[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 
organization’s 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 
MOVE’s 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 didn’t 
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 
people—not 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 Ramona’s 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 
MOVE’s 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 didn’t 
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 70’s 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.

MOVE’s first conflicts with police began at these 
nonviolent protests when Mayor Frank Rizzo’s 
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 “I’m sure the police were outraged that 
these ‘niggers’ had stood up to them, telling 
them that they couldn’t 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 Rizzo’s 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 he’d “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 baby’s skull was crushed and Life was dead.

After MOVE notified the media of the attack and 
baby’s 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 Attorney’s 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 wasn’t 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, we’d come back at them with clubs, and if 
they came at us with guns, we’d use guns too. We 
don’t believe in death-dealing guns. We believe 
in life, but we knew the cops wouldn’t 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 MOVE’s 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 
MOVE’s 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 couldn’t 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 
MOVE’s 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 we’d 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 MOVE’s 
house—using 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 we’re 
going to end them is, get that death penalty 
back, put them in the electric chair, and I’ll 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 they’ll 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 MOVE’s 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. 
MOVE cited 
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 MOVE’s 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 O’Neill 
passing guns into MOVE’s 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 
Ramp’s 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 examiner’s report. The 
prosecutor took out a pencil and erased items in 
the report that he didn’t 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 prosecution’s 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. There’s 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. 
It’s like missing part of yourself. The system 
separated MOVE people like they did because they 
know it’s hard to deal with being separated from your family.”

After the May 13, 1985 bombing, Mike Jr’s 
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 didn’t 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 eight’s imprisonment, and they were all 
eligible for parole for the first time. 
Supporters mobilized for the parole hearings and 
initiated an 
video series, 
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 one’s 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. We’re 
dealing with these issues because when our family 
comes up for parole, we don’t 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 brother’s 
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. 
 The twisted 
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 
MOVE’s 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 MOVE’s 
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 ain’t 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 
<http://www.onamove.com/>www.onamove.com or 

  --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 
original source: 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20090507/2a57f992/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list