by 4WardEver UK – 12th July 2007
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Eleven people, including five children, perished in a blaze after the state of Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a house owned by members of MOVE. Sixty one houses burned to the ground on that infamous day, 13th May 1985. Ramona Africa, the only adult MOVE survivor of the siege, and relatives of slain MOVE members sued the City of Philadelphia for millions in federal court winning a massive settlement.
Wilson Goode, mayor at the time of the bombing and the city’s only black mayor, had been granted immunity from lawsuits in the case by U.S. District Judge Louis Pollack who claimed the bombing was reasonable under the circumstances.
CAUTION: some graphic scenes!
Why did the City of Philadelphia drop a bomb on a row of houses and let the fire burn for over an hour? What led the city to commit acts of war upon its own citizens? Was the city – or even the federal government – determined to wipe out MOVE? To answer these questions, it is necessary to understand who MOVE is. While not all black, they all take the surname ” Africa .” Some call them radicals, lunatics, or terrorists.
One award-winning journalist, however – death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal – gave a different description: “MOVE is a family of revolutionaries, of naturalist revolutionaries, founded in Philadelphia in the late sixties/early seventies, who oppose all that this system represents. For years in Philadelphia, there’s been continual and unrelenting conflict between the MOVE organization and the city – that is, the police, the judiciary, and the political arm of the system. They have fought it bitterly.”
The City of Philadelphia’s first major confrontation with MOVE came in 1978, when Mayor Frank Rizzo, who liked to brag that his police force could successfully invade Cuba , ordered police to surround MOVE’s house in the Powelton Village section of the city. On 8th August, gunfire erupted at the barricaded house, killing Police Officer James Ramp with a bullet through his neck.
Nine MOVE members were tried and convicted of third-degree murder; all nine were sentenced to 30 to 100 years. But not only do they deny shooting the officer, saying he was hit by his own colleague’s bullet; they also demand to know how nine people could all shoot one man with one bullet. In the six years after the shoot-out, nevertheless, police seemed to be waiting for the chance to even the score.
Fast forward seven years to 1985: All nine convicted MOVE members were still in prison. Other members had moved into the house on Osage Avenue , which they had fortified with planks out of the belief that they needed to protect themselves from further attack by the city. They committed themselves above all to vociferously demanding the release of their incarcerated brothers and sisters. To this end, they installed a high-powered loudspeaker on the front of their house, and used it to broadcast their attacks on the city.
Neighbours began petitioning the city to evict the group, claiming they disturbed the peace and created health hazards by keeping stray animals in the house. Little did neighbours suspect that the city would respond to disturbing the peace and sanitary code violations by bombing the house in question and burning down the entire neighbourhood.
According to Ramona Africa, neighbours’ complaints only gave the city an excuse to do what they had been itching to do for years. Ramona tells it this way; “What the May 13 bombing and confrontation were about was the fact that MOVE people had nine sisters and brothers who had been in jail since 1978 for a murder they did not commit.” It started on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12th of 1985.
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