Africa and eight other MOVE members were all jointly convicted of a policeman’s murder in 1978.
MOVE is a political organization founded in 1970s Philadelphia to protest rampant police brutality.
The officer died during a raid on MOVE’s residential headquarters, detailed in a recent workers.org article. Africa, now 61, is the first of the “MOVE 9” to be released.
“They don’t really want to be so quick to let people who are accused of killing a cop out on parole,” said Mike Africa Jr., Debbie’s son. “The parole board seems to be retrying them, asking them questions about the incident that seem to have nothing to do with the years they’ve spent.”
MOVE arose in 1972 against the backdrop of all-out state campaigns targeting the Black Panther Party and other Black liberation groups. In May 1977, the police obtained a court order to force MOVE out of their home, resulting in a 15-month siege of the surrounding Powelton Village neighborhood.
“We huddled together scared because we knew cops had lots of guns and other weapons,” Debbie recalled in a written account for onamove.com. “We didn’t know how they were gonna do it, but we knew their plan was to kill us.
“Cops were yelling over a loudspeaker for us to come out of the house, but we didn’t trust them, so nobody went out there.”
Officer James P. Ramp suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head during the melee. According to workers.org, although no physical evidence pointed to a MOVE member pulling the trigger, they were all convicted of third-degree murder and con- spiracy. Philadelphia police obliterated the entire MOVE residence following the raid, destroying any hope of find- ing exculpatory evidence.
In 2016, 80-year-old former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli had been granted parole through a court order, but police unions and advocacy groups successfully challenged his release through higher court litigation, according to workers.org, Acoli’s sentence was extended 15 more years.