Debbie Africa Free! Baby-Snatching Practice Blocked Motherhood For 20-million Seconds (40 years)

June 20, 2018
Linn Washington Jr.
Reprinted from ThisCantBeHappening.net

Justice system abuses mothers with no apologies

Debbie’s son Mike said life was “hard” for him growing up without his mother and father, not having their “guidance” at times when he needed it. Mike said that when he went to wake up his mother the morning after her release from prison he saw her feet for the first time in his life.

“Things people take for granted like just talking to your parents — I never had,” Michael said. “Fortunately I had the support of my parent’s family, other MOVE members and MOVE supporters. It helped a lot.

“I can’t wait to see my dad come home.”

Debbie Africa, with son Mike Africa Jr. with photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr

Debbie Africa with son Mike Jr. and photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr. LBWPhoto

The arbitrary and often abusive practices of authorities that drove clashes between MOVE and Philadelphia City authorities were evident in the parole release of Debbie Africa – a parole granted after eight previous parole rejections.

Debbie and fellow MOVE members Janine and Janet each saw the Pennsylvania Parole Board on the same day. Each had similar unblemished prison records, each were credited with positively mentoring other inmates, each were praised for helping keep calm in the prison and each – for the first time ever – had a release recommendation from Philadelphia’s new District Attorney, Larry Krasner.

But the Parole Board rejected Janine and Janet while that Board released Debbie during a process that is completely secret even from lawyers representing inmates.

One reason given by the Parole Board for the rejection of Janine and Janet was they received a negative recommendation from Philly’s DA – a claim that is factually inaccurate according to Brad Thomson, the lawyer who represented Debbie, Janine and Janet during that parole proceeding.

“It is shocking that Janet and Janine were denied parole. Their circumstances and institutional records are nearly identical to Debbie’s,” stated Thomson, who attended the press conference with Debbie and Mike Jr.

“The decision to deny Janet and Janine appears arbitrary and it is difficult to understand how the Parole Board could justify it based on the facts that were presented,” noted Thomson of the People’s Law Office in Chicago.

Then again, arbitrariness and abuse riddled the MOVE 9 trial. The judge who convicted and sentenced the MOVE 9 during a non-jury proceeding said he meted out identical sentences because they “were a family” and that he, therefore, would sentence them as a family – a stance that made a mockery of the so-called maxim of prison time fitting the crime.

Police testimony during that long trial was that only the four MOVE men were armed and the MOVE women, including Debbie Africa, were merely holding children while huddled inside the basement of the then MOVE compound in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village during that 1978 shootout.

(Evidence furthermore indicates that police gunfire accidentally killed the policeman. Police experts could not match the bullet removed from the slain officer to any of the weapons recovered from the MOVE compound.)

The arrest and imprisonment of the MOVE 9 unleashed a chain of events that culminated in the horrific May 13, 1985 incident where Philadelphia police bombed another house occupied by MOVE members and deliberately allowed an inferno sparked by that bomb to burn, preventing firefighters from trying to put it out.

That bomb-triggered blaze incinerated 11 MOVE members including five children. That police blaze also destroyed 61 adjacent homes and left 250 people homeless.

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by Philadelphia police and FBI

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by police. LBWPhoto

Police snipers drove some MOVE members who tried to flee their burning building back into the inferno where temperatures reached 2,000-degrees. Only one MOVE adult and one child escaped that deadly firestorm.

One of the MOVE members murdered by police action during that 1985 clash was MOVE founder John Africa. The five youth deaths included the children of Janine and Janet, Debbie’s now former cellmates. No Philadelphia police officer or City official faced prosecution for that incident where an FBI agent supplied the main component for that bomb — military C-4 hi-explosive — that Philadelphia police dropped from a Pa State Police helicopter.

Debbie Africa said she is looking forward to strengthening bonds with her children and grandchildren. She will adjust to life outside prison like learning how to use a cell phone, a now ubiquitous device that didn’t exist at the time of her arrest in 1978. And she said she would work for the release of her imprisoned MOVE family members.

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.