What to Know
- Police dropped a bomb on the MOVE compound on May 13, 1985. Eleven people died and dozens of neighboring homes burned to the ground.
- The deadly event remains one of Philadelphia's darkest days.
- NBC10 Photojournalist Pete Kane was on the scene. "May 13th is a day we should never forget."
May 13, 1985 is a day that changed Philadelphia forever.
On that day, police dropped a bomb on the MOVE compound on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia near Cobbs Creek, leaving 11 people, including children, dead. The ensuing fire destroyed the neighborhood and left decades of scars for everyone involved.
The armed confrontation between Philadelphia authorities and the radical group MOVE has boiled for years. The day before it escalated and by Monday morning the shooting had begun and ended as a bomb was dropped from a state police helicopter onto the group's row house at 5:27 p.m., igniting a fire that destroyed about 60 neighboring homes.
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"May 13th is a day we should never forget," NBC10 photojournalist Pete Kane, who was on the scene and shot some of the iconic video, said while looking back Monday.
MOVE, short for The Movement, started in the late 1960s as a backlash to modernity. Members changed their last names to Africa — as a symbol of returning to their origins — and swore off modern conveniences. They also followed a strict 800-page manifesto and homeschooled their children.
By the 1970s, MOVE and Philadelphia police developed a contentious, and sometimes violent, relationship. MOVE members claimed they were regularly harassed, and police considered them a public nuisance, BillyPenn reports. By then the group had graduated to building their own explosives and were under investigation by the FBI.
MOVE was kicked out of its initial commune, which was located in Poweltown Village, and relocated to the 6200 block of Osage Avenue, where complaints from neighbors began to mount. On May 12, 1985, police evacuated neighbors from surrounding homes and tried to negotiate the group’s immediate removal. Shots were fired the next morning, tear gas thrown. Later in the day, a helicopter dropped the bomb on the house.
The ensuing fire burned throughout the night, consuming dozens of homes.
One of the survivors, Ramona Africa, spoke two years ago at a dedication ceremony as a historical marker was erected.
"We are very clear on the fact that what happened ... had nothing to do with Osage residents," she said.