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The remains of the townhouses on Osage Ave. after the bombing.
Credit: George Widman/AP
Smoke from the bombing could be seen for miles.
Credit: Bettmann Archive
The fire engulfed 2 city blocks before firefighters could extinguish it.
Credit: Associated Press
The aftermath of the bomb
MOVE founder John Africa before the boming.
MOVE supporters at the funeral procession for founder John Africa
The smoldering ruins of dozens of homes in Philadelphia.
Killer(s): Philadelphia Police Department,
Victim(s): John Africa, Rhonda Africa, Theresa Africa, Frank Africa, Conrad Africa, Tree Africa, Delisha Africa, Netta Africa, Little Phil Africa, Tomaso Africa, and Raymond Africa,
Written by: Jewls Krueger
MOVE is a mostly African-American organization that advocated for natural living. It was founded by John Africa in 1972 and remains active to this day. In 1977, members of MOVE lived in a communal setting in West Philadelphia was involved with advocacy in the area which often included using a bullhorn to spread their message. After complaints from neighbors about the state of their house and the noise levels, police attempted to remove MOVE from the home which resulted in a shootout between police and MOVE members. In the shootout, one police officer, James J. Ramp, was killed although its debated whether the bullet that killed the officer was from MOVE or from fellow officers.
After the shootout, 9 members of MOVE were arrested and subsequently found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Officer Ramp. In 1981, the remaining members moved into a townhouse at 6221 Osage Ave. The members continued to hold protests and use a bullhorn to give hours long sermons about their mission. Neighbors complained about the compound, the noise, and the trash surrounding the compound for years.
In 1985, police obtained arrest warrants for 5 MOVE members who lived at the commune on Osage St. The MOVE members refused to give themselves up unless the 9 members who were arrested for murder were released, a bargain that the police department would not agree to. On May 13, 1985, the police department evacuated the block surrounding the compound, telling residents they would be able to return to their homes after 24 hours. Police then entered the compound and forcibly removed seven adults and six children from the home, but at least 13 MOVE members remained in the home including children. The police department attempted to remove the remaining members by firing canisters of tear gas into the building, at which point MOVE members began to shoot at police. The gunfight lasted for an hour and a half and resulted in 10,000 rounds of ammunition being fired from the police department at the compound.
After making no progress in getting the remaining MOVE members out of the home, Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambo ordered two 1lb bombs to be dropped onto the home from a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter. The fire from the bombs quickly spread to other homes on the block, with firefighters being held off by the police officers for 30 minutes before they were able to fight the blaze. After the blaze was extinguished, 11 bodies were discovered inside the MOVE compound, with only 2 of the members who had remained inside the home surviving. 65 homes were destroyed in the inferno caused by the bombs.
No one from the city government has ever been criminally charged in the attack the killed six adults and five children. In 1996, a federal jury found that the city had used excessive force in the attack and ordered the city to pay Ramona Africa, who had survived the attack, and the relatives of those killed $1.5 Million. Although the city rebuilt the homes destroyed in the fire, the homes were shoddily built and it wasn't until 2005 that residents were awarded a settlement of $12.83 million to be paid by the City of Philadelphia.
Although all of the homes surrounding the MOVE compound were destroyed in the fire, the city quickly rebuilt the homes for the residents. Unfortunately the homes were poorly built, and residents often complained about leaks and shoddy craftsmanship. In the early 2000s, the city offered to buy the homes from residents for $150,000 each to rebuilt them. As of 2019, it appears that all of the homes on Osage St. were under some sort of renovations.
It's unclear if the homes on Osage St. are currently occupied, but if visiting please remember to be respectful of current residents and neighbors.
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