In a country that prides itself on being the apex of liberty and freedom of expression, the notion of domestic terrorism never crosses the mind of most Americans. In the eyes of many, however, this notion is all too real.
On May 13th, 1985, the Move organization’s headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. were firebombed by local police who claimed that the group’s members posed a safety risk to the city – this taking place after several years of well documented evidence that the department was carrying out a vendetta towards the organization.
The bombing resulted in the deaths of eleven people, including Move’s founder John Africa and five children, as well as the virtual leveling of Osage Avenue where the headquarters were located. Many eyewitness accounts from that day described the scene as being reminiscent of the dropping of an atomic bomb.
On Wednesday, activists from across the country and world poured into Philadelphia to observe the thirtieth anniversary of the event. It began as a mid-morning rally held on Osage Avenue in remembrance of bombing victims, as well as to demand the release of members of the 1978 “Move 9” case who supporters allege were falsely charged by city and state officials for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer, among other charges. These nine individuals have served nearly forty years in prison and keep being denied parole despite evidence being introduced that could possibly grant them a new trial.
After the rally, a nearly thirty block march took place in which participants demanded an end to police brutality and the freeing of others who they referred to as “political prisoners.” This list included imprisoned journalist and fellow Move member Mumia Abu Jamal, whose case was also mentioned throughout the day-long program.
The march ended at the First District Plaza, where later in the evening an indoor rally was held honoring the victims of the Osage Avenue tragedy.
In attendance was the son of slain Black Panther Party Leader Fred Hampton, Fred Hampton Jr., who travelled all the way from Chicago to lend his support. He told NewsOne flatly, “We are victims of terrorism. What happened in Philadelphia on Osage Avenue thirty years ago is one of the blatant cases of the extent this government will go to to any attempt of our people to fight for self determination.”
The long time activist continued by emphasizing the importance of remembering Move. “We’re here in solidarity. We’re making sure that every generation knows what happened thirty years. . .We’re making the concrete connection between terrorism on Africans (Blacks) and other colonized people.”
Revolution Communist Party of America Spokesperson Carl Dix was also present and he spoke with NewsOne briefly about his thoughts concerning the day’s events. “Today is a day we must never forget. Thirty years ago they dropped a bomb on a house in a Black neighborhood. They began by launching a military assault, firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the house. They tried to drown them out with water hoses and when that didn’t work, they dropped a bomb on them. We must never forget this because they were giving us a lesson in how they (law enforcement) functioned,” he said.
This event couldn’t have come at a better time in light of the recent controversy surrounding police killings of African-Americans across the United States.
During the evening, Ramona Africa-who is a survivor of the bombing on that fateful day three decades ago-served as co-emcee and spoke for several minutes on police brutality. “We must understand the work we need to do and the stand we need to take to put an end to this viciousness. They’re not going to stop on their own. Nobody is going to hand us peace and contentment on a silver platter. We have to direct and demand that. And settle for nothing less.”
Along with an African-themed program that features poets, presentations, video addresses by former Black Panther Angela Davis, Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, and a performance by New Jersey-based Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, longtime scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West spoke.
In his usual fiery manner, Dr. West wasted no time in sharing his thoughts. “It’s a new day in Philadelphia, Ferguson, Baltimore and the world. . .We’re here to say to the Move organization that we love each and every one of them.”
Tying the Move plight into the broader struggle for justice, West asserted, “When the history is written of the last forty years about the vicious attacks on poor and working people and the massive transfer of their wealth to the top one percent, someone will ask ‘Who actually tried to stand up and tell the truth?’ And the condition of truth is always to allow suffering to be manifest.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice,” West added.
Earlier in the evening, attendees heard from “Move 9” member Janine Africa, who has been held for nearly forty years at the Cambridge Springs Correctional Institution.
Event organizers announced that more plans are being formed to initiate the release of the “Move 9.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty