[Ppnews] Attention, MOVE: This is America!
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 7 10:40:25 EDT 2009
From: Hans Bennett <<mailto:hbjournalist at gmail.com>hbjournalist at gmail.com>
Date: May 7, 2009 3:24 AM
Subject: New MOVE 9 article at BornBlackMag.com
To: Hans Bennett <<mailto:hbjournalist at gmail.com>hbjournalist at gmail.com>
This article below has just been released at Born
Black Magazine. This is based on an article I
wrote a few years ago, and I have updated it to
include news from last years parole denial for
the MOVE 9, and to situate it worth the current
support campaign for MOVE 9 Parole. A
demonstration is being organized in Philadelphia
on May 16, marking the anniversary of the May 13,
1985 massacre, and to mark the release of the
MOVE 9. Please help spread the word.
Attention, MOVE: This is America!
--At the 24th anniversary of the May 13 massacre,
MOVE organizes for 2009 Parole Hearings
By Hans Bennett
(Born Black Magazine, May 2009)
Attention, MOVE: This Is America! You must abide
by the laws of the United States! Philadelphia
Police Commissioner Sambor declared through a
loudspeaker, minutes before the May 13, 1985
police assault on the revolutionary MOVE
organizations home. This assault killed 5
children and 6 adults, including MOVE founder
John Africa. That morning police shot over 10,000
rounds of bullets into their West Philadelphia
home, and detonated explosives on the front, and
both sides of their house. Following an afternoon
standstill, a State Police helicopter dropped a
C-4 bomb, illegally supplied by the FBI, on
MOVEs roof. The bomb started a fire that
eventually destroyed 60 homes: the entire block
of a middle-class black neighborhood. 13-year old
Birdie Africa and 30-year old Ramona Africa were
the only survivors, after they dodged police
gunfire and escaped from the fire with permanent
burn scars. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usGZA5SovMw>(watch video)
Today, Ramona recalls being in the basement with
the children when the assault began. Water
started pouring in from the hoses. Then the tear
gas came after explosives blew the whole front of
the house off. After hearing a lot of gunfire,
things became pretty quiet. It was then that they
dropped the bomb without any warning.
At first, those of us in the basement didnt
realize that the house was on fire because there
was so much tear gas that it was hard to
recognize smoke. We opened the door and started
to yell that we were coming out with the kids.
The kids were hollering too. We know they heard
us but the instant we were visible in the
doorway, they opened fire. You could hear the
bullets hitting all around the garage area. They
deliberately took aim and shot at us. Anybody can
see that their aim, very simply, was to kill MOVE
peoplenot to arrest anybody.
After surviving the bombing, Ramona was charged
with conspiracy, riot, and multiple counts of
simple and aggravated assault. Her sentence was
16 months to 7 years, but she served the full 7
years when she was denied parole for not
renouncing MOVE. In court, all charges listed on
the May 11 arrest warrant, used to justify the
assault, were dismissed by the judge. Says
Ramona, This means that they had no valid reason
to even be out there, but they did not dismiss
the charges placed on me as a result of what happened after they came out.
Concluding Ramonas 1986 trial, Judge Stiles
explicitly told the jurors not to consider any
wrongdoing by police and other government
officials, because they would be held accountable
in other proceedings. This would never happen,
as Ramona explains: not one single official,
police officer, or anybody else has ever been
held accountable for the murder of my family.
People should not be fooled by this government
using words like justice. My family members,
who were parents of most of those children that
were murdered on May 13, have been in prison for
almost 30 years to this day, for the accusation
of a murder that they didn't commit, that nobody
saw them commit. Meanwhile, the people who
murdered their babies are still collecting
paychecks, still seen as respectable, and never did a day in jail.
Origins of the Confrontation
The 1985 police bombing was the culmination of
many years of political repression by
Philadelphia authorities. Much has already been
written about the events of May 13, 1985, but
less is told of the MOVE 9: Janine, Debbie,
Janet, Merle, Delbert, Mike, Phil, Eddie, and
Chuck Africa. These nine MOVE members were
jointly sentenced in the 1978 killing of Officer
James Ramp after a year-long police stakeout of
MOVEs Powelton Village home. Their parole
hearings come up in 2008. Ramona Africa explains,
The government came out to Powelton Village in
1978 not to arrest, but to kill. Having failed to
do that, my family was unjustly convicted of a
murder that the government knows they didnt
commit, and imprisoned them with 30-100 year
sentences. Later, when we as a family dared to
speak up against this, they came out to our home
again and dropped a bomb on us, burned babies alive.
First, some history:
Founded in the early 70s by John Africa, MOVE
sought to expose and challenge all injustice and
abuse of all forms of life, including animals and
nature. Along with neighborhood activism, MOVE
also organized nonviolent protests at zoos,
animal testing facilities, public forums,
corporate media outlets, and other places.
MOVEs first conflicts with police began at these
nonviolent protests when Mayor Frank Rizzos
police reacted in their typical brutal fashion.
From the very beginning, MOVE acted on the
principle of self-defense and met fist with
fist. Defending this today, Ramona Africa
explains Im sure the police were outraged that
these niggers had stood up to them, telling
them that they couldnt come and beat on our men,
women, and babies without us defending
themselves. What are people supposed to do? Sit back and take that shit?
Given Rizzos iron-fist rule, confrontation with
MOVE was inevitable. Infamous for his racist
brutality as Police Commissioner from 1968-71,
Rizzo once publicly boasted that his police force
would be so repressive that hed make Attila the
Hun look like a faggot. He was elected mayor in
1972 and by 1979, his police force was indicted
by the federal government, when the Justice Dept,
for the first time ever, brought suit against
civil authorities--not just police officials. The
suit named Rizzo and 20 other top city officials
(inclusive of police command) for aiding and abetting police brutality.
Police attacks on MOVE escalated on May 9, 1974
when two pregnant MOVE women, Janet and Leesing,
miscarried after being beaten by police and
jailed overnight without food or water. On April
29, 1975, Alberta Africa lost her baby after she
was arrested, dragged from a holding cell, held
down, and beaten in the stomach and vagina.
On the night of March 18, 1976, seven MOVE
prisoners had just been released and were
greeting their family in front of their Powelton
Village home in West Philadelphia, when police
arrived and set upon the crowd. Six MOVE men were
arrested and beaten so badly that they suffered
fractured skulls, concussions and chipped bones.
Janine Africa was thrown to the ground and
stomped on while holding her 3-week old Life
Africa. The babys skull was crushed and Life was dead.
After MOVE notified the media of the attack and
babys death, the police publicly claimed that
because there was no birth certificate, there was
no baby and that MOVE was lying. In response,
MOVE invited journalists and political figures to
their home to view the corpse. Shortly after the
attack, renowned Philadelphia journalist Mumia
Abu-Jamal (now on death row) interviewed an
eyewitness who had watched from a window directly
across the street. "I saw that baby fall," the
old man said. "They were clubbing the mother. I
knew the baby was going to get hurt. I even
reached for the phone to call the police, before
I realized that it was the police. You know what
I mean?" The District Attorneys office declined to prosecute the murder.
The Standoff Begins
In response to the escalated police violence,
MOVE staged a major demonstration on May 20,
1977. They took to a large platform in front of
their house, with several members holding what
appeared to be rifles. MOVE explains that: We
told the cops there wasnt gonna be any more
undercover deaths. This time they better be
prepared to murder us in full public view cause
if they came at us with fists, we were gonna come
back at them with fists. If they came at us with
clubs, wed come back at them with clubs, and if
they came at us with guns, wed use guns too. We
dont believe in death-dealing guns. We believe
in life, but we knew the cops wouldnt be too
quick to attack us if they had to face the same
stuff they dished out so casually on unarmed defenseless folk.
Speaking through megaphones on the platform, MOVE
demanded a release of their political prisoners
and an end to violent harassment from the city.
Heavily armed police surrounded the house, and a
likely police attack was averted when a crowd
from the community broke through the police line
and stood in front of MOVEs home to shield the residents from gunfire.
Days later, Judge Lynn Abraham responded by
issuing warrants for 11 MOVE members on riot
charges and possession of an instrument of
crime. Police then set up a 24-hour watch around
MOVEs house to arrest members leaving the
property, a standoff that lasted for almost a year.
Mayor Rizzo escalated the conflict on March 16,
1978, when police sealed off a four-block
perimeter around MOVE headquarters, blocking food
and shutting of the water supply. Rizzo boasted
the blockade was so tight, a fly couldnt get
through. Numerous community residents were
beaten and arrested when they attempted to
deliver food and water to the pregnant women,
nursing babies, and children inside.
After the two-month starvation blockade, MOVE and
the City came to a disputed agreement under
pressure from the federal government and a very
sophisticated campaign mounted by a Philly-based
community coalition. On May 8, 1978, MOVE
prisoners were released, and the police searched
MOVEs house for weapons. Police were shocked to
find only inoperable dummy firearms and road
flares made to look like dynamite. In the
agreement, the DA agreed to drop all charges
against MOVE and effectively purge MOVE from the
court system within 4-6 weeks. In return, MOVE
would move out of their home within a 90-day
period, while the city assisted them in finding a new location.
After searching the MOVE home and finding only
inoperable dummy weapons, police began to modify
terms of the agreement, focusing on the alleged
90-day deadline, for MOVE to leave their home.
MOVE says that the 90-day time period had been
described to them as a workable timetable for us
to relocate, but was misrepresented to the
media as an absolute deadline. MOVE made it clear
to officials that wed move to other houses but
we were keeping our headquarters open as a school.
At an August 2, 1978 hearing, Judge Fred DiBona
ruled that MOVE had violated the deadline and
signed arrest warrants that would justify the police siege the following week.
The morning of August 8, hundreds of riot police
moved in, bulldozers toppled their fence &
outdoor platform, and cranes smashed their home's
windows. Forty-five armed police searched the
house and found that MOVE was barricaded in the
basement. Police began to flood them out with high-pressure hoses.
Suddenly gunshots fired, likely from a house
across the street. Police opened fire on MOVEs
houseusing over 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The
police and most of the mainstream media would
later report that MOVE had fired these first
shots. However, KYW Radio reporters John
McCullough and Larry Rosen both recalled hearing
the first shot come from a house diagonally
across the street, where they saw an arm holding
a gun out of a third floor window.
The subsequent gunfire was chaotic and mostly
directed at the flooded basement. Officer James
Ramp was fatally wounded in the melee. Three
other policemen and several firemen were also
hit. A stake-out officer admitted later, under
oath, that he had emptied his carbine shooting
into the basement, where he heard screaming women
and crying children. At a staff meeting days
later, a police captain noted an excessive
amount of unnecessary firing on the part of
police personnel when there were no targets per se to shoot at.
When MOVE eventually surrendered and came out of
the house, their children were taken and the
adults were viciously beaten. Chuck and Mike
Africa had been shot in the basement. Live
television documented the violent arrest of
Delbert Africa. He was smashed in the head with a
rifle butt and metal helmet. While on the ground,
he was brutally stomped. Twelve MOVE adults were arrested.
At a press conference that afternoon, asked
whether this was the last Philadelphia would see
of MOVE, Rizzo proclaimed the only way were
going to end them is, get that death penalty
back, put them in the electric chair, and Ill pull the switch.
Destruction of Evidence
The subsequent case against the MOVE 9, was
plagued by factual inconsistencies and illegal police manipulation of evidence.
In a recent
with the author, Temple University professor and
Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington
elaborated on what he said in the 2004
narrated by Howard Zinn, that the police
department knows who killed Officer Ramp. It was
another police officer, who inadvertently shot
the guy. They have fairly substantial evidence
that it was a mistake, but again theyll never
admit it. I got this from a number of different
sources in the police department, including
sources on the SWAT team and sources in ballistics.
Manipulation of evidence began immediately after
the MOVE adults were arrested and Mayor Rizzo
ordered the police to bulldoze MOVEs home by
1:30pm that day. Police did nothing to preserve
the crime scene, inscribe chalk marks, or measure
ballistics angles. A few days before, a
Philadelphia judge had signed an order barring
the city from destroying the house, but this
order was explicitly violated. In a preliminary
hearing on a Motion to Dismiss, MOVE
unsuccessfully argued that destroying their home
had prevented them from proving that it was
physically impossible for MOVE to have shot Ramp.
case of Illinois Black Panthers Fred Hampton and
Mark Clark where the preservation of the crime
scene enabled investigators to prove that all the
bullet holes in the walls and doors were the result of police gunfire.
The photographic evidence presented in court was
also incomplete. Before demolishing MOVEs house,
police did take photos of empty shelves and
claimed they had been used to store their guns.
However, there were no photos of MOVE pointing or
shooting guns from the basement windows, of
police removing weapons from the house, or
supporting the claim that police removed guns
from the mud of the basement floor. To the
contrary, a police video viewed in court actually
shows then police commissioner Joseph ONeill
passing guns into MOVEs front basement window.
Strongly suggesting the deliberate destruction of
evidence, police video footage was also blanked
out at the point where Ramp was shot on all three
police videotapes presented in court.
Ballistics evidence presented about Officer
Ramps death is also inconsistent. In the
documentary film MOVE, Linn Washington recalls
the treatment of evidence at the trial. They had
a big problem with the authenticity and thus the
validity of the medical examiners report. The
prosecutor took out a pencil and erased items in
the report that he didnt like. Now MOVE was
objecting and the judge was saying sit down and
shut up and allowed the guy to do that.
On Aug.8, The Philadelphia Bulletin reported that
Ramp had been shot in the back of the head
according to the police log. The next day, the
Daily News instead reported that the bullet head
entered his throat at a downward trajectory in
the direction towards his heart. Later, in court,
the prosecutions medical examiner, Dr. Marvin
Aronson testified that the bullet entered his
chest from in front and coursed horizontally without deviation up or down.
In a recent newsletter, MOVE argues that if they
had shot from the basement, the bullet would have
been coming at an upward trajectory instead of
the horizontal and downward accounts that had
been presented. This crucial point aside, it
would have been essentially impossible to take a
clean shot at that time. The water in the
basement, estimated more than 7 feet deep, forced
the adults to hold up children and animals to
prevent them from drowning. The water pressure
was so powerful it was picking up 6 foot long
railroad ties (beams that were part of our fence)
and throwing them through the basement windows in
on us. Theres no way anybody could have stood up
against this type of water pressure, debris, and
shoot a gun, or aim to kill somebody.
On May 4, 1980, Janine, Debbie, Janet, Merle,
Delbert, Mike, Phil, Eddie, and Chuck Africa were
convicted of 3rd degree murder, conspiracy, and
multiple counts of attempted murder and
aggravated assault. Each was given a sentence of
30-100 years. Two other people denounced MOVE and
were released. Consuela Africa was tried
separately because the prosecutor found no evidence that she was a MOVE member.
Mumia Abu-Jamal writes that the MOVE 9 were
convicted of being united, not in crime, but in
rebellion against the system and in resistance to
the armed assaults of the state. They were convicted of being MOVE members.
When Judge Malmed was a guest a few days later on
a talk radio show, Abu-Jamal called in and asked
him who killed Ramp. The Judge admitted, I have
absolutely no idea and explained that since MOVE
called itself a family, he sentenced them as such.
The 2009 Parole Hearing
Mike Africa, Jr. wants his parents to come home.
The son of MOVE 9 prisoners Mike and Debbie, Mike
Jr. was born in prison just weeks after his
mother withstood police gunfire and a vicious
beating on Aug. 8, 1978. Today, Mike Jr. explains
that growing up without parents is very hard.
Its like missing part of yourself. The system
separated MOVE people like they did because they
know its hard to deal with being separated from your family.
After the May 13, 1985 bombing, Mike Jrs
grandmother decided to leave MOVE, and brought
him and his sister with her. Not being in MOVE
and not having parents was especially hard
because I didnt understand why my parents were
in prison I was ashamed. It was never really
explained to me until Ramona brought me back to
MOVE following her 1992 release. Since returning
to MOVE, Mike Jr. has traveled around the world
publicizing the struggle to release his parents and the other MOVE 9 prisoners.
MOVE 9 member Merle Africa tragically died behind
bars in 1998 under circumstances MOVE feels were
suspicious. 2008 marked the 30th year of the
remaining eights imprisonment, and they were all
eligible for parole for the first time.
Supporters mobilized for the parole hearings and
petition, and a
& letter campaign contacting the parole board.
Despite this pressure, all eight were
parole, even though the women never even faced weapons charges.
With the 2009 parole hearings now underway, MOVE
and supporters are
for their release by contacting the parole board
and organizing a demonstration in Philadelphia on
May 16, also marking the 24th anniversary of the May 13, 1985 massacre.
Africa is particularly concerned about the parole
board utilizing two possible clauses that were
implemented to deny parole in 2008.
First is the taking responsibility clause,
which basically demands a prisoner admit guilt in
order to be granted parole. That is not
acceptable, because it is patently illegal. If a
person was convicted in court, to then demand
that they admit guilt -- even when they are
maintaining their innocence, as the MOVE 9 are --
is ridiculous. The only issue for parole should
be issues of misconduct in prison that could
indicate ones not ready for parole. Other than
that, an inmate should be paroled, explains Ramona.
Second is the serious nature of offense clause.
This is patently illegal too because the judge
took this into consideration and when the
sentence was issued, it meant that barring any
misconduct, problems, new charges, etc. this
prisoner was to be released on their minimum. To
deny that is basically a re-sentence. Were
dealing with these issues because when our family
comes up for parole, we dont want to hear this nonsense.
Ramona also urges to people to support
<http://www.freemumia.com/>Mumia Abu-Jamal, who
denied a new guilt-phase trial by the US Supreme
Court, and supporters are urging President Obama
and Attorney General Holder to
a civil-rights investigation. This brothers
life is on the line here. He became a target of
the government because he was the only journalist
that consistently reported on the truth about
what was going on with MOVE. Mumia gave us his
support uncompromisingly throughout the years and
that is why we give him our support and loyalty now.
Mumia Abu-Jamal writes today, The muted public
response to the mass murder of MOVE members has
set the stage for acceptable state violence
against radicals, against blacks, and against all
deemed socially unacceptable.
mentalities at work here are akin to those of
Nazi Germany, or perhaps more appropriately, of
My Lai, of Vietnam, of Baghdad, the spirit behind
the mindlessly murderous mantra that echoed out
of Da Nang: We had to destroy the village in order to save it.
Over the years, MOVE has never been left in
peace. The 1978 and 1985 police destruction of
MOVEs homes; the arrest and capital sentence of
reporter Mumia Abu-Jamal, who covered the MOVE
conflicts; the 1998 death of Merle Africa in
prison; and the 2002 custody battle over Zachary
Gilbride Africa are only a few examples of MOVEs
long history of confronting the system. This
tradition is best summed up by MOVE founder John
Africa in his 1981 speech to the jury before he
was acquitted of federal weapons charges in the
famous criminal trial, John Africa vs. The System:
It is past time for all poor people to release
themselves from the deceptive strangulation of
This system has failed you yesterday,
failed you today, and has created conditions for
failure tomorrow, for society is wrong, the
system is reeling, the courts of this complex are
filled with imbalance. Cops are insane, the
judges enslaving, the lawyers are just as the
judges they confront.
trained by the system to
be as the system, to do for the system, exploit
with the system, and MOVE aint gonna close our eyes to this monster.
Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media
and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal
--For more information, please visit
--Watch the 2008
9 Parole Video Series featuring interviews with
Mike and Ramona Africa,
in Philadelphia, and the 2004 film
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNnbfnukU_c>MOVE, narrated by Howard Zinn.
--Permission to reprint this article is granted
as long as Born Black Magazine is cited as the
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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