Report Back: Updates on MOVE and Mumia Abu-Jamal

MOVE Family and Friends at MOVE Conference on May 7, 2017

** Click for larger version **

Thursday, June 1, 2017,
6 – 9 pm,
Solidarity Center, 147 W. 24th St., 2nd Fl.,
New York, NY 10011 – See map.

Presenting: Pam Africa – Ramona Africa – Bob Boyle, Esq. – Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq.
MC: Suzanne Ross

Event free. Light supper available at low cost at 6 pm.
More info call: (212) 633-6646 or (212) 927-2924

Ramona Africa Talks MOVE, Liberation and Surviving 1985 Bombing

By: Lamont Lilly,
March 20, 2017,
TeleSUR —

The U.S. freedom fighter discusses the history of MOVE and what it means to fight for liberation in part one of an exclusive interview.

Former U.S. political prisoner, Ramona Africa, is the Minister of Communication for the MOVE Organization and a Philadelphia-based organizer with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. She is also the only living survivor of the 1985 MOVE bombing, when the FBI and Philadelphia police dropped two C-4 bombs on her organization’s Philadelphia home, killing 11 people.

Lamont Lilly: Ramona, for those who may be unfamiliar, what is the MOVE Organization? Who founded MOVE, and what is the organization about?

John Africa hug

John Africa hug

Ramona Africa: The MOVE Organization is a revolutionary organization founded by a Black man named John Africa. He brought people together from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc., and gave us one common revolutionary belief. That belief is in the sanctity, and all importance of life, on all levels, without exception. And it is that uncompromising belief commitment to life that has put us in direct conflict with the system that we’re living under, a system that doesn’t care anything about life — whether it’s the air, the water, the soil that feeds us, they don’t care. But as members of MOVE, we are committed to life.

We were animal rights activists long before that term was ever invented. We were environmentalists before that term was ever invented. Everything that John Africa taught us has come full circle.

John Africa had even coordinated a raw food diet for us. He put us in touch with what our natural diet is. People said we were crazy, that we were going to get sick and make our children sick. “You can’t eat raw food like that. You have to cook it,” they would say. Now, what do we see, some 45 years later? You see raw food restaurants, from the West coast to the East coast. You see nutritionists now teaching the benefits of raw food.

John Africa even encouraged MOVE women to have babies naturally, at home. He would tell us, “When you’re pregnant, you’re not sick. You don’t need a hospital to do something as natural as giving birth.” No other species of life goes to a hospital to have a baby.

Another thing, in terms of composting, there’s a new movement going on around this now. Well, MOVE was composting 45 years ago. But when we composted, people went crazy. But today, they put a cute little word on it called “composting” and all of a sudden, it’s the “green” thing to do. We were also homeschooling, 45 years ago.

Lamont Lilly: When exactly did you become a member of MOVE? What period of life was this for you? How did joining MOVE change your life?

Ramona Africa: (Laughing) Oh wow, Lamont! That’s a story within itself. I went to catholic school during my high school years. I had begged my mother to transfer me to a public school, but she wouldn’t do it because she wanted me to have what she perceived as a “good education.” She was also in my ear telling me to be a doctor, be a lawyer, be anything you want to be. So I went with that and decided to focus on the legal system. When I graduated from West Catholic High, I ended up going to Temple University and took up a pre-law curriculum.

It was in my last semester at Temple that I started a work-study program because I needed the money to pay for school. I got hired at community legal services, a free legal aid agency. They assigned me to the housing unit. You can’t work in the Philadelphia housing unit without being an advocate for the poor. That’s when I first started getting active in the community. That period marked my first arrest at the Philadelphia City Council. I eventually had to go to court for that arrest and met a brother named Mel, there. We exchanged numbers, and he would call me and tell me things that were going on. He called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to a meeting to plan a MOVE demonstration.

I lived in West Philadelphia all my life. I had heard about MOVE, but I didn’t really know about MOVE. So I went to the meeting with him. We were supposed to go out that night after the meeting, but I got so wrapped up in the meeting, I wouldn’t go anywhere (laughing). I was really impressed.

The second time I was arrested, the sentencing judge gave me 60 days in the county jail, the “house of corrections.” But you know what, I tell everybody, I owe her a million thanks because she sent me to the county jail for two months, up close and personal with MOVE women. That was the best thing she could have ever done for me. When I walked out, there was no turning back. I wanted to be like MOVE women and became a member in 1979.

Lamont Lilly: It sounds like MOVE really provided a new sense of wholeness and purpose for you.

Ramona Africa: Yes, for me, but my mother had some issues. She was a beautician by trade, and obviously the first thing that struck her was my hair. She had a problem with my hair because, from the time I was knee-high, she would “do my hair” by washing it, pressing it, straightening it and curling it. So, when I let my hair grow and lock on its own, oh my goodness — (laughing) she wasn’t too happy about that.

This was after the Black Power Movement and long before the current period of being Black and unapologetic. A lot of sisters are rocking “naturals” now, but that wasn’t the case in 1979. She also took issue with me not going to law school. I didn’t even go to my graduation at Temple University when I finished undergrad.

Lamont Lilly: You mentioned ‘the system’ earlier and what it had done, can you take us back to May 13, 1985? What happened that day?

Ramona Africa: The first thing that people should be aware of, is that the bombing took place on Monday, May 13, but the cops came out in mass, surrounding our home on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12, 1985. They laid siege on our home, supposedly because neighbors were complaining about us. What MOVE was saying was that we weren’t denying that some neighbors had complaints about us, but name one community in this entire country where some neighbor doesn’t complain about the other.

Not only that, when has this government ever cared about Black folks complaining about their neighbors? When did that start? Anyone who believes that is foolish. Obviously, the U.S. government does not care about Black folks complaining, about their neighbors, or anything else for that matter. So that “complaining” excuse was just a lie.

They came out there to kill MOVE — to silence our righteous protests, our unrelenting fight concerning the unjust imprisonment of our family members, the MOVE 9 (who were arrested on the false charge of killing a cop on August 8, 1978). That’s why they came out.

They started just like they did in August of ‘78, with the fire department (who take an oath to run into burning buildings and save lives). But in May of 1985, they worked with the cops to kill off life, to kill off the MOVE organization. Firefighters turned the water hoses against us — each hose pumping out 10,000 pounds of water pressure per minute. They had four of those hoses so that’s 40,000 pounds of water pressure per minute. This water was being pumped out for hours, but there was no fire.

When that didn’t drive us out, they breached 3-inch holes in the connecting walls of our house. They wanted to blow holes into the walls to insert tear gas, at least that’s what they said. When they finished exploding what they “claimed” was supposed to be 3-inch holes in the wall — the whole front of our house was blown away. So, when they started inserting tear gas, a lot of it was just coming right back out. That’s when they opened fire on us, and according to them, shot 10,000 rounds of bullets in the first 90 minutes. They had to send to their arsenal for more ammunition.

We were all in the basement. We heard this loud noise that shook the whole house. We were in the basement, but there was still a lot of tear gas in the house that had not found its way out yet, and it started getting a little warmer in there.

MOVE family home after FBI/police bombing on May 13, 1985As the smoke and gas got thicker, we were like “wait a minute, this is something else.” We were listening and could hear the tree in the back of our house crackling as if it were on fire. That’s when we realized that our house was actually on fire. We immediately tried to get our children, our animals and ourselves out of that blazing inferno. But at the point when we were trying to come out, and could be seen trying to come out, the cops opened fire on us, forcing us back in.

We tried several times to get out, but each time we were shot back into the house. This was a clear indication that they didn’t intend for any of us to survive that attack. But finally, like the third time, we knew that we would either choke to death and be burned alive, or were going to be shot to death. So, we made one more attempt at it, to get out. I was closest and got outside the door. I got Birdie out. Everybody was lined up to come out after us.

One of two survivors, Ramona Africa.It was not until they took me into custody and to the local hospital, that I was looking for the rest of my family, but nobody came in. I’m in the hospital and wondering what was going on. I didn’t find out until I left the hospital and was taken to the police administration building (to the homicide unit). Only then, did I find out that there were no other survivors other than me and my young brother, Birdie Africa.

The police were contemplating charging me with the murder of my family.

They charged me with everything they did: possession of explosives, arson, causing a catastrophe, attempted murder, simple and aggravated assault. But the charges and warrant they came at me with were all dismissed when I was able to challenge them in the pretrial. They eventually dropped those charges. Oh, and I forgot. They also threw in “terroristic threats,” which was ridiculous.

Lamont Lilly: So let me get this clear, after all that, you were charged with attempted murder and arson?

Ramona Africa: Yep. Yes, I was. And that was another eye-opener for me because when all the charges and the warrants that they came at me with were dismissed, it seems like anything that came from these bogus warrants would have to be dropped as well. If their reasons for being out there were invalid, then how could anything that was a result of their presence be valid? But they were never going to drop all the charges on me.

Lamont Lilly: Did you serve time for any of those charges?

Ramona Africa: Yes, I did. First of all, I had a US$4.5 million bail. US$4.5 million! I was in jail from May 1, 1985, up until May 13, 1992, because I was convicted of “rioting,” if you can believe that. I was sentenced to 16 months and 7 years. When my 16-month minimum was up, I was told by the parole board that they would parole me, but only if I agreed to sever all ties with MOVE. Sever ALL ties! And I wasn’t about to do that. Instead of being released at 16 months, I did the whole 7 years.

Lamont Lilly: Eleven people were murdered May 13, 1985. How many children died in that bombing?

Ramona Africa: Five children and six adults! And not one single official, on any level, was ever held accountable, ever charged with a single crime against MOVE. But yet, you have the MOVE 9 being called murderers and being imprisoned for 38 years, working on 39 years now. Meanwhile, the people that murdered 11 of my family members, publicly on May 13 of 1985, not one of them was ever held accountable.

Lamont Lilly: As a new generation accepts the baton of mass resistance, the Black Matters Movement, what words of advice would you share?

Ramona Africa: The first and most important thing is to never stop. Don’t ever stop pushing and fighting. Don’t ever give in! Be consistent. Don’t allow yourselves to be disillusioned. Don’t allow anyone or anything to buy you off. And don’t allow yourselves to be compromised or co-opted, because trust me, they will try. You can definitely believe that!

This system will come at you with all kinds of things. All kinds! But if you fall for it, you’re done. You’re done, and that’s what they bank on. They bank on people flaring up for an instant and then fizzling out.

One last thing I really want the young people to remember. We do this work out of love, not hate. Love for life and the people. Long live John Africa! Long live the revolution! Ona move!

Lamont Lilly was a U.S. delegate at the International Forum for Justice in Palestine in Beirut, Lebanon. He is also an activist and organizer in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Demand US Atty Gen Loretta Lynch investigate the wrongful ongoing imprisonment of the MOVE 9

Free the MOVE 9August 8, 2016 will officially mark 38 years since innocent MOVE Members have been unjustly jailed in Pennsylvania state prisons. The position of THE MOVE ORGANIZATION and SUPPORTERS of MOVE has not changed and that position is our family is innocent and we want them home and will not stop fighting until they are home. In 1998 our sister, Merle Africa, died in prison under mysterious circumstances. In 2015 our brother Phil Africa died in prison under mysterious circumstances. From the period of 2008 to as recent as June of 2016 all of our people have been denied parole on what seems to be a questionable bias issue, especially since their prison conduct has been exemplary.

In May of 2015 supporters of the Move 9 put together a petition aimed at United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch demanding an investigation into the wrongful ongoing imprisonment of the Move 9. There are many key facts that demand an investigation into this case by the U.S. Justice Dept.

(1) The Destruction of the Move house by police on August 8, 1978. The house was the scene of the crime and evidence there would easily show that all bullets were shot by the police into the MOVE house, that there were no operable guns in the house and no bullets fired out from the MOVE house.

(2) The Beating Of Delbert Africa By Philadelphia Police on August 8th 1978.
Delbert was visibly unarmed when he was ferociously beaten by police and hospitalized. Delbert’s his civil rights
were violated AND ON FILM, but no police were charged with any crime.

(3) No Move Members were charged with weapons charges after their arrest because they had no weapons–however they were sentenced for shooting a police officer!

(4) After Sentencing Move Members To 30-100 years in prison the trial judge the late Edwin S.Malmed admitted on public radio that he had not the faintest idea who killed officer James Ramp.

Judge Malmed in fact stated that he was sentencing Move Members to prison time for no other reason than being committed MOVE Members.

Sign the petition for a federal investigation now!


Contact these officials who are unfairly denying parole to the MOVE 9

People To Contact and Pressure

PA. Board of Probation And Parole
1101 South Front Street, Suite 5300
Harrisburg, PA. 17104
General: 717-787-5699
Inmate Inquiries: 717-772-4343

Leo Dunn (Chairman); Leslie Grey Esq. ; Everette Gillison Esq.; Craig R. Mckay; Theodore Johnson ; Edward L. Burke; Mark Koch; Linda Pastroff Rosenberg

Media-Related Inquiries: Sherry Tate, Director, 717-231-4411 (8am-5pm)/After 5pm and weekends 717 756-9842/ shtate@pa.gov
Laura Treaster, Deputy Director, 717-231-4411 (8am-4:15pm) ltreaster@pa.gov

More officials>>


Ramona Africa Interviewed by The Guardian newspaper from London

Media descended on Philadelphia last week for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) which exhorted Democratic Party faithful to back Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. Many media wanted to cover additional stories about Philadelphia and Ramona Africa gave several interviews. Check out this well-made video interview by The Guardian newspaper, all the way from London.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2016 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm

MOVE Women & Sis. Anne

MOVE Women & Sis. Anne

Join the MOVE Organization for a very special tribute for The MOVE 9 Sisters. We prepare for their upcoming May 2016 parole hearings for Janet, Janine and Debbie Africa; we celebrate the work and sacrifices they have made during their 38 years of unjust imprisonment. Also, remembrance of our sister, the late Merle Africa, who died under mysterious circumstances in March 1998 at the State Correctional Institution in Cambridge Springs Pennsylvania after serving twenty years unjustly imprisoned.

Saturday, March 26, 2016 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Location: Kingsessing Recreational Center
4901 Kingsessing Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

MOVE women

Speakers: Ramona Africa, Pam Africa, The MOVE Family, Lynne Stewart, Amina Baraka, Phile Chinselou, Anthony Monterio, Leon Williams, Women who were incarcerated with The MOVE 9 Sisters.
Performers: MOVE Youth Rap Groups: Life and Raw
For more info email onamovellja@gmail.com and see The Move 9″ on Facebook and http://move9parole.blogspot.com
Get Flyer: 2016-03-26-MOVE-9-Sisters.jpg

Fri. May 13, 2016 from 6-9 pm

Stand with MOVE on May 13, 2016

(click for larger 8.5″ x 11″ flyer)

Stand together with the MOVE family on the 31st anniversary of the Philadelphia government bombing of the MOVE home on May 13, 1985. Remember the 11 murdered MOVE members, including John Africa and five children. Remember the framed-up MOVE 9 and demand their immediate parole. Cultural performances.
Location:
Abiding Truth Ministries Church
57th and  Washington Ave. (one block north of Baltimore Ave.) See map.
6-9 pm

Bombing Black People: The Philadelphia Police’s War on Move

Global Research News Hour Episode 129
By Michael Welch and Linn Washington
January 31, 2016

Click to hear audio:   audio-iconhttp://www.radio4all.net/files/scottprice666@hotmail.com/4319-1-GRNH_Jan_29_2016_episode_129_session_mixdown.mp3

“May 13, 1985 is a day that shall live in infamy, but for far more reasons than the obvious. It was the death knell of a system committing suicide. It proved that a man called John Africa spoke powerful truths when he spoke about the nature of the system as corrupt, as flawed, as poisoned. Every day past that date has only proved it even more. ” -Mumia Abu-Jamal, from a May 9 2010 radio essay

The only aerial bombing by police ever carried out on US soil was on May 13, 1985, when a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped military grade explosives on the house run by a group of self-styled revolutionaries known as Move. This group, which claims to adhere to principles of non-violence was founded by John Africa in 1972, and was composed mostly, but not exclusively, of African-Americans. They rejected the norms of 20th century American society in their dress, grooming, diet and lifestyles, and had come in conflict with authorities on several occasions.[1]

The 1985 bombing claimed the lives of five children and six adults including founder John Africa. Another adult named Ramona Africa, and a child named Birdie Africa were the only survivors of the assault. More than 250 people in the predominantly black middle class neighbourhood were left homeless after more than 60 other homes were destroyed as a result of the aerial bombing, and the fires that followed.[2]

This attack followed a previous assault on August 8, 1978. A police raid on the Move house, then located in the Philadelphia neighbourhood of Powelton village, resulted in the death of police officer James Ramp. The Courts held nine Move members responsible for the death and sentenced them to 30 to 100 years behind bars. [3]

Thirty-seven years later, two of the nine have died in prison under suspicious circumstances. Supporters of the Move 9, as they are called, are appealing to the Philadelphia Parole Board to set the remaining seven members free, now that they have all served their minimum sentences. [4][5]

In this installment of the Global Research News Hour we examine the attacks on Move in the context of a history of police and state repression of the black minority population of the US.

Ramona Africa showing burns from police bomb on her homeRamona Africa is the spokesperson for Move. She served seven years in prison on riot charges following the bombing by Philadelphia police. She and other plaintiffs eventually received a $1.5 million settlement from the city in connection with the incident. In this interview Ramona provides some background on the group and the police stand-offs in 1978 and 1985, and speaks at length about the unjust incarceration of nine Move members who she explains could not possibly have been responsible for the murder of police officer Ramp.

Linn WashingtonLinn Washington is a journalist and currently serves as an Associate Professor of Journalism at Temple University. He has covered Move almost from the group’s beginnings and was present on the scene as a reporter during the 1985 police action against the group. He will put the 1985 Bombing and the events that led up to it in their proper context and establish the failures, as he sees it, of the media to hold those in authority to account.

Mumia Abu-JamalMumia Abu-Jamal is a renowned journalist from Philadelphia who has been in prison since 1981 and is known as the “Voice of the Voiceless” for his award- winning reporting on police brutality and other social and racial epidemics that plague communities of color in Philadelphia and throughout the world.  Much of his journalism called attention to the blatant injustice and brutality he watched happen on a daily basis to MOVE, a revolutionary organization that works to protect all forms of life–human, animal, plant–and the Earth as a whole.

Incredibly, it’s been almost 30 years – 30 years! – since 9 MOVE men and women were unjustly consigned to prisons across Pennsylvania. Although known as the MOVE 9, there really are seven survivors of the August 8th, 1978 police assault on MOVE’s West Philadelphia home and headquarters. They are: Janine Africa, Mike Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Eddie Africa, Chuck Africa and Delbert Africa. The late Merle Africa died at the women’s prison in Muncy, PA (near Williamsport, PA) under quite mysterious circumstances. Phil Africa passed away under suspicious circumstances at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA.

All 9 MOVE men and women were convicted in one of the longest (and most contentious) trials in city history, on dubious charges of 3rd degree murder of a city cop engaged in the raid on their home, and related charges. Even if all the charges were true (and they most certainly are not), the sentence 30 to 100 years can only be termed grossly excessive. At the time of trial, 3rd degree carried a sentence of 71/2 to 15 years –so essentially the MOVE people got more than double, and indeed, quadruple the maximum of what the statute provided. Indeed, the woman got the same sentences as the men, even though none of them faced weapons charges! There’s little real doubt that they’re in prison today because they’re MOVE members. Today, 30 years later, they should be entitled to their freedom–and they would be, but for the concerted campaign of cops and local media to keep them imprisoned for a century.

MOVE members continue to fight for their imprisoned brothers and sisters, and they ask that you join that struggle by supporting their parole demands. On the web, contact: onamovellja@aol.com for more information or see http://onamove.com. Or write the MOVE Organization, P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA, 19143. As many of you know, I covered the press conference of August 8th, 1978.

Every reporter present knows that within hours of that press conference, the police department issued a written press release giving a completely revised statement of how the cop met his death. That makes sense when you consider that the cop was most likely the victim of friendly fire, for the MOVE house had become a shooting gallery, with police expending literally hundreds of rounds during the raid. Moreover, when’s the last time you’ve seen a crime scene destroyed before nightfall, within hours of the shooting? It happened here. I also covered the trial, a parade of legalized injustice if ever there was one. Indeed, days after the trial, Judge Edwin S. Malmed took to the airwaves to defend his unjust rulings. On a radio talk show on WWDB-FM, I phoned him and asked him if he knew who killed the cop. He replied, live on air, “I haven’t the faintest idea.” Yet, this guy sent 9 people to prison for 30-to-100 years!
– by Mumia Abu-Jamal from a May 9 2010 radio essay

For more resources on Move, and how to help the Move 9, please visit the following sites:

http://onamove.com

http://move9parole.blogspot.ca

Call Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for Parole for Eddie Africa!

In the past months Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf has made many public statements criticizing the Pennsylvania (PA) Parole Board and calling for much needed reform in how the parole process is carried out by the board. It is rare for a newly sworn Governor in any state to call for reform measures in the parole process. Is Governor Wolf just speaking liberal talk? Or is he ready to take true action by correcting the wrongs that keep men and women in prison past their minimum sentences?

There have been many cases in which men and women throughout Pennsylvania have been denied by the parole board 5, 6, 7–as many as ten times–still not able to come home to their families and communities. In 2008 Edward Goodman Africa and seven other men and women known collectively as the Move 9 became parole eligible after serving 30 years of their minimum sentence of 30 to 100 years. Since 2008 to as recent as June 2015, all of the Move 9 have been denied parole under very clear bias at the hands of the PA Parole Board.

Our Brother Eddie’s parole hearing was scheduled for October 2015 but for some reason was pushed to November 2015. We are very concerned due to the fact that Eddie, like the rest of our Move family, has not had a one fair parole hearing since 2008 nor does the parole board intend to give Eddie and the rest of the Move 9 a fair parole hearing.  Since Governor Wolf wants to make calls for reform in the Pennsylvania Parole system we are going to now encourage him to turn his words to into actions for Eddie Africa.

This Monday we are asking people interested in justice to contact Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf via phone call (717) 787-2500 or email: Governor@pa.gov and demand immediate parole for Edward Goodman Africa, #AM4974. When emailing or calling Governor Wolf  these are key points:

  1. Upon Parole Edward Africa has employment and housing secured.
  2. Edward has an excellent prison conduct record in which he has kept down racial and gang violence for the 37 years he has been in prison and has not had a write up in 16 years now.
  3. Parole Board member Leslie Gray, a former law enforcement official with strong ties to current law enforcement, creates a clear conflict of interest sitting over this hearing; it has been shown over past hearings that having past law enforcement officials sitting over these hearings, example Lloyd White and Randy Feathers.
  4. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has given negative reviews for parole for Edward despite having nothing to do with the prosecution of Edward and the Move 9 in 1980 as Seth Williams was only 14 years old when they were prosecuted.

Let’s put the pressure on Governor Wolf this Monday to push his words for reform in seeing that Edward Goodman Africa is finally granted parole seven years after reaching his minimum sentence. Also we are urging people to sign the petition we have aimed at The United States Justice Department In The Case Of The Move 9. People can sign at https://www.causes.com/campaigns/92454-free-the-move-9.

Thirty Years After MOVE Bombing: What Has Law Enforcement Learned?

Linn Washington Jr.
May 13, 2015 , The Root

Today many Philadelphia residents, particularly those under 30 years old, are unaware of that history-staining 1985 police attack on members of MOVE, an anti-establishment group founded in 1972. Authorities deemed MOVE a radical organization. The 11 people incinerated were MOVE members, including the organization’s founder, John Africa.

On May 13, 1985, a fire started after Philadelphia police dropped an explosive on a building where members of the MOVE organization where hiding.

On May 13, 1985, a fire started after Philadelphia police dropped an explosive on a building where members of the MOVE organization where hiding. (movie still, Let The Fire Burn)

On May 13, 1985, police in Philadelphia—Pennsylvania’s largest city—dropped a powerful bomb containing military C4 explosives on a house occupied by six children and seven adults.

That aerial assault 30 years ago is one of the worst incidents of police brutality in modern America.

The bomb, dropped from a state police helicopter, sparked a fire.

Philadelphia’s then-Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, along with then-Fire Commissioner William Richmond, barred firefighters from battling that blaze, pursuing a bizarre strategy to use the fire as a tactical weapon to drive the occupants from their barricaded house. Police had sought to arrest four adults inside the building on seven charges ranging from disorderly conduct to possession of explosives.

That decision to “let the fire burn” allowed the blaze to roar into a firestorm.

The inferno incinerated 11 inside the bombed building, including five children ages 7 to 13. That inferno also destroyed 60 other homes in the West Philadelphia neighborhood, leaving 250 people homeless. All of those killed in that inferno ignited by police were black, as were those left homeless by the inferno’s destruction.

Today many Philadelphia residents, particularly those under 30 years old, are unaware of that history-staining 1985 police attack on members of MOVE, an anti-establishment group founded in 1972. Authorities deemed MOVE a radical organization. The 11 people incinerated were MOVE members, including the organization’s founder, John Africa.

An Overlooked Atrocity

Incredibly, an aerial bombing in an American city by police rarely makes the lists of worst police-abuse incidents, despite its gruesome death toll and extensive destruction.

Many “worst lists” include the 1991 shooting of Amadou Diallo, who died during a 41-bullet fusillade from New York City police officers. Yet during the assault on May 13 that began at 5:50 a.m., Philadelphia police fired thousands of bullets into the MOVE house using a range of firearms, including machine guns. The confrontation went on until police dropped the bomb at 5:27 p.m.

The infamous 1985 bombing is far from an isolated incident in a dim past. The failure to hold Philadelphia authorities accountable for that deadly, destructive episode contributed to the impunity that drives the persistence of police brutality—brutality that has triggered massive protests across America since last year, after prosecutors in St. Louis and New York City manipulated grand juries away from indictments against the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

In America, prosecutors control the grand jury process without input from judges and other lawyers. Legal experts repeatedly criticize the failure of local prosecutors to charge police even when evidence documents indictable offenses. A 1991 article in the American Bar Association Journal criticized the “unwritten code” that prosecutors will not bring charges against police.

After that fatal 1985 raid, Philadelphia prosecutors manipulated a grand jury away from indictments against police. Prosecutors even refused to file perjury charges against police officers caught lying to the grand jury. Not a single Philadelphia police officer or city official faced prosecution for the death and destruction on May 13, 1985.

Philadelphia prosecutors saw no police wrongdoing in the deaths of those children. Their stance contradicted findings of a special investigating commission appointed by Philadelphia’s then-Mayor Wilson Goode (the first African American to hold the position) that described the deaths of the five MOVE children as “unjustified homicides.”

The city’s prosecutors claimed that bombing children was not illegal because the force from the police bomb “was applied only against” the adults, according to a May 1988 Philadelphia grand jury report. That convoluted reasoning rested on the pretense that the blast from the bomb affected only the adults inside the bombed building and not the children.

Although prosecutors refused to charge police and city officials, they did vigorously charge the lone surviving adult MOVE member, Ramona Africa. She served her entire seven-year sentence for conspiracy and riot because she refused state parole-board demands to renounce her MOVE membership as a condition for early release.

Ramona Africa, along with a MOVE child, escaped the fire. Both sustained serious burns.

The special commission concluded that police gunfire drove other fleeing MOVE members back into the inferno. However, prosecutors—again employing convoluted reasoning—claimed that some MOVE members returned to the blazing building either because they wrongly believed that the police were shooting or because they intended to commit suicide.

An Incendiary History of Conflict

In many ugly ways, the series of conflicts between MOVE and Philadelphia authorities constitute a case study in the failures of police, prosecutors and judges.

Those conflicts with the MOVE organization began in 1972 when Philadelphia experienced epidemic-level police abuses under then-Mayor Frank Rizzo, an ex-cop. Police under Rizzo targeted the often-disruptive MOVE for harsh enforcement of minor infractions. Yet prosecutors and judges ignored that brutal enforcement.

An Aug. 8, 1978, clash between Philadelphia police and MOVE in which a police officer died led to 30- to 100-year sentences for nine MOVE members. Those nine included four MOVE women who police testified were unarmed, holding only small children during that clash.

The judge who convicted the MOVE 9 admitted that he could not determine from trial evidence which male MOVE member had killed the police officer, but the judge declared that all nine deserved the same sentence, whether they were armed or unarmed.

MOVE’s campaign to win release of the nine imprisoned members set the stage for May 13, 1985. MOVE’s campaign strangely included intimidating and harassing its neighbors on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia. The May 13 police raid on MOVE’s fortified 6221 Osage Ave. house was a belated effort to stop MOVE harassment of its neighbors, who had complained about the group for more than a year.

Afterward, Philadelphia prosecutors used a legally flawed premise to clear all police and civilian officials for their May 13 actions: No one possessed a clear intent to harm MOVE members. Although a legal prerequisite for crimes like arson or murder is intent, crimes like reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe are based on results, not intent.

Prosecutors proclaimed that dropping a bomb on children was not reckless, and allowing the fire to burn did not cause a catastrophe. Like the Philadelphia prosecutors who had failed to see obvious crimes, federal prosecutors found no civil rights violations in the fiery deaths of those five children.

When Ramona Africa sued city officials for the bombing and firestorm nearly 10 years after May 13, 1985, a federal judge ruled the bombing legal but allowed a jury to determine the legality of the fatal fire. When the federal jury ruled against Sambor and Richmond and imposed modest $600 fines for allowing the fire to burn, the federal judge voided the jury’s action by ruling that the two officials had “official immunity” from any liability. But the judge did not eliminate the jury’s verdict that ordered the city of Philadelphia to pay Ramona Africa and relatives of two of the MOVE members who perished in that inferno a total of $1.5 million.

Today the 6200 block of Osage Avenue has a macabre feel. More than half of the rebuilt homes are abandoned.

The black residents of Osage Avenue in 1985, whose life possessions were destroyed in the inferno, received insult and inactions from city officials and federal judges.

The persistence of police brutality proves that authorities across America did not learn an important lesson from that deadly May 1985 incident: Lawless law enforcement harms society.

Linn Washington Jr. is a Philadelphia-based journalist who covered the May 13, 1985, clash. He has reported on police brutality since 1975. Washington is a journalism professor at Temple University.

Debbie Africa Denied Parole for Sixth Time

Debbie Sims AfricaThe Philadelphia Fraternal Order Of Police in conjunction with The Pennsylvania Parole Board and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams have gone all out to ensure that innocent Move Members stay in prison for the rest of their lives. Despite having employment and housing both established and an excellent prison conduct record  and letters of support From people all over the world  The PA Parole Board under the orders of The Fraternal Order Of Police denied Debbie Africa parole for the sixth time.

Debbie a loving Grandmother of nine was denied based on the fact that she was considered a risk to the safety of the community even though their were hundreds of letters of support for parole for Debbie from the community. It was stated that due to the fact that Debbie would not accept guilt or show remorse for the crime that her and other Move Members were convicted of she was denied parole. You can look no further than the late trial Judge Edwin S. Malmed who admitted on public radio after sentencing Move Members to 30-100 years that he had not the faintest idea who killed Officer James Ramp and that he was sentencing Move people to prison for being Move members.

freethemove9-green-web-650x385pxAt this point this isn’t an issue of whether the Move 9 are guilty or innocent. They have all ready been proven innocent and people all over the world know this and these officials that are holding Move members hostage in prison know it. The bottom line is that a crime is being committed. Eight innocent people are being held hostage seven years past their minimum sentence under the orders of The Fraternal Order Of Police. They are doing this in the eyes of the public  for everyone to see. When Do You Say Enough Is Enough?

Debbie went before the board back in May 2014 and was denied parole back in June without her or the public knowing about her parole denial. Debbie was denied parole on 6/18/14 but did not receive her paperwork on the denial until August!  These legalized terrorists known as the Pennsylvania Board have been exposed for all of their wrongdoing in the eyes of the public and are feeling so much pressure over the issue of the Move 9 they are playing the dirtiest and foulest games to divert the public outcry over these parole denials and hearings.

They can no longer do what they do secretly and we are gonna further expose them and their filth. We are taking this campaign to the next level and are gonna keep exposing the crimes being committed by the Pennsylvania Board,  the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. This fight is far from over.

ONA MOVE
The Justice And Accountability Campaign