Debbie Sims Africa was released from state prison over the weekend, making her the first of nine MOVE members to be paroled after having served time for the 1978 shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer at the MOVE compound.
According to Susan McNaughton, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Africa was paroled from the State Correctional Institute at Cambridge Springs on Saturday.
Africa, 61, was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth in prison awaiting trial. According to the Guardian, she was reunited with her son for the first time outside prison walls upon her release.
On Aug. 8, 1978, police surrounded the Powelton Village headquarters of MOVE and entered the compound by force following a lengthy standoff. During that siege, Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp was struck and killed by gunfire.
Nine members of MOVE, including Debbie Sims Africa, were arrested following the standoff but MOVE members— all of whom take the last name of Africa — contend Ramp was killed by friendly fire from another officer on the scene.
The MOVE Nine, as they came to be known, were convicted of third-degree murder for Ramp’s death and sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison.
Two of the MOVE Nine died in prison. The six others, all of whom have been eligible for parole since 2008, remain incarcerated.
The deadly standoff at that MOVE compound was a precursor to one of the darker moments in Philadelphia history, when the city dropped a bomb on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue in Cobbs Creek in 1985, killing 11 people and devastating the surrounding neighborhood.
MOVE, which was founded in the early 1970s and still exists today, is a controversial black liberation organization whose followers believe in a hunter-gather society and reject “man-made laws,” science and technology.