by Kevin Price
If you look close enough you can see history altered before your eyes. Pick up the latest Guinness Book of World Records (Guinness World Records 2008), flip to page 123 and you will see what I mean. Under the section "Cults, Fans and Followers: the police bombing of the MOVE Organization in 1985 is listed as the sixth most deadly mass suicide in recent history.) Yes, you did read that correctly. A deliberate massacre, in which police dropped a bomb on a house, intentionally allowed the fire to burn and fired automatic weapons at those that dared attempt an escape, was labeled as mass suicide.
This would seem to be very sloppy research for a fundamental resource such as Guinness, but MOVE doesn't believe that it is as simple as that. MOVE and its support network have been expecting increased attacks and misinformation about the organization. After 29 long years that MOVE prisoners Mike, Chuck, Janet, Janine, Debbie, Phil, Del and Eddie have spent in maximum security prisons, they will finally be coming up for parole in 2008. The MOVE 9 (Merle Africa died in prison under suspicious conditions March 13, 1998) have been in prison since 1978 for the wrongful conviction of police officer James Ramp. They are serving 30-100 year sentences and MOVE knows that the battle for parole is going to be uphill.
As history is re-written those in power tell the tale with MOVE framed as unrepentant, cop killing cultists who in 1978 shot at police and firemen, murdering James Ramp and then in 1985 remaining members committed suicide. This is exactly how those that are opposed to MOVE would prefer that the history be told. After all what parole board would ever release those people and what public would join a movement in their support?
If you do a little research into their list it becomes clear that the whole thing is bullshitâ€¦no other word is fitting. It seems as though not only do they have the facts on MOVE all wrong, almost every item on the list is questionable. The first group listed, with the highest death toll (924), is â€œthe Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of Godâ€. This Cult was located in Uganda and the deaths occurred in 2000. Five hundred and thirty of the deceased died in a church which was intentionally set aflame. Many believe that these 530 were unwilling to participate and where murdered by other members and leaders of the cult. This suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the windows and doors of the church were nailed from the outside (www.religioustolerance.org/dc_rest.htm).
Next listed is the Peoples Temple, known as Jonestown, with a death toll of 913 in Guyana in 1978. Again, in this situation many group members unmistakably committed suicide. However, there was evidence of murder of many by other members and leaders of the cult (www.religioustolerance.org/dc_jones.htm).
Other than the police bombing of MOVE the other two situations that were most inappropriately and irresponsibly labeled mass suicides are the stand off with the Branch Davidians in 1993 and the police murder of members of the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. In both situations the deaths were the direct result of careless handling of sensitive situations by government officials or deliberate murder by police. The labeling of these events as mass suicide is even sloppier given that a thorough scan of mainstream media written during the time of these incidents gleaned no mention of either as mass suicide. The same goes for the bombing of MOVE in 1985. In the case of the Branch Davidians in Waco, the event started as a firefight between the Branch Davidians and the ATF. To this day it is unknown who fired the first shot that led to that 51 day standoff. The details of all that led to the deaths of 82 members are still quite unclear. It is undisputed that some members of the group did commit suicide but many died from FBI bullets. To label it a mass suicide takes all responsibility from the Federal government who should bear the weight of these deaths.
In 1974 when six members of the SLA were killed the police used fire as a tactical weapon in a similar fashion as the Philadelphia police in 1985. Police intentionally set fire to the apartment where SLA members were confined and when the first two members ran from the doors they were shot in the head by police. The police claim that the SLA members ran from the building with weapons drawn "trying to kill cops" but other witness testimony tells a different story. Only one SLA member is said to have killed himself rather that surrender. The other 5 deaths were a direct result of police bullets, smoke and flames.
The strategy used in 1974 by the police with the SLA and in 1985 with MOVE brings to mind the methods of mass murder employed by the Puritans in Massachusetts after failing to destroy the Pequot Indians in the 1600â€™s. After failing to defeat the Pequots in legitimate battle the Puritans began setting fire to their wigwams in the middle of the night. When the Pequots fled from their burning homes they were slaughtered, decapitated at the hands and swords of the English (Pg. 15, People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn). Historically, fire, or "smoking them out" has been a "tactical weapon" of the US government. How can this be misconstrued as suicide?
The bottom line is that the Guinness list is flawed from end to end. It seems that the folks at Guinness feel that if you resist against this government your death is imminent, justified and therefore suicidal. Now I am not saying that I am in support of the actions or beliefs of all of the groups that I have mentioned. I am a strong supporter of MOVE but I have very deep disagreements with most other groups on the list. That does not mean that I will not fight against the lies and misinformation spread in their blood. Even in the situations in which mass suicide did take place it is a disservice to the dead and their families to lump those that have been murdered in with the rest. It also seems so wrong to list such tragic events with so little explanation and feeling, to list such horror on the same page as the largest assembly of Elvis impersonators is horrible.
In the interest of protecting the real stories of the past to build a brighter future this misinformation must be fought. This is a very large issue with broad consequence. Join MOVE in pressuring the Guinness Book of World Records to correct this serious problem. Don't forget that there are eight people who have been in prison for 29 years due to such campaigns. Hell, there are so many political prisoners and prisoners in general serving life based on such deliberate revisions in history. Free the MOVE 9 and all political prisoners! No one wins unless we all win!