE’s credo — which includes picketing against the caging of animals at the Philadelphia Zoo and refusing to bathe.
 May 1973 — Glassey buys Victorian-style house at 33rd and Pearl streets in Powelton Village, and Leaphart and other MOVE members move in.
1975 — Neighbors complain to authorities of garbage, fecal odor, rat infestation and building-code violations.
Mid-September 1976 — City legal efforts to get into the MOVE house are rebuffed, and the group begins stockpiling weapons, bombs and bomb-making manuals. Barricade is built.
May 20, 1977 — MOVE members, some in khaki uniforms, appear at MOVE house barricade displaying shotguns, rifles and pistols after a court OKs city inspection of the property.
Aug. 8, 1978 — After negotiations and a police blockade fail, 300 cops and firefighters surround the MOVE house and try to enter. MOVE members place bullhorns to the mouths of their crying babies. Gunfire erupts. Officer James Ramp, 52, is fatally shot; three other officers and four firefighters are wounded. Police kick and beat MOVE member Delbert Orr Africa as they drag him from house. John Africa is not present for the confrontation.
Dec. 10, 1978 — An obscenity-laced, 19-week trial begins for nine MOVE members. They are convicted of third-degree murder in Ramp’s death and of attempted murder of other officers and firefighters, and sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison. All remain jailed, except one who has died.


1980's
 1981 — Neighbors say MOVE members have begun moving into a house at 6221 Osage Ave. in West Philadelphia owned by one of John Africa’s sisters. Trouble starts over filthy conditions and bullhorn messages, but the city drags its feet.
May 1, 1985 — Osage neighbors hold news conference to complain that MOVE members harass them verbally, and have assaulted several residents, blocked a driveway behind the houses and built a steel-and-wooden bunker on their roof.
May 12, 1985 — Police ask Osage Avenue residents to evacuate.
May 13, 1985 — Police order MOVE members out of the house. A 90-minute firefight erupts. In late afternoon, a State Police helicopter drops an improvised bomb on the rooftop bunker. Powerful explosion starts a fire that city officials initially let burn, destroying 6221 Osage and 52 other houses and damaging eight others, leaving 250 people homeless. Eleven people die inside the MOVE house, including five children. Only one adult, Ramona Africa, and 13-year-old Birdie Africa escape the inferno.
March 5, 1986 — The MOVE Commission, created to investigate the catastrophe, accuses Mayor Goode and top members of his administration of incompetence and “reckless disregard for life and property” for dropping the bomb. Local and federal grand juries also investigate, but no charges are filed.
May 11, 1988 — Contractors Ernest Edwards and W. Oscar Harris are convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from the project to rebuild the Osage Avenue houses, work done so shoddily that many of them later are bulldozed by the city. The occupants of others spend years in court trying to get the work repaired.


1990's
 June 1990 — City settles with parents of the MOVE children, most of them still in jail for Ramp’s death, for $2.5 million.
April 1991 — City agrees to pay Birdie Africa, now known as Michael Ward, and his father $840,000, in monthly payments starting at $1,000 and increasing forthe rest of their lives.
June 1996 — A federal jury orders the city to pay $1.5 million, $500,000 each, to Ramona Africa and relatives of John and Frank Africa, killed in the fire.
Aug. 27, 1996 — A federal judge throws out a jury verdict against former Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor and former Fire Commissioner William C. Richmond and clears them of all liability for the 1985 disaster.
 

2000's
2000 — After spending $16 million to build and repair homes, and facing a cost of $13 million more to make them livable, Mayor Street announces that all the homes are being condemned. He says residents will be given $125,000 for each house and $25,000 in moving expenses. All but 24 families on Osage Avenue and Pine Street accept.
2003 — The families who rejected the buyout sue in federal court for damages.
April 11, 2005 — Federal jury awards the 24 homeowners about $534,000 each.
April 14, 2008 — Three-judge federal appeals panel reduces that amount to $150,000 for each of the homeowners.
 

— Gloria Campisi

 

 

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