THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 13th May 1985
W. Wilson Goode, Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States (US), approved the bombing of a house occupied by the radical group MOVE. The bombing resulted in a fire which left 11 people dead, including 5 children, and 240 people from neighbouring properties homeless.
MOVE was founded in the early seventies by John Africa who had changed his name in reverence to his African origins. All members of MOVE adopted Africa as their last name. The organisation sought to emulate communal living and a respect for nature that underpinned African culture, but there were reportedly objections and resentment to aspects of the political philosophy and lifestyle of MOVE by some of their neighbours.
Under the pretext of responding to the demands of local people, the authorities in Philadelphia attempted to arrest MOVE members and evict them from the premises they occupied at 6221 Osage Avenue. MOVE members resisted, and a stand off between them and the police ensued. The police attacked the premises with tear gas, water cannons, gun fire and eventually dropped a bomb onto the roof of the MOVE house. The house caught fire and was destroyed along with 65 other properties.
Only two members of MOVE survived the police assault, a woman, Ramona Africa and a child, Birdie Africa. However, Ramona Africa was arrested immediately following the bombing and charged with conspiracy, riot and aggravated assault. She was subsequently convicted, serving 7 years in prison.
Goode set up an inquiry commission in the aftermath of the bombing which reported its findings on 6th March 1986. The report was highly critical of the decision to bomb the MOVE house saying that:
"Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable."
Goode was the first African American Mayor of Philadelphia, and many feel that his decision was influenced by a desire to preserve his power position and appease mainstream US interests.
The following video is the first of two featuring an interview with Ramona Africa conducted in May 2010:
"Always bear in mind that people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefits to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children." Amilcar Cabral