Louise James Confronts Old Neighbors

Posted: May 14, 1987

Louise James, who lost a brother and a son two years ago in the MOVE siege at the house she owned, returned to her old block yesterday and confronted her former neighbors.

"You don't want me for a neighbor! I don't want you for a neighbor!" she shouted as dozens of people came out of their homes to stand on the street and watch.

Saying that they would have many sleepless nights in their new homes, James taunted, "How're you planning to keep me out? I'm going to keep coming back. I'm here now."

James, who had lived on the block for more than 20 years, several years ago opened her home at 6221 Osage Ave. to MOVE members, which eventually led to neighborhood complaints against the radical group and, ultimately, city intervention.

Eleven people were killed on May 13, 1985, in the daylong confrontation, including James' son, Frank James Africa, and her brother, Vincent Leaphart, also known as John Africa, founder of MOVE.

The residents on both sides of the 6200 block of Osage Avenue and on one side of the same block of Pine Street lost their homes and belongings in a fire ignited when the city dropped a bomb on James' house to oust MOVE. A new house has been built where James' house once stood, but it has not been offered to James.

Yesterday's confrontation with her neighbors capped a day of commemoration for James and a small group of relatives and MOVE supporters, who pledged they would never forget John Africa or the 1985 confrontation with police.

James, a former MOVE member, was with two of her sisters and three other women when she marched down the block and stood in front of her old property. Hard feelings were evident on the faces of neighbors who watched - for the most part in silence - as police civil-affairs officers urged her to quiet down and leave.

James and the other women recited the MOVE creed with clenched fists in front of the house. They shouted obscenities and accusations at her former neighbors, calling some of them by name.

"You got blood on your hands and blood on your heads," James said.

"Your consciences ain't going to let you sleep at night," she said, threatening to come back every year.

Milton Williams, a resident of the block, stuffed his hands in his pockets and paced as James and the others screamed.

"Don't we have the right to put this behind us?" Williams asked. ''There's no reason for her to do this. It's already bad enough, with the trauma and trying to get everything back together."

"Freedom of speech is one thing, but this is ridiculous. People are forgetting that they brought the problem here. We're the victims. What revolution?" Williams said. "What are they going to change? They haven't changed anything."

Earlier, James led a small caravan from 39th Street and Girard Avenue, where she and a sister had begun their commemoration with loudspeaker addresses to a crowd consisting mostly of news people and plainclothes police officers, to Whitemarsh Memorial Park in Horsham Township, where her brother and son are buried.

At the gravesites, James and her sisters, Laverne Sims and Muriel Williams, knelt and wept.

"We didn't forget, Frank," James screamed. "We didn't forget, Frank, and we're not going to forget. We ain't never going to forget."

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