20 May 2016
Free the MOVE Prisoners!
(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)
Three members of the MOVE 9—Debbie, Janet and Janine Africa—had a parole hearing on May 12, having spent over 38 years in prison. As we go to press, no determination on their parole has been announced. MOVE, a predominantly black, radical, back-to-nature commune upholding the right of armed self-defense, has been targeted for vicious state repression ever since it was established in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. On 8 August 1978, after a months-long siege, an army of nearly 600 cops unleashed a fusillade of gunfire and then stormed MOVE’s Powelton Village home. One police officer, James Ramp, was killed in the cops’ own cross fire. At least eight witnesses testified that no gunshots came from the MOVE house, and no fingerprints of any MOVE member were found on the weapons supposedly recovered from their home. Despite this evidence of their innocence, nine MOVE members were framed up for the cop’s death and convicted on conspiracy and murder charges. They were sentenced to prison terms of between 30 and 100 years.
The latest parole hearing was held the day before the 31st anniversary of the 13 May 1985 MOVE massacre. In that signature racist atrocity of the Reagan years, black Democratic Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode and his city administration, collaborating with the Feds, firebombed MOVE’s house on Osage Avenue. Eleven black people, including five children, were killed and an entire city block burned to the ground.
After four decades, the state’s vendetta against MOVE has not subsided. The racist capitalist rulers and their police thugs remain committed to keeping the surviving members of the MOVE 9 buried alive behind bars. Since becoming eligible for parole in 2008, not one MOVE 9 member has been released. Two, Merle and Phil Africa, have already died in prison hellholes. In February, Eddie Africa was denied parole and the board smeared him as a risk to public safety. But despite persistent persecution and harassment, the surviving MOVE members remain strong and outspoken, steadfast fighters not only for their own freedom but also for the freedom of others, not least political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a longtime MOVE supporter.
The Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—sends monthly stipends to the imprisoned MOVE members as part of the PDC’s program of support to class-war prisoners. In an April 14 letter to the parole board demanding the release of Janet, Debbie and Janine Africa, the PDC noted: “It is an injustice that these men and women were ever incarcerated at all. Their continued confinement compounds that injustice on a daily basis.”
Letters demanding freedom for the MOVE prisoners should be sent to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 1101 South Front Street, Suite 5100, Harrisburg, PA 17104-2517. The names for each of the board members are at www.pbpp.pa.gov.
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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1090, 20 May 2016)
Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.