32 Years Later, Philadelphia Commemorates MOVE Bombing

Residents and survivors of a West Philadelphia bombing that killed 11 people, including five children, in 1985 gathered near Cobbs Creek Parkway and Osage Avenue Saturday afternoon to commemorate the solemn occasion.

The bombing by Pennsylvania State Police against members of the MOVE activist group destroyed 61 homes at the time, and continues to define a marginalized section of the city.

Those who gathered for the unveiling of a temporary marker called for greater social justice and a demand that the city acknowledge what happened 32 years ago.

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 reported. 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 in 1980. Five years later on May 13, police barricaded the home and demanded the group’s immediate removal. Shots were fired, tear gas thrown. Later in the day, a helicopter dropped a bomb on the house and killed 11 MOVE members.

One of the survivors, Ramona Africa, spoke at Saturday’s dedication ceremony. She was joined by students from the Jubilee School, which won a petition to create the marker.

"We are very clear on the fact that what happened ... had nothing to do with Osage residents," she said.

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