Racist Government Bombed Black Philadelphia
The following article is reprinted in slightly edited form from Workers Vanguard No. 959 (21 May).
May 13 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1985 MOVE massacre. Eleven people, five children, were burned alive after police, acting on orders from black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode and in collusion with the Feds, dropped a powerful incendiary bomb on the Osage Avenue home of the largely black MOVE commune in West Philadelphia. The firebombing followed a 12-hour siege during which the cops unloaded over 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the house. Firefighters on site were held back, and cops shot at anyone who tried to escape the burning building. The inferno spread, destroying 61 houses and leaving hundreds homeless in the black neighborhood.
Then-president Ronald Reagan, the FBI, the Philly cops and Wilson Goode were all responsible for this hideous crime, a stark example of the racist terror that black people are subject to in capitalist America. None of the perpetrators ever faced charges, while Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor, served every day of her seven-year prison sentence. Immediately after the massacre, and ever since, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the SL, have sought to sear this racist atrocity into the memory of the working class.
In July 1985, the SL held a public forum in New York City to honor the MOVE martyrs, at which family members and supporters spoke. We wrote in protest that the mass murder carried the bloody signature of the Reagan years and was intended “to send a message to black America and ‘radicals’ of every stripe. ‘Anti-terrorism’ means massive government terror against anyone who is out of step in Reagan’s America” (Workers Vanguard No. 379, 17 May 1985). Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the onslaught against black people, synonymous with Reagan reaction, has continued unabated to this day.
From the moment that MOVE surfaced in the early 1970s in the racist hellhole of Philadelphia, denouncing “the system” and defending the right to armed self-defense, this back-to-nature group was subjected to police harassment, beatings and hundreds of arrests. On 8 August 1978, 600 cops unleashed a barrage of gunfire as they stormed MOVE’s Powelton Village compound. When MOVE members emerged from their home, the police dragged, kicked and stomped Delbert Africa nearly to death. Nine MOVE members were framed up and sentenced in 1981 to 30-100 years on charges of killing a cop who died in the police crossfire at Powelton Village—even though the judge stated that he didn’t have the “faintest idea” who killed the cop. Merle Africa died in her prison cell in 1998. The rest of the MOVE 9 are still in Pennsylvania’s dungeons.
In an expression of solidarity with those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression, the PDC provided monthly stipends for Ramona Africa during her imprisonment as it has also done for the MOVE 9 and death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who became a MOVE supporter while reporting on the MOVE 9 trial.
Mumia, an innocent man framed up on false charges of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner, was sentenced to death in 1982 for his political views. His case is what the death penalty is all about—a legacy of chattel slavery, the lynch rope made legal. A former Black Panther leader as a teenager in the 1960s, Mumia became a prominent radical radio journalist known as “The Voice of the Voiceless” who reported on the racist Philly cops and courts. It was during the sham trial of the MOVE 9 that Mumia became sympathetic to the MOVE organization.
To avenge the MOVE martyrs, the working class must fight to smash this capitalist system, whose rulers inflict a special oppression on black people as a means to divide and attack the entire working class. We will not forget the MOVE massacre! Free the MOVE members, Mumia and all class-war prisoners! For black liberation through socialist revolution!