On May 11, Judge Lynn
Abraham approved DA Rendell's requested emergency arrest and search
warrants for four MOVE members on charges of disorderly conduct and
terroristic threats, based upon statements MOVE made on their
loudspeaker two weeks earlier, where, among other things, they stated
that they'd defend themselves from a police attack.
Today, Ramona Africa
challenges the legitimacy of these May 11 emergency warrants by citing
the fact that during Ramona's later trial, all charges listed on her
arrest warrant were dismissed by the judge. Ramona says that "this means
that they had no valid reason to even be out there, but they did not
dismiss the charges placed on me as a result of what happened after they
Charged with conspiracy,
riot, and multiple counts of simple and aggravated assault, Ramona
Africa served the entirety of her 16-month to 7-year sentence after she
was repeatedly denied parole for not renouncing MOVE.
Concluding Ramona's 1986
trial, presiding judge Michael R. Stiles told the jurors not to consider
any wrongdoing by police and city officials, because they would be held
accountable in "other" proceedings. However, no official has ever faced
In 1996, Ramona successfully sued the City of Philadelphia and was awarded $500,000 for pain, suffering, and injuries. Relatives of John Africa and his nephew Frank James Africa, who died in the incident, were awarded a total of $1 million. Another $1.7 million was paid to Birdie Africa, now Michael Moses Ward.
The jury also ordered that Ramona receive $1 per week for 11 years directly from Sambor and Richmond, but this was overruled by Judge Louis Pollack on grounds that the two had not shown "willful misconduct," and were therefore immune from financial liability.
The Morning Assault
At 5:35 AM, on May 13, after evacuating
the neighbors, Police Commissioner Sambor declared on the bullhorn:
"Attention, MOVE! This is America! You have to abide by
the laws of the United
States," and gave them fifteen minutes
After the fifteen-minute deadline passed,
several "squirt gun" fire-hoses were directed at the bunker on MOVE's
roof, in an attempt to dislodge it. At 5:53, police tear-gassed the
front and rear of the house, creating a smokescreen. Police then sent
bomb squads to enter the row houses on either side of the building.
While the bomb squads entered, gunfire erupted, and in the next 90 minutes, police used over 10,000 rounds of ammunition, including 4,500 rounds from M-16s; 1,500 from Uzis; and 2,240 from M-60 machine guns. Simultaneously, the two bomb squads repeatedly detonated explosives in the side walls, and then blew off the front of the house.
Sambor later attempted to justify police
gunfire by saying that police had first responded to automatic gunfire
from MOVE. However, the only weapons found in MOVE's house were two
pistols, a shotgun, and a .22 caliber rifle: no automatic weapons.
Sambor was unable to explain this contradiction when challenged by the
The MOVE Commission wrote that "the firing
of over 10,000 rounds of ammunition in under 90 minutes at a row house
containing children was clearly excessive and unreasonable. The failure
of those responsible for the firing to control or stop such an excessive
amount of force was unconscionable."
Mayor Goode Refuses to Negotiate
As police ran out of ammunition and went to the armory for more, a quiet afternoon standstill began.
According to Philadelphia Tribune
columnist and Temple University Professor Linn Washington, Jr., MOVE
member Jerry Africa, who wasn't in the house, attempted to negotiate
with Mayor Goode during the afternoon standstill. He wanted to tell
Goode that MOVE would disengage from the confrontation if Goode would
agree to an investigation of the Aug. 8, 1978-related MOVE convictions.
Jerry Africa was supported and accompanied
by civil rights activist Randolph Means and former Common Pleas Court
Judge Robert Williams, who at the time was the Democratic Party's
nominee for Philadelphia District Attorney. According to Washington, the three
of them repeatedly tried to call Goode on the telephone, but he would
not take their call. Instead, Goode declared at a press conference that
afternoon that he was now ready "to seize control of the house"by any