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Lt. Frank Powell prepares to drop the bomb


     MOVE told negotiators attempting to avert a crisis at the last minute that if the city could refute any claim regarding past improper procedures, and if any one official would initiate an honest investigation of the 1978 incident, MOVE would call off the confrontation.  Officials and the media ignored this.
     On May 8th, Alfonso Africa was sentenced to 5 years for threatening an officer during the prior arrest.  On May 11th, police obtained an arrest warrant for Alfonso (even though he was already in jail) and used it two days later to justify a tear-gas assault on Alfonso's home in Chester,
Pennsylvania.  The only adult present, his wife Mary, was arrested and their 5 children were taken away as police ransacked the house.
     To provide a legal basis for the Osage Avenue attack, Judge Lynne Abraham signed arrest warrants on May 11th for Ramona, Conrad, Frank and Teresa Africa on charges of disorderly conduct and terrorist threats.  The next day police evacuated the 6200 block of Osage Avenue and towed away parked cars.
     On Monday, May 13th, police and firemen launched a full scale military assault on the MOVE row house using tear-gas, water cannons, Uzi's, M-16's, silenced weapons, Browning Automatic Rifles, M-60 machine guns, a 20mm anti-tank gun, and a 50 caliber machine gun.  Some of these weapons were illegally obtained with the help of the U.S Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency.
     Between 6:00 and 7:30 am, police flooded the area with tear-gas and fired over 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the house knowing there were women and children inside.  They also tried to blast through the walls with the military explosives the FBI had illegally provided.  None of these measures succeeded in driving MOVE from the house.  Late in the afternoon, a state police helicopter was used to drop a bomb on the roof which started a fire that officials deliberately allowed to burn.  It soon spread to the adjoining row houses, eventually burning down the entire block of some 60 homes.

Firefighting efforts do not begin until much of the block is engulfed in flames


     With their house in flames, MOVE members repeatedly tried to exit but were met with police gunfire which killed some of the adults and children in the alley behind the house.   One adult, Ramona Africa, and one child, Birdy Africa, escaped the fire and were taken into custody.  Sid adults and five children were killed including Rhonda Africa, Birdy's mother.
     Mayor Goode later claimed he had ordered that MOVE children be taken into custody in the few days before the assault whenever they were seen away from the house.  Investigators revealed that the very morning of May 13th when a known MOVE vehicle carrying children attempted to drive down Osage Avenue, police pulled aside the barricade to let it through.
     The bombing of Osage Avenue became international news overnight.  Media reports the next day indicated that a gunfight continued in the alley behind the house after the bomb was dropped, but the story soon changed.  At a press conference, Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, who was himself in the vicinity of the alley, initially confirmed that police had fired at this time, but after conferring with aides, corrected himself to say they did not.  Several months later, investigators questioned all the officers involved.  When police sharpshooter William Stewart mentioned stake-out officers firing their Uzi's in the alley around 7:30pm, his attorney quickly stopped the interview to confer with him privately.  Several firemen testified that they heard automatic gunfire in the evening.  A bolt-action rifle, two shotguns, and two revolvers were the only weapons found in the ashes of the MOVE house.
     Philadelphia police had finally outdone themselves in depravity, making it all the more difficult for their partners in crime, the Medical Examiner's Office, to cover for them, as was done in both the August 8, 1978 case and Mumia Abu-Jamal's case in 1981.  Medical Examiner personnel made a deliberately late arrival on the scene, after a crane had scooped through the debris, obliterating the exact recovery positions.  The bodies were then left unrefrigerated, and examination of blood specimens and lung tissue was delayed long enough to make test results inconclusive as to the cause of death.  On the basis of the May 13th mishandling, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office later had their certification revoked.

Ramona Africa is arrested May 13, 1985

The neighborhood is destroyed


At Ramona Africa's trial, both Judge Michael Stiles and prosecutor Joseph McGill indicated to the jury that police and city officials would be equally punished at some other proceeding by a separate jury.  Ramona's jury found her guilty of riot and conspiracy and she was sentenced to 16 months to 7 years.  Lt. Frank Powell, who dropped the bomb, and Officer William Klein, who assembled it, refused to testify, citing the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Mayor Goode appointed a special commission to investigate the catastrophe.  Their findings were critical of city officials but the commission had no power to indict.  In 1986, District Attorney Ron Castille impaneled a grand jury to investigate criminal wrongdoing on the part of the city.  Notwithstanding 11 deaths, 60 homes burned to the ground, unauthorized possession of military explosives, and a fire that was deliberately allowed to burn out of control, Castille's grand jury followed his recommendations and returned not a single indictment.  (Castille later had only hollow excuses to explain why a scathing report by an independent team of nationally known forensic experts, hired by Castille's own office to review the evidence, was never shown to the grand jury.)  A federal grand jury investigation civil rights violations also returned no indictments.  All of these investigations limited the scope of their inquires to events surrounding May 13, 1985 and neglected to look at earlier legal improprieties, most notably the continuing unjust imprisonment of the nine MOVE members arrested on August 8, 1978.
In 1987, Wilson Goode was re-elected mayor.  He and his supporters considered this a vindication of the disastrous handling of May 13th. Others saw his victory as a grim necessity.  The opposing candidate was Frank Rizzo.

Before cold blooded murder in broad daylight could be permanently swept under the rug, Ramona filed a civil suit against selected officials and the city itself for violation of her civil rights on May 13th.  The case proceeded at a very slow pace as federal judges changed their minds regarding who could ultimately be held responsible.  At one point, federal magistrate William Hall actually ruled that dropping the bomb was not excessive force.  Ramona immediately appealed this ruling which a three judge panel later overturned, but the issue was again appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the city.

          Delbert Orr Africa                    William Phillips Africa
       AM-4985                                    AM-4984 (Phil)
  Drawer K
Dallas, PA 18612-0286

   Michael Davis Africa                         Charles Sims Africa
   AM-4973                                        AM-4975
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA. 19426-0244

Edward Goodman Africa
P.O. Box 200
Camp Hill, PA. 17001-0200


       At prison locations in the remote areas of Pennsylvania, MOVE members have endured years of repeated physical and mental abuse.  Delbert, Carlos and Chuck Africa were kept in solitary confinement for over six years for refusing to violate MOVE belief by cutting their hair.  MOVE women Janet, Janine, Merle, Debbie, Consuewella, Sue and Alberta Africa upheld their religious belief by refusing to give blood samples and were repeatedly put in solitary confinement, sometimes for as long as three years..  Sadistic prison guards were delighted to inform Delbert, Janet, Sue, Phil, Janine and Consuewella Africa that their children were killed in the police assault on May 13, 1985.

     The MOVE family stays in close contact through letters and as many visits and phone calls as the prisons allow.  This takes a considerable amount of time and money as inmates must make collect calls and most of the prisons are a long days drive from Philadelphia.

Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa
#00-6307                  #00-6306                   #00-6308                #00-6309
451 Fullerton Avenue
Cambridge Springs, PA  16403-1238

   Carlos Africa                 Alfonso Africa

Coming Home

     As several MOVE members became eligible for parole, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole issued a special stipulation that any potential MOVE parolee agree not to associate with other MOVE members as a condition of being released.  All those eligible refused to abide by this unconstitutional stipulation and remained incarcerated.  One at a time, members eventually began to come home only after their maximum sentences expired: Alberta Africa in 1988 after 7 years, Alfonso Africa in 1990 after 5 years, Ramona Africa in 1992 after 7 years, and Sue Africa in 1992 after 12 years.

     Upon her release on May 13, 1992, Ramona made numerous radio and television appearances as public respect and admiration for her strength and endurance make her a somewhat reluctant celebrity.  Drawing a parallel with Black South Africans fight to free themselves from the legal persecution of Apartheid, Ramona stated the family Africa was stronger, more committed than ever before and would continue their work to free all MOVE prisoners.
Contradicting the sanitized grand jury findings, she also confirmed that police had opened fire on MOVE as they tried to exit the burning house in 1985.

     In the fall of 1993, the Parole Board finally conceded to mounting pressure to lift the special MOVE stipulation.  Carlos Africa was granted parole and released December 9, 1993, after 12 & one-half years of incarceration.  Consuewella Africa's release soon followed on January 6, 1994 nearly 16 years after her arrest.

MOVE  continues...

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