The MOVE 9 Parole Hearings
--An interview with Ramona Africa
By Angola 3 News
Video-interviewed by Angola 3 News in May, 2010, Ramona Africa is the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 massacre of 11 members of the MOVE organization. Founded in the early 1970s by John Africa, MOVE is a mostly black religious and family-based political organization that, in their words, works "to stop industry from poisoning the air, the water, the soil, and to put an end to the enslavement of life - people, animals, any form of life."
In the early morning of May 13, 1985, police had already surrounded MOVE's rowhouse at 6221 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia when Philadelphia Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor declared on the bullhorn, "Attention MOVE, This is America! You have to abide by the laws of the United States!" Minutes later, the military-style assault on MOVE began. Police shot tear gas and detonated explosives on the front and both sides of MOVE's house. The gunfire from police reached at least 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the first ninety minutes, including 4,500 rounds from M-16s; 1,500 from Uzis; and 2,240 from M-60 machine guns.
Following an afternoon standstill, Mayor Wilson declared to the media that he would now "seize control of the house"by any means necessary." At 5:27 PM, Philadelphia police used a State Police helicopter to drop a C-4 bomb that had been illegally supplied by the FBI. When the bomb exploded on MOVE's roof, it started a small fire that the police and fire department allowed to burn, and eventually destroyed 61 homes, leaving 250 people homeless: the entire block of a middle-class black community.
Ramona and 13 year-old Birdie Africa would both recount that police had shot at the occupants of the house when they attempted to escape the fire. Giving her personal account of the massacre, Ramona says today that immediately after the bomb was dropped "those of us in the basement didn't realize that the house was on fire because there was so much tear gas that it was hard to recognize smoke. We opened the door and started to yell that we were coming out with the kids. The kids were hollering too. We know they heard us but the instant we were visible in the doorway, they opened fire. You could hear the bullets hitting all around the garage area. They deliberately took aim and shot at us. Anybody can see that their aim, very simply, was to kill MOVE people--not to arrest anybody."
Despite official police denials of shooting at MOVE when they were trying to escape the fire, The Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (The MOVE Commission) appointed by Mayor Wilson Goode confirmed Ramona and Birdie's accounts, concluding that "police gunfire prevented some occupants of 6221 Osage Ave. from escaping from the burning house to the rear alley." The deaths of the five MOVE children "appeared to be unjustified homicides which should be investigated by a grand jury," concluded the MOVE Commission.
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