With the hearings just weeks away, MOVE is asking for support by contacting the Parole Board and signing the online petition. A new series of videos about the parole hearings features interviews with MOVE members Ramona Africa (the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 police bombing of MOVE headquarters) and Mike Africa Jr. (the son of MOVE 9 prisoners Debbie and Mike Sr.). Ramona recently spoke in Harrisburg about parole, and the new Ona Move Newsletter has just been released.
Following the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp during the Aug. 8, 1978 police siege on MOVE's headquarters in West Philadelphia, MOVE members Janine, Debbie, Janet, Merle, Delbert, Mike, Phil, Eddie, and Chuck Africa were convicted of 3rd degree murder, conspiracy, and multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault. Each was given a sentence of 30-100 years. The MOVE 9 are widely considered to be political prisoners. Both the evidence and the fairness of the MOVE 9 trial have been hotly contested by MOVE and others (READ MORE).
Following their conviction, the presiding Judge admitted that he had "absolutely no idea” who had actually shot Officer Ramp, and explained that since MOVE called itself a family, he sentenced them as such. In a recent newsletter, MOVE argues that if they had shot from the basement, the bullet would have been coming at an “upward” trajectory instead of the “horizontal” and “downward” accounts that had been presented. This crucial point aside, MOVE also argues that it would have been essentially impossible to take a clean shot at that time. The water in the basement, estimated more than 7 feet deep, forced the adults to hold up children and animals to prevent them from drowning. “The water pressure was so powerful it was picking up 6 foot long railroad ties (beams that were part of our fence) and throwing them through the basement windows in on us. There’s no way anybody could have stood up against this type of water pressure, debris, and shoot a gun, or aim to kill somebody.”
Veteran Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington Jr. reported from the scene on August 8, 1978. In this exclusive interview, Washington cites several sources in the police department who told him that Officer James Ramp was actually shot by police gunfire, and not MOVE.
This interview has been edited into short audio clips: Was Officer Ramp Killed By Police Gunfire?, The Illegal Destruction of MOVE's House, Manipulation of Evidence and Media Bias, Ed Rendell and Prison Guard Violence Against MOVE, MOVE 9 Parole and Unfair Stipulations, and May 13, 1985 and American Justice. The unedited segment about MOVE is also available with the full, one-hour interview from May, 2007.
A graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program, Linn Washington Jr. is currently a Professor of Journalism at Temple University and a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune Newspaper. He was prominently featured in the recent documentary on MOVE, made by Cohort Media and narrated by Howard Zinn (Watch in full or on You Tube).
Hans Bennett: In the recent documentary on MOVE, you cite your sources within the police department who told you that the police know Ramp was killed by police gunfire. Can you say anything more about this?
Linn Washington Jr: I will confirm that I was told that by my sources in the police department. However, I have never identified the sources to MOVE, and I will never identify them to anyone else.
But I will tell you this.
Officer Ramp was allegedly shot and killed by a bullet that came from a weapon that fired a .223 caliber round. .223 is the same caliber used in an M-16. Inside MOVE’s house, police claimed that they found four carbines called Mini-14’s, made by Ruger and they fired this .223 round.
The day immediately after the shootout, police were claiming that not a single officer out there that day carried that particular type of weapon. About three weeks later, during the pre-trial proceedings, the police department began to acknowledge the fact that there were police officers who had the Mini-14s firing the .223 rounds. They first said that they had just been out there, but not near the scene. Then, subsequent reports put the officers with those guns closer to the scene, however the official version was “Yes, they were part of the assault, but no, they never fired their weapon.”
So, if in fact, there were no improprieties, why the constantly changing stories and why the heavy-handed cover-up?
There’s another thing, and this is where the destruction of the property precluded a thorough examination, as well as how the trial was handled by MOVE and when the court-appointed attorneys came in, it really became a circus.
But let’s think about this for a minute. You don’t have to be a ballistician to figure this one out. It’s just common sense. You’ve got four male MOVE members in the basement allegedly armed, according to police testimony. A basement by its very nature means it’s below ground level. They’re allegedly firing out of windows, and let’s understand, this was not like The Alamo where people are close up at the window and shooting out. They’re away from the windows, hiding behind pillars in the basement. So, anything they’re shooting out of the windows has to be at an upward trajectory. They would have to shoot up to get out the window.
Ramp was directly across the street at ground level. So how could something hit him in what was said to be a downward type angle when MOVE members were firing upward from that basement?
Okay, maybe the bullet could have ricocheted a little bit. The apartment building across the street from the old MOVE compound is a brick building. However, their compound was made of wood, so the idea that the bullet ricocheted off the brick, back towards MOVE’s house, and then back again to hit Ramp somewhere near ground level, is highly problematic.