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Philadelphia march recalls ‘Day of Infamy’

Published May 19, 2005 8:57 PM

Hundreds gathered here at Osage Avenue and 63rd Street on May 14 for a march marking 20 years since the government dropped a bomb on the MOVE organization—a day that shall live in infamy. On May 13, 1985, 11 MOVE members, including six children and five adults, were killed in the resulting fire, which also destroyed 61 homes.

Philadelphia marchers on 20th anniversary
of police bombing of MOVE home.

Chanting “Never forget 1985” and carrying signs demand ing “Free the MOVE 9,” marchers proceeded through West Philadelphia neighborhoods and commercial districts, receiving positive support from people along the way.

Speakers denounced the state terror that led to the dropping of a bomb containing the powerful explosive C-4 on this residential African American neighborhood on Mothers’ Day in 1985. Ramona Africa, the sole survivor of the fire, was imprisoned on framed-up charges as a result.

FBI officers provided the explosive to the Philadelphia police—who actually dropped the bomb. And fire department officials with the approval of City Hall allowed the fire to burn unattended for more than 45 minutes, knowing that children were in the building. Yet no government representatives were ever charged.

Speakers at this year’s May 14 rally used the occasion to demand freedom for the MOVE 9, members of the MOVE organization who were unjustly imprisoned on murder charges from an earlier confrontation with Philadelphia police in 1978. At that time, police moved against a MOVE compound in the Powelton Village section of Philadelphia after a two-month blockade. While police officer James Ramp died from a gunshot coming from behind police lines, nine members of MOVE were convicted of the killing and given 30- to 100-year prison sentences.

The MOVE 9— Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Charles Sims Africa, Eddie Goodman Africa, William Phillips Africa, Delbert Orr Africa and the late Merle Africa—have spent decades in prison, despite ample evidence of their innocence.

Michael Africa, Jr., son of MOVE 9 members, asked the younger members of MOVE and their children to come to the front of the rally and lead the march. “The state launched a murderous campaign of terror against our family,” Africa said. “ But we are still here and we’re not going to stop fighting these injustices.

“If the state had not railroaded my parents and the other MOVE members to prison for a crime they did not commit,” he noted, “There would have been no May 13th—there would have not been the need for it.”

Speakers at the rally also pointed to the connection between this state terror against an African American community in Philadelphia 20 years ago and the ongoing terror of the U.S. military against the people of Iraq today.

“The government has provided constant examples of their willingness to beat, torture, jail, bomb or kill any perceived threat,” Pam Africa, of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, told the gathering. “All of us fighting for what’s right are a threat and a target. Our only safety is to fight back!”