Thirty years ago, the second violent confrontation between the city of Philadelphia and the back-to-nature group known as MOVE ended with five children and six adults dead.
On Wednesday, May 13, the anniversary of the assault and fire that tore through 61 homes, a commemoration rally will be held by members of the MOVE family at 62nd St. and Osage Avenue.
The rally starts at 12 p.m. and will be followed by a march and car caravan to First District Plaza, located at 3801 Market St. Among those scheduled to appear are scholar activists Cornel West and Ward Churchill. A prerecorded message from Angela Davis is also scheduled.
There will also be a speak-out by members of various religious organizations and recognition of people killed by police.
The confrontation on May 13 was the culmination of MOVE’s public efforts to push for the freeing of the so-called MOVE 9 from prison. A bomb was dropped onto the roof of the group’s residence at 6221 Osage Ave. by a police helicopter. It was supposed to be a tactic to force MOVE members from the house, according to officials. But an explosion ignited a fire and the fire was allowed to burn. Sixty-one homes were destroyed and 11 people, five of them children, were dead. Among the dead was the group’s founder, John Africa.
Seven members of the group remain in prison: Delbert Orr Africa, William Phillips Africa, Janet Hollaway Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Edward Goodman Africa, Janine Phillips Africa and Debbie Sims Africa and Charles Sims Africa. MOVE members all take the last name of “Africa.”
All were convicted for the fatal shooting of police officer James Ramp in Aug. 1978 during another siege and battle with city police. The nine were sentenced to 30 to 100 years. Merle Africa died in prison in March 1998. Phil Africa died in prison in January of this year.
None of them were ever granted parole.
“It’s so important to never forget what happened that day and to continue to actively fight for justice even 30 years later,” said defense attorney and activist Michael Coard. “This event is a call for justice. You just don’t drop a bomb onto a civilian location. You don’t do that and no one has ever paid for this. Someone has to answer for what happened.”
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