Beewolf Africa holding the broken truncheon and cap of a policeman after the altercation (November 1976)
©Michael Viola / Philadelphia Inquirer
On November 5, 1976 a hearing was held before Judge Edward Blake regarding several different MOVE cases. Some 20 MOVE defendants, all out on bail, appeared in court.
Many were given sentences and despite their intention to appeal, Blake ordered them taken into custody. On the way to a holding cell, sheriff Jerry Saunders began beating one handcuffed young MOVE member, Dennis Africa, and a brief scuffle ensued. Sheriffs locked up all those who came to Dennis' defense, then also arrested and brutalized Robert, Valerie and Rhonda Africa who had played no part in the altercation. Nearly 9 months pregnant, Rhonda went into premature labor, giving birth to a bruised and injured baby that died within minutes.
Charges of assault and resisting arrest against those involved were later dismissed, except for Robert, Conrad and Jerry Africa, who were given bail. The case marked a new era in the conflict between MOVE and the courts. After hundreds of cases and years of hearings, MOVE had accumulated a thorough knowledge of what could typically be expected from the courts at every stage of the process. The courts, in turn, had settled into a grudging tolerance of MOVE's behavior, such as the refusal to stand when a judge entered the room. At a pre-trial hearing, on February 7, 1977, Judge Paul Ribner ordered sheriffs to force Robert to stand as the judge came in. Ribner then issued bench warrants for Jerry and Conrad, despite Robert's explantation that they were out of town that day and would be present at the next listed hearing. Officers around MOVE headquarters, who normally would not have immediate knowledge of bench warrants due to the usual bureaucratic delays, began taunting MOVE and talked of forcibly entering the house with the warrants as legal justification.
As the case continued, MOVE could see that Ribner's odd demands and threats, and the unusually large number of armed police and sheriffs present in the court-room created a situation in which a physical courtroom confrontation could result in some "accidental" MOVE injuries or deaths. After the defendants refused to participate further, Ribner tried them in abstentia, and instead of the usual county jail time, gave them longer state prison sentences. They were soon shipped off to Graterford prison, about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia. MOVE was outraged at such a blatant set-up and railroading of Robert, Conrad and Jerry, who were now political prisoners.
Move… Who they are ?
"Video / 6 min / Couleur" ©2011 - "In Prison My Whole Life" de Marc Evans