Two of the 'MOVE 9' speak days after serving four decades in prison
Janet Africa (right) embraces Betsy Piet while on the left, Janine Africa greets a well wisher. Janet and Janine Africa were recently released after serving 40 years in prison for their role in the shooting death of a police officer. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Members of the group MOVE who have spent more than 40 years in prison spoke out Thursday, saying little has changed during their time of incarceration.
Janine Africa and Janet Africa were both sentenced to 30 to 100 years for their role in a shootout in Powelton Village that left Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp dead in 1978, and 18 other first responders injured. They were released from prison Saturday, but did not speak to reporters until now.
Janine Africa maintains her innocence. She says says police abuse is just as prevalent as it was in the 1970s but is more visible now.
“I’ve never seen people being shot down in the street in the back right in plain view on camera and nothing is done about it,” she said. “John Africa told us 40 years ago, it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.”
With the release of Janine and Janet Africa, there are now just three of the MOVE 9 remaining in prison. Debbie Africa was released last summer. Some died in prison before getting granted release.
Janet Africa said says the government corruption MOVE members complained about decades ago continues today.
Suzanne Ross greets Ramona Africa (right) prior to a press conference. To the left is Janine Africa who was recently released from prison. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
“People were looking at us like we were crazy,” she said. “You just couldn’t see it because they were covering it up, they were not exposing it.”
Janet and Janine refused to renounce their organization and still believe in the teachings of John Africa, saying his prediction that they would be eventually freed has come to fruition.
The deadly confrontation with the MOVE 9 preceded the infamous 1985 bombing by police of the MOVE compound on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia. The resulting conflagration consumed 65 houses — decimating the entire neighborhood while killing six adults and five children inside the house. Two of those killed in the fire were Janet and Janine’s children.
Ramona Africa, the only adult survivor of the bombing also spoke out at the news conference with Janine and Janet, saying women of the MOVE 9 were treated especially badly in prison.
“You know [correction officers] think they can break women, they don’t see them as strong, well they see MOVE women as strong,” she said.
WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.