Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MOVE 9 Women Denied Parole!

Read MOVE's response here.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ( READ FULL ARTICLE ) announced today that the three remaining MOVE 9 women (Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Hollaway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa) were denied parole by the PA Parole Board. The Inquirer quotes parole board spokesperson Leo Dunn as saying that parole had been denied on the grounds that the three MOVE prisoners had “minimized or denied the ‘nature and circumstances’ of the offense, ‘refused to accept responsibility’ and lacked remorse. He said the fourth reason for the rejections was the ‘negative recommendation’ by the prosecutor.”

The parole board used several of the stipulations that MOVE spokesperson Ramona Africa had predicted that they would try and use to deny parole, including that they "refused to accept responsibility" and lacked remorse.... The unfairness and arguable illegality of this is so obvious, because how can you expect someone to "admit guilt" when they've always said they are innocent? Where does remorse come from if someone is actually innocent?

The “nature and circumstances” stipulation is a blatant re-sentence, since the serious nature of the charges were considered by the judge at the time when he ruled that MOVE should be eligible for parole after 30 years. How can this fairly be used to deny parole?

A further outrage is that the women never even faced weapons charges, unlike the male MOVE 9 prisoners. Because of this, it had been thought by many observers that the women would have a better chance of receiving parole.

Therefore, if this is any indication, it does not look good for the MOVE 9 men, for whom the parole decision is still pending. If supporters want to make a difference and hold the parole board accountable for these blatantly unconstitutional parole stipulations, we must increase public pressure.

This blatantly unfair decision can only serve to validate the argument that the MOVE 9 are indeed “political prisoners”.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

After 30 Years, the MOVE 9 Must be Paroled

Local writer David Love wrote in this week's Black Commentator that the MOVE 9 "have been exemplary prisoners, and should be released. But many would argue that they should not have been imprisoned in the first place."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Update from Ramona Africa

ONA MOVE, Everybody! This is an update on the MOVE 9 parole situation.

Janine, Janet and Debbie were interviewed by Matthew Mangino in person and Judy Viglione watched on closed circuit TV. Janine told us that Mangino questioned her about the issue of innocence and then he didn't want to hear any information about MOVE's innocence. Janet and Debbie got to put out a lot of information about how many people sit in prison for 20, 30 years and have to be released because their innocence is proven so a conviction does not make a person guilty. Viglione asked Janet and Debbie a few questions about what they would be doing if they were released. The decision could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Our brothers see the parole board sometime this month but they don't have a specific date yet. My brother, Michael, was in the U.S. Marines before joining MOVE (he was around 17 years old) and after being around MOVE he decided not to go back to the Marines. He was AWOL (away without official leave). The Military Police came to MOVE Hq. and JOHN AFRICA gave them some serious information-they never came back. Now over 35 years later, when prison officials interviewed Michael to decide if they would recommend him for parole or not, they bring up this issue of Michael going AWOL from the military when he was 17.

It's obvious that this government does not want MOVE people on the street again so we have to keep the pressure on them so they have no choice but to release innocent MOVE people. Stay strong and keep sending letters to the parole board, keep the pressure on. Ona Move----Ramona

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill on Freeing the Move 9

Nearly thirty years ago, the city of Philadelphia was embroiled in one of the most bloody and tragic confrontations in its history. On August 8, 1978, Philadelphia police were involved in a shootout with members of MOVE, a pan-African organization situated in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. Despite competing accounts about what happened, particularly regarding who instigated the violent exchange of gunfire, the confrontation ended in massive bloodshed and the death of Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp. Nine members of MOVE were charged with third-degree murder and, after a long and expensive trial, convicted and sentenced to 30-100 years in prison.

Next month, seven of the eight living members of the MOVE 9 are scheduled for parole interviews. To no one's surprise, a string of protests have come from the city's law enforcement community, including the District Attorney's office and the Fraternal Order of Police, requesting that their parole be denied and they remain incarcerated for a full 100-year sentence. While I understand their concerns and empathize with their pain, such a decision would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

Based on the evidence used to convict the MOVE 9, there is still serious doubt about whether or not Officer Ramp was murdered by MOVE members or police fire. Given the Frank Rizzo administration's well-chronicled history of racist terrorism, both as mayor and police commissioner, there remains considerable doubt about the integrity of the investigation. Still, even if we were to trust the ballistic reports, which claim that Officer Ramp was shot in the neck at a downward angle, it would be impossible to rationally believe that a MOVE member could perform such a feat from their position in the basement. Also, based on all accounts, the three female defendants were in the basement protecting the children from gunfire. At the very least, the parole board must recognize the absurdity of keeping these women incarcerated for a full century.

Pretend for a moment that everything that the police and prosecutors said was true and everything that MOVE members claim is untrue. This would still mean that one MOVE member fired a fatal shot and eight others (who authorities insist were brainwashed cult members) were in the vicinity. Even if they were criminally negligent in other ways, do their actions call for a 100 year sentence? If we are to believe that prisons are really 'correctional' facilities why are we denying them the opportunity to demonstrate their rehabilitation? In the interest of justice, we have only one choice: