25 Years Later: Police Bombing of Philly Neighborghood Due to Militant Group


May 13th, 1985  Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on to a small Philadelphia community located on Osage Avanue. The result, 11 people killed including 5 childern, two blocks of homes destroyed, and over $50 Million dollars in losses. The disatster still continues to haunt the residents of that community til this day.

The MOVE Organization is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by leader John Africa. MOVE was described by CNN as “a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a “back-to-nature” lifestyle and preached against technology

Members of the militant group moved into one of the middle-class row houses on Osage Ave in 1981. 3 years after a shootout between the the group and the police, which left one officer dead and led to the arrest of nine MOVE members. Acording to the Associated Press soon after moving the organization turned their house into a fortified compund, with a bunker on the roof, and wood slats over the windows, and loud speakers whiched blared obscene rants against the authorities.

Neighbors and other members of the community filed complaint after complaint to no avail, until finally police obtained arrest and search warrants stating the group’s house contained illegal weapons and guns. On May 12 the authorities evacuated the block  explaining that there would be police action teh following day, and had the people bring ONE change of clothes.  The next day May 13th after being refused entry to serve warrants an hour long seige began with the police using water cannons, tear gas and bullets, until a state police helicopter droped a bomb on the compound starting a gas fueled fire killing 11 MOVE members and obliterating two blocks of homes. Only two members of the organization survived the blast.

I find it amazing how incidents like this are so easily lost and forgotten, and how the victims are never truly given proper closure. To this day after over $43 Million dollars in renovations, repairs, and redevelopment, two blocks of boarded up, mostly abandoned properties exists in this neighborhood. Eight of the original homeowners refused to accept a $150,000 buyout and still live on the block in poor conditions. The two surviving members of MOVE and familes were issued $5.5 Million  from the city for damages.