31 years ago the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on the home of the MOVE organization… Six adults and five children were killed and 65 other homes in the area were destroyed due to the fire that consumed the area…
Twenty-eight years ago today on May 13th of 1985 the Philadelphia Police Department under orders from Mayor Wilson Goode dropped a 2 pound bomb of C4 explosives from a Police helicopter onto a row house at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of West Philadelphia in an act of domestic terrorism. That address was the home of a commune know as MOVE, a radical environmental organization of mostly Black people who aggressively promoted a return to natural living. They held a staunch belief in eco-sustainability, promoted animal rights and advocated a strict green politic. They ate raw food, wore their hair in dreadlocks, and changed their last names to Africa in honor of that continent that is the motherland for all people.
The city of Philadelphia and MOVE had been at odds with one another going back at least a decade before the bombing. In 1978 there had been a violent year-long standoff with police that ended with the storming of the MOVE home by police. In the raid Philadelphia Police fired some 2000 rounds into the home. In the ensuing chaos Police officer James Ramp was killed. Nine MOVE members, Chuck, Debbie, Delbert, Eddie, Janet, Janine, Merle, Mike and Phil Africa were arrested and charged with the third degree murder of Police officer James Ramp despite the fact that he was shot in the back of the head suggesting that it was friendly fire and not MOVE that killed officer Ramp. The MOVE 9 have been in prison since then and were denied parole in 2008.
When the Philadelphia Police dropped that 2 pound bomb of C4 explosives from a helicopter on the MOVE house in 1985 it ignited the whole building. The temperature of the fire reached some 2000 degrees. MOVE members were in the basement when the bomb was dropped and as the fire grew hotter and spread they tried to escape the inferno. As they tried to escape Police fired gunshots into the building. MOVE was caught between burning to death or being shot by Police. In the end eleven people were killed. Among the eleven were five children. Only two MOVE members escaped the atrocity. Ramona Africa and 13-year-old Birdy Africa crawled through a basement window and into an alley only to be captured and arrested by Police. Ramona was charged with conspiracy, riot, and multiple counts of simple and aggravated assault. Ramona could have served 16 months if she would just renounce MOVE but she refused and instead served 7 years in prison for the crime of not dying when she should have.
The MOVE house was not the only one to burn to the ground. Sixty-five other homes were destroyed by the bombing. As the fire engulfed the MOVE home and spread the Philadelphia Fire department stood by and watched the blaze consume other homes for an hour. Neighboring homeowners sued the city for their negligence and only received restitution after years of legal battles with the city.
Ramona Africa was released in 1992 and still lives with MOVE in Philadelphia. She has advocated for the release of the MOVE 9 and Mumia Abu Jamal and other US held political prisoners. She has become a spokesperson for MOVE and continues to struggle for justice… An “investigation” into the bombing of the MOVE house was done but neither Mayor Frank Rizzo nor the Philadelphia Police Department, nor the FBI or any of the “law enforcement” entities were held responsible for the terrorist bombing of the MOVE house or the murder of those six adults and five children…
Russell Maroon Shoatz is a US held Black Unity Council and Black Liberation Army political prisoner. He has been in prison for over 40 years. This short film is part nine of a weekly web series of Russell Shoatz III the son of Russell Maroon Shoatz, telling the story of his father.
Working With Hope
In this concluding episode Russell Shoatz talks about his father Russell Maroon Shoatz being a kind of convergence point between ecology based struggles and his own. Russell talks about how ecology based activists reached out to his father and connected their struggle with his. It has a profound affect on Russell Maroon Shoatz. Russell the son also speaks about the work he’s done to free his father and how his father believes that he will one day be free.
Russell Maroon Shoatz has written extensively while in prison, these writings have been distributed around the world. These writings have been collected in a new book Maroon The Implacable and published by PM Press. To order the book go to pmpress.org. There is an ongoing campaign to try to free Russell to get more information or to join the campaign follow @RussellMShoatz or like Russell Maroon Shoatz on Facebook and check out some of Russell’s writings on his blog russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com.