Philadelphia burning: The city’s forgotten outrage against a Black community

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MOVE Bombing

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Philadelphia City Council finally voted to apologize for their decision to approve a bombing, which left 11 people dead, including five children, in 1985, an outrage that has been all-but-forgotten.

On May 13, police dropped an explosive device on the roof of 6621 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia after a daylong confrontation with the Black radical group, MOVE, as officers tried to evict them from their compound, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The police fired 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the building before dropping the bomb from a helicopter onto the building's roof, igniting the destructive inferno. 

Gregore J. Sambor, the Police Commissioner who directed the bombing, resigned in November of that year. A grand jury in 1988 cleared then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode and other top city officials of criminal liability for death and destruction resulting from the operation, the New York Times reported.

However, W. Wilson Goode wrote in The Guardian: "The event will remain in my conscience for the rest of my life."

Scroll down to find out more about the day the police bombed a black neighborhood.

On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb on 6621 Osage Avenue which left 11 people dead, including five children, and burned down 61 homes.

Since 1981, the building had been the headquarters of MOVE, a radical West Philadelphia group whose ideology combined Black revolutionary ideals with environmental and animal rights.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

 



The police fired 10,000 rounds of ammunition in under 90 minutes at 6621 Osage Avenue, which was known to be occupied by children, at 6am on May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission found.

Source: The New York Times



They then dropped a satchel bomb laced with Tovex and C-4 explosives, a military-grade demolition device typically used in combat, on the MOVE compound, the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission added.

Source: Vox



The bomb then sparked a blaze that was left to rage by authorities until there were 11 deaths, including those of five children, and 61 homes destroyed.

Source: The Guardian



The mostly Black neighborhood block surrounding the MOVE headquarters was also completely destroyed with bodies buried amongst the rubble.

Source: NPR



There were two survivors: 13-year-old Birdie Africa and 30-year-old Ramona Africa. She was immediately arrested on rioting and conspiracy charges.

She served seven years while Birdie Africa, who later took the name Michael Moses Ward, died in 2013.

Source: The Washington Post



MOVE was founded in 1972 by Vincent Leaphart, a Korean War veteran who took the name John Africa to demonstrate his reverence for the continent.

The group had a mixed relationship with their neighbors and the local community but frequently had run-ins with law enforcement.

Source: Teen Vogue



In 1978, MOVE engaged in a 15-month standoff with then-Mayor Frank Rizzo who ordered them to vacate their original home for 'violating city ordinance rules.'

He had a notoriously poor relationship with the black community and MOVE began to arm themselves.

Source: Vox



It culminated in the death of Police Officer James Ramp who was fatally shot during a confrontation in Powelton Village, Philadelphia on August 8, 1978.

Nine members of MOVE received life sentences for the incident which also injured 13 others and became known as the MOVE 9. 

Source: Vox

 



The beating of MOVE member, Delbert Africa, which ensued after the shooting was caught on camera and became an infamous example of police brutality.

He always maintained in innocence and was released on January 18, 2020 after spending almost 32 years behind bars. He died in June.

Source: WHYY



Philadelphia's first Black mayor, Wilson Goode gave the order to evict MOVE from Osage Avenue where they had been based for the past three years.

He has since apologised four times and wrote in The Guardian: "The event will remain in my conscience for the rest of my life."

 



In 1988, a grand jury cleared then-Mayor Wilson Goode and other top city officials of criminal liability for death and destruction resulting from the incident.

Gregore J. Sambor, the Police Commissioner who directed the bombing resigned in November 1985.

Source: The New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 



After founder John Africa died in the bombing, Ramona Africa became the group's spokesperson and continues to advocate for the still imprisoned MOVE 9.

She was awarded $1.5m in damages while John Africa's family who also lost his nephew received $1m.

Source: The Baltimore Sun



MOVE members, many of who are the descendants of the originals, still live together in West Philadelphia and participate in peaceful protests throughout the US.

Source: The New Next

 

 

 



Philadelphia City Council voted to formally apologize for the bombing this month, 35 years after it happened. It also agreed to an annual remembrance on May 13.

The vote was introduced by Councillor Jamie Gauthier who grew up close to where the attck occured and whose district also includes it.

Source: The Guardian



The statue of then-Mayor Frank Rizzo who ordered MOVE to vacate their original home for 'violating city ordinance rules' in 1978 has been taken down.

It was removed from Thomas Paine Plaza, Philadelphia on June 3, 2o20 amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 

 



Business Insider

  • On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on 6621 Osage Avenue which left 11 people dead, including five children, and burned down 61 homes.
  • The building was the headquarters of MOVE, a radical West Philadelphia group whose ideology combined Black revolutionary ideals with environmental and animal rights.
  • In 1988, a grand jury cleared then-Mayor Wilson Goode and other top city officials of criminal liability for death and destruction resulting from the incident.
  • This month Philadelphia City Council voted to formally apologize for their decision to approve a bombing.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Philadelphia City Council finally voted to apologize for their decision to approve a bombing, which left 11 people dead, including five children, in 1985, an outrage that has been all-but-forgotten.

On May 13, police dropped an explosive device on the roof of 6621 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia after a daylong confrontation with the Black radical group, MOVE, as officers tried to evict them from their compound, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The police fired 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the building before dropping the bomb from a helicopter onto the building's roof, igniting the destructive inferno. 

Gregore J. Sambor, the Police Commissioner who directed the bombing, resigned in November of that year. A grand jury in 1988 cleared then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode and other top city officials of criminal liability for death and destruction resulting from the operation, the New York Times reported.

However, W. Wilson Goode wrote in The Guardian: "The event will remain in my conscience for the rest of my life."

Scroll down to find out more about the day the police bombed a black neighborhood.

  • Philadelphia burning: The city’s forgotten outrage against a Black community photo


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