MOVE Preaches Pacifism While Practicing Violence With AM-MOVE
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ MOVE espoused a philosophy of anti-materialism, pacifism and concern for the environment, but its history is replete with violence, obscenity and filth.
MOVE members have been involved in two of the most violent confrontations with police in the city’s history, the latest ending in a fire that destroyed 60 houses, including the group’s fortified headquarters.
The first confrontation, at the group’s original headquarters in 1978, ended with one police officer dead and five firefighters wounded after a 55- day seige.
MOVE was founded by a third-grade dropout who blamed technology for the degeneration of society, and a one-time ″all-American kid″ with a master’s degree in social work.
Handyman Vincent Leaphart, one of nine children, and Donald Glassey, son of a national vice president of the Boy Scouts of America, met in 1971 in the west Philadelphia community of Powelton Village.
The two are considered co-founders of MOVE, which began in 1972, but Leaphart was primarily responsible for the group’s bizarre philosophy, a mish- mash of militance, escapism and anti-materialism.
He took the name John Africa and required that all MOVE members take Africa as their surname. The name he chose for his group, MOVE, has no particular significance.
Leaphart, who has disappeared, began wearing his hair in the dreadlocks common to the Rastafarian religious movement in Jamaica, as did most members of the predominantly black MOVE.
Glassey, who is white, was a social worker for six months in suburban Cornwells Heights before moving into a Powelton Village commune.
Later a government informant after MOVE became increasingly militant, he said he had idolized Leaphart for his back-to-nature philosophy.
In its early years, the group had about 30 members, who demonstrated against everyone from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the Quakers to the Communist Party.
They said they ate only natural foods, often uncooked. Neighbors said the MOVE members did not dress their children, kept scores of dogs and welcomed rats into their home as part of nature.
Residents of the Cobbs Creek area where the latest MOVE confrontation occurred had complained to city officials that MOVE members assaulted them on the street, robbed them and shouted profanities through bullhorns at night.
In 1981, when Leaphart was tried and acquitted on federal weapons and conspiracy charges, fellow MOVE member Phil Africa testified that Leaphart had taught his followers non-violence.
Phil Africa said many people had become upset when MOVE told them their organizations and businesses were corrupt. ″Society teaches people to respect filth if it is wrapped in a $500 suit and has alligator shoes,″ he said.
However, Glassey testified that Leaphart had planned an armed confrontation with police and had MOVE members build bombs and buy firearms in 1976 and 1977.
″I got so upset ... about how tragic and sad this is,″ he said. ″How a group of people can come together to make the world a better place and become suicidal terrorists...″