Workers Vanguard No. 913

25 April 2008


Outrage! Parole Denied

We Demand: Free the MOVE 9 Prisoners Now!

After spending some 30 years in Pennsylvania’s prison dungeons, enduring persistent persecution and harassment, Janine Africa, Janet Africa and Debbie Africa, three of the eight surviving members of the MOVE 9, were outrageously denied parole on April 22. Michael Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa are to be interviewed by the parole board later in April. Chuck Africa is scheduled for later this year. The MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison, having been framed up for conspiracy and murder stemming from the killing of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp, who died in the cops’ own cross fire during a vicious 600-man police assault on MOVE’s Powelton Village home on 8 August 1978. In 1998, Merle Africa died in prison, having spent nearly 20 years behind bars.

The MOVE prisoners remain strong and steadfast fighters not only for their own freedom but also for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s foremost death row political prisoner and longtime MOVE supporter. These innocent men and women should not have spent one moment in prison. The Partisan Defense Committee has been sending monthly stipends to the imprisoned MOVE members since 1986 as part of the PDC’s program of support to class-war prisoners. We demand the immediate, unconditional release of the MOVE prisoners!

The city in which MOVE emerged was a racist hellhole lorded over by a police force determined to ruthlessly repress any expression of black dissent. This included targeting the predominantly black, back-to-nature MOVE organization, which protested against the “system” and proclaimed their right of armed self-defense. At a press conference following the 1978 siege of MOVE’s house, into which police fired thousands of rounds of ammunition, then-Philadelphia D.A. Edward Rendell (who is now Pennsylvania’s governor) declared that police would have been “within their rights to have, subsequent to the shooting of Officer Ramp, stormed the house and killed all of the 12 people in the basement.”

On 13 May 1985, less than four years after the MOVE 9 were sentenced and three years after Mumia’s frame-up trial, the Philadelphia police, under the direction of black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode and in league with federal authorities, dropped a bomb on MOVE’s Osage Avenue home. Eleven black people, including five children, were burned to death and an entire black neighborhood of more than 60 homes was incinerated. Ramona Africa was sentenced to seven years in prison for the “crime” of being the sole adult survivor of this racist atrocity, and she was made to serve every single day of her sentence. On April 14, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2005 ruling that slashed the damages awarded by a jury to two dozen people who lost their homes in the May 1985 attack, and then vindictively cut them even further! This is the same court that last month upheld Mumia’s frame-up conviction.

In denying parole to Janine Africa, Janet Africa and Debbie Africa, the parole board stated that the MOVE prisoners “refused to accept responsibility” and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “lacked remorse” (, 22 April). As the PDC noted in a March 6 protest letter to the parole board calling for the release of the MOVE prisoners (see “Parole Hearing Approaches: Free the MOVE Prisoners!” WV No. 910, 14 March): “We are mindful that a common ruse for denying parole for those who have been falsely convicted is the claimed failure to show ‘remorse.’ Having committed no crime, the imprisoned MOVE members have no reason to demonstrate any so-called ‘remorse’.” Free the MOVE prisoners now!

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Letters demanding freedom for the MOVE prisoners should be sent to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 1101 South Front Street, Suite 5100, Harrisburg, PA 17104-2517. The names for each of the commissioners are at: Copies of letters should be sent to: William Phillips Africa, AM 4984, SCI-Dallas, 1000 Follies Road, Dallas, PA 18612-0286.