Thirty-five years after MOVE bombing, Philadelphia City Council apologizes
The bomb dropped by the city that killed 11 people in 1985 has finally been recognized.
Have you ever heard about the MOVE bombing of 1985 in Philadelphia? If you haven’t, here is a little rundown of the event Philadelphia City Council voted to apologize for a whole 35 years later on Nov. 12.
MOVE was a Black radical group in Philadelphia. It was not an acronym, but a political and religious organization that was an outspoken critic of the government, corporations, and technology. The founder of the group was John Africa, originally Vincent Leaphart, was a Korean War veteran and a West Philly native. Founded in 1972, the group still exists today, though how many are members is unknown, for the events of May 13, 1985.
The group had tensions in the 70s and 80s with the Philadelphia Police Department, which resulted in a catastrophic bombing. On the night of May 13, law enforcement dropped a bomb on 6221 Osage Avenue — the group’s headquarters. The bomb is typically used for demolition, but was dropped on the row home in West Philadelphia while it and the surrounding blocks were still occupied, leaving 11 people dead. Sixty one homes were also destroyed in the area, leaving over 250 residents homeless.
The terrorist attack, because that is what it should be defined as, from the city on its own residents, was remembered throughout the city for some time, however looking back on it now, it’s something that has been suppressed.
Only two people survived the bombing. There were two grand jury investigations, a civil suit, and a final commission report that cited the bombing as “reckless, ill-conceived, and hastily- approved.” To this day, no one was criminally charged for the catastrophe.
After years of a devastation, the memory lives in the minds of many Philadelphia residents. At a national level, however, it is largely forgotten.
After a year of racial awakening, civil unrest, a historic election, Philadelphia City Council voted to apologize for their decision in the bombing 35 years ago. Although the Police Commissioner, Gregore J Sambor, resigned in November of 1985, following the bombing, then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode was cleared from any liability in relation to the bombing in 1988 through a grand jury. However, he wrote in The Guardian that the event would “remain in my conscience for the rest of my life,” and asked the city to issue a formal apology.
That apology came over three decades later, introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier.
She has also called for a remembrance of the tragedy on May 13.
My MOVE Bombing resolution passed unanimously today. Thank you to all my Council colleagues for your support.
This resolution serves as recognition for of the pain and trauma that these events have brought upon the Cobbs Creek community, and Black people in our city as a whole. https://t.co/AWUswKMpRz
— Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (@CouncilmemberJG) November 12, 2020
It’s a dark story buried in Philadelphia’s history that deserves not only an apology, but for the nation to know the even darker history of law enforcement in America.