“Let the fire burn.” That was the order that Philadelphia police commissioner Gregore Sambor gave to firefighters as a residential home blazed on May 13, 1985.
Philadelphia police, with assistance from the Pentagon and FBI, had dropped a bomb from a helicopter on the home.
Inside the house at 6221 Osage Avenue were 13 members of the MOVE organization including its founder John Africa. Only two people survived: Ramona Africa and nine-year-old Birdie Africa.
Six adults and five children were burned to death. They were nine-year-old Tomaso Africa; 12-year-olds Little Phil Africa and Netta Africa; 13-year-old Delisha Africa and 14-year-old Tree Africa. And adults Conrad Africa, Frank Africa, John Africa, Raymond Africa, Rhoda Africa and Theresa Africa.
The Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission found that police fired “over 10,000 rounds of ammunition in under 90 minutes at a row house containing children.” The cops fired so many bullets that they had to get more ammunition from their armory.
According to author John L. Puckett, “Police were outfitted with M16 semi-automatic rifles, Uzis, shotguns, 30.06 and .22-250 sharpshooter rifles, a Browning automatic rifle, and a Thompson submachine gun.”
Tear gas canisters were used as well as high pressure water hoses. Ramona Africa reported that police shot at people trying to flee from the house.
This was a terrorist crime like the Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four little girls were killed there on Sept. 15, 1963. They were 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and 11-year-old Cynthia Wesley.
Not one official was ever prosecuted for the Philadelphia atrocity that killed 11 people, burned 61 homes and left 253 people homeless. Instead it was Ramona Africa who escaped from the inferno with serious burns who was sent to jail for seven years.
Not satisfied with killing MOVE members, Philadelphia also tried to rob their dignity. Bones of the MOVE children were stolen and used in anthropology classes at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University.
The MOVE 9
The capitalist government can’t tolerate independent organizations of oppressed people.
Los Angeles police attacked the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 27 on April 27, 1962. Mosque secretary Ronald X Stokes was shot in the heart and killed. Six other NOI members were wounded, including William X Rogers, who was left paralysed.
More than 25 members of the Black Panther Party were murdered by police, including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago on Dec. 4, 1969. Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has now spent over 40 years in prison after being framed in the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Twice a death warrant was signed by Pennsylvania’s governor to execute Mumia. It was the people’s struggle that saved his life.
“When I began covering MOVE as part of my work as a reporter for a radio station in the seventies,” wrote Mumia Abu-Jamal, “what I found were idealistic, committed, strong, unshakable men and women, who had a deep spirit-level aversion to everything this system represents. … To them everything this system radiated was poison.”
The Philadelphia establishment hated MOVE and its founder John Africa. The wealthy and powerful put super racist Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia’s city hall during the 1970s.
Mayor Rizzo staged a police raid upon the MOVE house in the Powelton Village neighborhood on Aug. 8, 1978. The cops were so reckless that they killed fellow police officer James Ramp with a bullet to the back of his head.
Rizzo had the MOVE house destroyed so it couldn’t be proven that it was impossible to fire the shot from there. Nine MOVE members were framed for killing Ramp.
Chuck Africa, Debbie Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Merle Africa, Michael Africa and Phil Africa were sentenced to between 30 and 100 years in jail.
Merle Africa died in prison in 1998 and Phil Africa died while incarcerated in 2015. After 40 or more years in jail, Chuck Africa, Debbie Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa and Michael Africa were finally released between October 2018 and February 2020.
From Philadelphia to Odessa
After being released from prison on Feb. 7, 2020, Chuck Africa died of cancer on Sept. 20, 2021.
Delbert Africa lived less than five months after being released on Jan. 13, 2020. His daughter Yvonne Orr-El said he died on June 15, 2020 because of inadequate care by prison officials for a kidney condition.
When Delbert Africa was arrested in 1978 with his arms raised, three cops viciously kicked and beat him. This brutality was captured on film and seen worldwide.
Yet none of these police officers were convicted. Then police commissioner Joseph O’Neill defended their assault by testifying “Delbert Africa wasn’t a man, he was a savage.”
This racist violence is exported to the rest of the world. Just as it helped drop the bomb on the MOVE family, the Pentagon is shipping billions of dollars of bombs to Ukraine.
The CIA and other U.S. spy shops spent $5 billion in Ukraine during the years up to the 2014 coup that overthrew the then Ukrainian government. On May 2, 2014, Ukrainian fascists set fire to the House of Trade Unions in Odessa, Ukraine.
Like the Philadelphia cops, these neo-Nazis refused to let people escape from the building. At least 46 people died.
Congress has approved $40 billion in more weapons for a Ukrainian regime that has banned every opposition party. This money could be used for childcare subsidies or to fix-up public housing instead.
Don’t believe the war lies against the Donbass republics and the Russian Federation. Our struggle is at home for jobs and justice.
We need to free all political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. Two million prisoners need to come home to their families.
Always remember the MOVE bombing. Long live John Africa!
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