Move Crisis In Philadelphia

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Move Crisis in Philadelphia

Move Crisis in Philadelphia


Father Paul Washington recalls seeing Mayor Wilson Goode in church one Sunday in April 1985. The mayor asked him whether he had any dealings with MOVE recently. Father Washington told him he had not. Mayor Goode responded, "I am going to have to MOVE very carefully and cautiously, because we want to avoid making any of the mistakes that were made back there in 1978 [when a long-brewing conflict with MOVE erupted in a shoot-out in which one policeman was killed]."

A month later, on May 13, 1985, the assault on MOVE's Osage Avenue headquarters began. Police shot 10,000 rounds of ammunition in a 90-minute period from automatic weapons, machine guns, and antitank guns. Finally they dropped a bomb from a helicopter, starting a fire that incinerated five MOVE members and six children. Sixty-one homes lay in smoldering ruins, about 110 houses were damaged, and 250 people were left homeless.

What "mistakes" were Mayor Goode and the city trying to avoid? What urban conflict could require such a violent response? What was MOVE? Why was MOVE's conflict with the city peculiar and different from other group confrontations with the police? What lessons were learned from the 1978 shoot-out that led to the catastrophic response in 1985? Did the city have other avenues for handling this conflict better? Did the response solve the problem, or is it likely to emerge again? Did this conflict continue to escalate with ever increasing stakes? What lessons can be drawn from this conflict about dealing with similar situations in the future?

These are some of the multitude of questions that arise from the Philadelphia MOVE crisis. This book attempts to answer some of them. This book emphasizes negotiation and mediation, though other conflict resolution mechanisms were used as well. We contend that negotiation and mediation are the most viable methods available to contain, if not resolve, this kind of conflict (Warren, 1982).

Third-party intermediary intervention, on the other hand, incorporates many of the benefits of negotiation while rectifying some of its shortcomings. As in negotiation, the parties maintain independence in decision making, participation in the resolution process, and the ability to confront the root causes of their conflict. However, the third party can help translate misunderstood communication, filter distorted messages, encourage open and frank dialogue, expand the range of solutions, and provide face-saving devices for concession and settlement. The intervenor can encourage commitment to the results of the negotiations by creating a forum in which the parties are able to present their cases fairly and justly. We shall examine the various third-party roles undertaken in this case, analyze the factors that contributed to their success or failure, and evaluate their effectiveness in conflicts of this nature.

Historical Background

MOVE is short for "The MOVEment," a radical, activist, counterculture organization that arose in Philadelphia. It is unclear when it began; some recall its existence as far back as 1968. John Africa was the founder and philosophical leader ...
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