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May 13, 1985 and the Legalization of Murder (featuring a new video interview with Ramona Africa)

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(VIDEO: Part two of our May, 2010 interview with Ramona Africa. In this segment, Ramona gives her personal account of May 13, 1985. Watch part one here.)

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May 13, 1985 and the Legalization of Murder

By Angola 3 News

On May 13, 1985, a State Police helicopter dropped a C-4 bomb, illegally supplied by the FBI, on the roof of the MOVE Organization's house at

6221 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia. The bomb started a fire that was allowed to burn, and eventually destroyed 61 homes, leaving 250 people homeless: the entire block of a middle-class black community (watch video).

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The Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (The MOVE Commission), appointed by Mayor Wilson Goode, documented that when the occupants of the house tried to escape the fire, police shot at them, blocking their escape. In the end, six MOVE adults and five children died. Ramona Africa and 13 year-old Birdie Africa were the only survivors, after successfully dodging the police gunfire.

The MOVE Commission concluded that the deaths of the five MOVE children "appeared to be unjustified homicides which should be investigated by a grand jury" (curiously the Commission did not similarly criticize the murder of the MOVE adults). However, two subsequent grand juries refused to press charges against any city or police official for murder or any other wrongdoing. In contrast, Ramona Africa spent seven years in prison.

Recognizing the racial implications of the massacre, The MOVE Commission wrote that the day's many horrifying decisions, including "the use of high explosives, and in a 90 minute period, the firing of at least 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the house; to sanction the dropping of a bomb on an occupied row house; and to let a fire burn in a row house occupied by children, would not likely have been made had the MOVE house and its occupants been situated in a comparable white neighborhood."

As death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal writes in his essay "When Massacre Is No Crime" MOVE is currently seeking murder charges against police and city officials for the deaths of eleven of their family members on May 13, 1985. The remainder of this article, organized into six sections, is a compilation of testimony and evidence that makes a compelling case for why murder charges are needed: The Legalization of Murder; The Morning Assault; Mayor Goode Refuses to Negotiate; Dropping the C-4 Bomb; "Fire As a Tactical Weapon"; Police Shoot at Fleeing Occupants.

The Legalization of Murder

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Over 40 years ago in Louisiana, 3 young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000-acre former slave plantation called Angola. In 1972 and (more...)

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