Educators Demand the Release of the MOVE 9 Political Prisoners

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Petition for the MOVE 9 on behalf of Educators for MOVE 

Nearly 40 years have passed since the MOVE family came under heavy attack by the Philadelphia police department, following years of police brutality against MOVE. The August 8, 1978 police attack on MOVE was a major military operation carried out by the Philadelphia police department under orders of then-mayor, Frank Rizzo. Mayor Rizzo’s reputation for racism and brutality was and is well known–it followed him up through the ranks of the police department to the police commissioner’s office to the mayor’s office.

During this attack, heavy equipment was used to tear down the fence surrounding the MOVE home, and cops filled the home with enough tear gas to kill MOVE, while SWAT teams covered every possible exit. MOVE men, women, and children were in the basement of their home, where they had 10 thousand pounds of water pressure per minute directed at them from 4 fire department water cannons (for a total of 40 thousand pounds of water pressure per minute). As the basement filled with nearly six feet of water, MOVE adults had to hold their babies and animals above the rising water so they wouldn’t drown. Suddenly shots rang out (news reporters and others know the shots came from a house at 33rd and Baring Street, not the MOVE home, because they actually saw the man shooting) and bullets immediately filled the air as police throughout the area opened fire on the MOVE family. Officer James Ramp, who was standing above the MOVE family on street-level, facing the MOVE home, was killed by a single bullet that struck him on a downward angle. This alone makes it impossible for MOVE to have killed Ramp, since they were below street level, in the basement.

MOVE adults came out of the house carrying their children through clouds of tear gas, only to be beaten and arrested. Television cameras actually filmed the vicious beating of MOVE member Delbert Africa (3 of the 4 cops that beat Delbert went to trial on minor charges). Despite the photographic evidence, the trial judge (Stanley Kubacki) refused to let the jury render a verdict and himself acquitted the cops by direct order. Nine of the MOVE family were charged with murder and related charges for the death of James Ramp. Within a few hours of their arrest, the MOVE home (which is supposed to be the “scene of the crime”) was deliberately destroyed, demolished, by city officials in spite of the fact that they were legally obligated to preserve all evidence, yet the MOVE 9 were held for trial anyway. The MOVE 9 went to trial before Judge Edward Malmed, who convicted all nine of third-degree murder (while admitting that he didn’t have “the faintest idea” who killed Ramp) and sentenced each of the MOVE 9 to serve 30 – 100 years in prison. Judge Malmed stated that since MOVE people identified as a family he would sentence them as a family; they were supposed to be on trial for murder, not for being a family. It is clear that the MOVE 9 are in prison for being committed MOVE members, not for any accusation of crime.

Over the nearly 40 years of unjust imprisonment that have passed since the August 8, 1978 police attack on MOVE, the MOVE 9 remain strong and loyal to their belief, their belief in life, the teaching of their founder, JOHN AFRICA. MOVE has an uncompromising commitment to their belief, which is what makes them a strong unified family, despite all that this government has done to break them up and ultimately try to exterminate them. Over the decades of their wrongful incarceration, the MOVE 9 has been denied a healthy diet, close access to their family, and their basic human rights. The worst assault against them occurred when two of the MOVE 9, Merle Africa (1998) and Phil Africa (2015), suddenly died under highly suspicious circumstances, leading MOVE and many of their supporters to believe that they were murdered by the system.

In 2008, the MOVE 9 became eligible for parole, yet for nearly a decade now, each of the surviving members of the MOVE 9 have been repeatedly, systematically denied parole. We, the undersigned, strongly believe that the refusal of the Pennsylvania Parole Board to grant parole for the MOVE 9 is unwarranted. We believe that the MOVE 9 are innocent, thus NEVER should have been incarcerated in 1978, thus we further believe that they most certainly should be released on parole immediately. As educators, for decades we have facilitated discussions with our students about the assaults that have been carried out against the MOVE family, including the wrongful conviction and incarceration of the MOVE 9 and the bombing of the MOVE family in 1985, which killed 11 MOVE men, women, and children. Our students have been consistently appalled and outraged upon learning of the numerous injustices that have been carried out against MOVE.

There are many reasons why we believe that the surviving members of the MOVE 9:  Debbie Sims Africa #006307, Janet Holloway Africa #006308, Janine Phillips Africa #006309, Michael Davis Africa #AM-4973, Charles Sims Africa #AM-4975, Delbert Orr Africa #AM-4985, and Edward Goodman Africa #AM-4974, should be paroled immediately. These reasons include the following:

1)      The MOVE 9 are INNOCENT!  To the extent that the parole board has had the expectation for the MOVE 9 to show remorse and accept personal responsibility for their alleged crime, that is NOT possible, given the fact that they are innocent. We recognize that this expectation of the parole board is not only unfair, but also not formally required by the system in order to grant parole.

2)      While we recognize that the offense that the MOVE 9 was charged with in 1978 is of a serious nature, it is critical to note that the seriousness of the offense was taking into consideration by the sentencing judge when they first went to trial, when they were given the sentence of 30-100 years by Judge Malmed.. To hold the “seriousness of the offense” of their alleged crime against them is to question the authority of the sentencing judge, essentially retrying them for the crime that they were accused of nearly 40 years ago, 10 years after Judge Malmed deemed them eligible for parole.

3)      The Move 9 have met all parole recommendations, including job and housing plans, as well as extremely positive prison records, and recommendations from Wardens, Superintendents, and numerous other DOC staff. The vast majority of those prisoners who receive such recommendations are paroled.

4)      Releasing the MOVE 9 will NOT pose ANY danger to public safety, as they remain a peaceful family and will only prove to serve as an asset to the community once they are released. We are confident that they will be able to successfully reintegrate into society, becoming productive members of the community, contributing wherever possible to assist their neighbors and better the neighborhoods that surround them.



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