Members of MOVE live by a bizarre medley of philosophies that translates to the outside world as foul-smelling, unsanitary and violent.
Difficult to label, they have been described variously as a radical primitivist or back-to-nature sect and as armed anarchists and revolutionaries.
The little group was founded in 1972 by handyman Vincent Leaphart, a black third-grade dropout, and Donald Glassey, a white college teacher with a master's degree in social work. Their first home was a ramshackle Victorian mansion in Powelton Village, a university bedroom community of west Philadelphia known for its tolerance of counterculture movements.
Leaphart, who did odd jobs in Powelton Village in the early 1970s, apparently captivated Glassey, who was living in a commune there, with preachings about the dangers of modern technology.
Much of what is known about the group reportedly has come from Glassey, who turned federal informer against MOVE. In testimony in 1981, he tearfully described "how a group of people came together to make the world a better place and became suicidal terrorists."
The MOVE philosophy opposes electricity and other forms of technology. Yet members used an electric bullhorn to taunt or shout obscenities at police and others and, according to authorities, assembled an arsenal that included pipe bombs, shotguns and high-powered rifles. Authorities told The Philadelphia Inquirer that MOVE even tried to acquire an atomic bomb.
MOVE ruled out the use of soap for bathing, preferring a mixture that included garlic. In the belief that food should be recycled, members routinely threw their garbage on the ground around their residences, but kept so many dogs that they could plant nothing. They allowed animal as well as human feces to accumulate, creating a stench and attracting rats, which they welcomed as natural.
MOVE women reportedly delivered their babies without medical assistance -- the mother biting off the umbilical cord and licking the infant clean.
Most of those who joined the group -- estimated at a few dozen -- are black. They wear their hair in dreadlocks, the braided style of the Jamaica-based Rastafarians. All adopted the surname Africa. MOVE apparently is not an acronym, and its meaning is unknown.
Even in broad-minded Powelton Village, which The Inquirer called Philadelphia's answer to San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, the neighbors began to complain. One group that did so reported that MOVE members threatened to retaliate by killing or castrating them and their children. Beginning in 1975, MOVE had a number of run-ins with Philadelphia authorities.
Under the guidance of Leaphart, who had changed his name to John Africa, the group fortified its house, stockpiled weapons and became increasingly militant, authorities say. In May 1977, after a nine-hour confrontation with MOVE, authorities began round-the-clock surveillance of the group's headquarters.
In March 1978, during a snow squall, police acting with court approval laid siege to the house, sealing off a four-block area and preventing the group, which included children, from bringing in food and water. MOVE members kicked away food provided for their children and nursing mothers, saying that they would accept food for all, including dogs and cats, or none.
Fifty days later, the members agreed to surrender but did not. Early on Aug. 5, 1978, hundreds of police and firefighters converged to enforce a judge's order to arrest 21 MOVE members. Shots were fired from the house. Policeman James Ramp was fatally wounded.
Before the confrontation ended, four other police officers, four firefighters and a MOVE member were wounded, and the city had bulldozed the group's house.
Then-Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, a former policeman with a tough law-and-order image, emerged as a major antagonist of MOVE members, calling them "animals" and declaring that he would pull the switch himself if any of them were sent to the electric chair. Pennsylvania did not have capital punishment.
Then, as now, controversy swirled around the city's handling of the situation. Some charged that the confrontation was racial, strengthening Rizzo's support among blue-collar whites. Demonstrators compared the mayor to Adolf Hitler.
Nine MOVE members were convicted for their part in the shootout and were each sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison.
Three years after the shootout, the group set up a new base at the house on Osage Avenue in west Philadelphia where this week's violence occurred.
In May 1981, after years as fugitives, John Africa and eight followers were arrested in Rochester, N.Y.; they were later acquitted on conspiracy and weapons charges.
Violent encounters with authorities continued sporadically, involving MOVE members in prison as well as those outside. Then, two weeks ago, 50 of MOVE's neighbors held an emotional news conference criticizing Mayor W. Wilson Goode, who defeated Rizzo in 1983, for not evicting the group.