Janet Africa of the MOVE 9 who is currently serving a 30-100 year sentence. These political prisoners have been incarcerated for nearly thirty years. They are up for parole after April, 2008.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
By Betsey Piette
Published Mar 15, 2008 10:28 AM
Unjustly incarcerated for nearly 30 years, the eight remaining MOVE 9 prisoners are eligible for parole this year. In early April seven of them will be interviewed by the Pennsylvania Parole Board. With their hearing just weeks away, MOVE is asking for support. MOVE member Merle Africa died in prison under suspicious circumstances in March 1998. Chuck Africa’s hearing is scheduled for October.
The case of the MOVE 9 stems from a confrontation on Aug. 8, 1978, when 600 heavily armed Philadelphia police stormed their house in the Powellton Village section of Philadelphia after a yearlong siege. During the ensuing shootout, Officer James Ramp was shot and died.
The bullet entered his body and traveled downward. The MOVE members were in the basement of their house, attempting to protect the group’s children from the police barrage, which included water cannons. In court, they argued that they could not have fired the lethal shot, which witnesses said originated from across the street. Nevertheless, nine men and women were convicted of Ramp’s death and given 30-to-100-year prison terms.
In a recent interview with independent journalist Hans Bennett, veteran journalist Linn Washington Jr. of the Philadelphia Tribune cites sources in the police department as telling him that Officer Ramp was actually shot by police gunfire and not by MOVE. (nyc.indymedia.org)
Washington says that Ramp was allegedly shot and killed by a bullet from a .223 caliber weapon. Initially police claimed none of the officers present that day carried this kind of weapon. Yet three weeks after the preliminary proceedings, the police department began to admit that some officers there were using Mini-14s that fired .223 rounds.
He also notes that MOVE members were firing from a flooded basement facing up toward police, yet the round that killed Ramp came at a downward trajectory from behind the slain officer. “A .223 bullet is a very small, lightweight bullet that would likely break up if it hit a brick wall, not ricochet back and forth a couple of times,” Washington pointed out. “Unless this was a bullet like the one that Arlen Specter, when he worked for the Warren Commission, said killed Kennedy.”
Within 24 hours of the shooting, MOVE’s house in West Philadelphia was razed to the ground, destroying any evidence that could have been used by the defense. No fingerprints of any MOVE members were found on the weapons Mayor Frank Rizzo displayed at a press conference after the attack. A video showing the police commissioner handling weapons as they were passed through a basement window to other police officers was not allowed as evidence in a pretrial hearing.
Strong media bias against the MOVE 9 made it impossible for them to receive a fair trial and continues to this day. A recent article on their upcoming hearing repeats without question the prosecution’s contention that “There was no doubt the fatal shot came from inside the MOVE house.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 28)
Washington, who covered the hearings, told how presiding Judge Edwin S. Malmed allowed the prosecutor to change the medical examiner’s report as he was entering it into evidence. When the prosecutor noticed the report contradicted testimony that the medical examiner had just given, he pulled out a pencil and changed the report right in the courtroom. MOVE defendants, objecting to the judge’s obvious bias, were removed from the court and from then on tried in absentia.
MOVE was founded in 1972—the same year that Rizzo became mayor with a promise to “clamp down on rebellious elements in the Black community.” Rizzo was already infamous as head of the vicious and racist police department that raided the Black Panther Party headquarters in 1970 and attempted to humiliate the Panthers by lining them up against a wall and photographing them naked.
MOVE, a back-to-nature collective, practiced composting in their yard. A biased media described this waste-recycling practice as “throwing their trash in their yard.” MOVE was gaining community support for neighborhood marches against police brutality.
Authorities began a campaign to destroy the MOVE organization. Between 1974 and 1976, there were over 400 arrests of MOVE members, as well as multiple brutal attacks on pregnant MOVE women by police. At least two resulted in miscarriages. In March 1976, a 20-day-old child of MOVE member Janine Africa died as a result of one such police attack.
Fearing that police would attack their house and kill those inside in an operation similar to the type of government terrorism used against the Black Panthers, MOVE fortified the house and refused to back down, even after the city shut off water and stopped food deliveries.
The MOVE members had ample reason to adopt self-defense, as witnessed by the murderous police attack on another MOVE house in Philadelphia nearly a decade later, when a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the roof and let the resulting fire burn unchecked, killing 11 men, women and children.
At this urgent time, MOVE is asking for calls of support to 717-787-5699 and signatures on a petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/move9parole .
They will be delivered to the Parole Board later this month.
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ONA MOVE, Everybody!
As the time for the parole hearings for The MOVE 9 draws near, the governments campaign to keep MOVE people in prison until they die is stepping up.
Recently, there have been a number of news articles and TV news reports on the upcoming parole hearings. Of course, they only report what the cops and prosecutors are saying.
Obviously, their position is that MOVE people should never be released from jail, ever. We have to counter this position and step up our righteous campaign for the release of innocent MOVE people.
A good supporter of ours set up an online petition for the release of The MOVE 9: We urge you to sign it and to do so ASAP. We want to print out the petition and signatures so we can send them to the parole board before MOVE's hearings in April. We don't have a specific date for the parole hearings yet so we need to send the signatures in early April.
Also, we encourage people to flood the parole board with letters and phone calls so that they know people are watching. The contact information for the PA. Parole Board is on our web site at http://www.onamove.com .
Thanks for all your hard work and support