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May 13 1985 - The Day a City Murdered it's Own Citizens, and Displaced Hundreds

On May 13 1985 I was 11 years 6 months and 22 days old.

And I was completely unaware of what was really going on in this country. I knew what was going down within my own personal sphere but as far as the big blue ball was concerned I was blissfully ignorant.

Little did I know that people were dying on that day. And not by the hands of some random individual or group, instead it was by the same citizens that these people shared a city with and their deaths were compounded by law enforcement's approval of their demise.

On May 13 1985 11 people would die and 61 homes would be burnt to the ground.

Yes there are many tragedies in this country and under normal circumstances, this incident would be just another sad occurrence, but once I'm done with this video I truly hope you will be as disgusted and angry as I was when I found out what really happened.

So what was the catalyst for such a massive amount of destruction?

It started with a group called MOVE, and a confrontation between them and the police. But it would end with the police standing by and watching a whole neighborhood burn to the ground.

Back in 1978, a confrontation between Officer James Ramp and several of MOVE's members would lead to the death of Officer Ramp.

This animosity would burn until innocent members of this group were convicted of murder. On Christmas Eve 1983 These convictions culminated in MOVES leader; John Africa setting up a counterattack that included several loudspeakers that were used to deploy profanity filled tirades aimed at their neighbors and a collection of weapons.

What did this anger and pain bring?

It wasn't until May of 1985 that the Mayor of Philadelphia would decide to order a raid on the MOVE headquarters.

Those in charge decided that the best thing to do was to drop a bomb on the house in which the headquarters were stationed. Unfortunately, the roof had a gas-powered generator on it and this deadly combination would engulf not only the house but the entire neighborhood which would eventually burn an entire block of houses to the ground.

11 lives were lost including five children.

Please keep in mind that the bomb that was dropped in a residential neighborhood was two C-4 explosives.


two 1 pound bombs of c-4 were dropped on this one house. One, 1.25-pound bar of C-4 is enough to demolish a truck.

it would be on the nose to state that 1 pound would be more than enough to set the house on fire but to deploy 2 pounds of it on top of a house smacks of genocide.

The city of Philadelphia would eventually apologize for the death and destruction by admitting that it had caused "immeasurable and enduring harm".

Not only had they dropped a bomb on the house that held the Black liberation group but they also used a military-grade weapon as well as water cannons in the stand-off.

Different accounts argue over whether the fire department let the fire blaze out of control or if it was just too much to contain. But eyewitness accounts and popular opinion point to Law enforcement not only allowing for the fire to burn out of control but they actually told Firefighters to not extinguish the fire but rather to wait.

This action left 250 people homeless.

But for most residents of the predominantly Black neighborhood that lost between 60-65 homes and several lives, as far as they were concerned; the fire department did very little to stop the blaze from spreading.

Did the desecration of a Movement begin and end with that blaze?

No, the bones of a child burned in the blaze had been used without permission by the University of Pennsylvania. This was not the only place that the remains were desecrated, even Princeton got in on the disgusting act.

Originally the bones were given to the University of Penn for identification and instead of returning them back to the family, Professor Alan Mann instead decided to keep them and used them when he took a job at Princeton. They would not stay with Mann they would eventually make their way to Professor Janet Monge who would showcase them in her "Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology" class. She would have them in her possession from 2016 to 2019.

A common theory is that they belong to a 14-year-old girl who died in the fire.

John Africa Jr said “Nobody said you can do that, holding up their bones for the camera. That’s not how we process our dead. This is beyond words. The anthropology professor is holding the bones of a 14-year-old girl whose mother is still alive and grieving,”

How radical was the MOVE organization?

It was started by Vincent Leaphart who would eventually change his name to John Africa.

He taught a belief in a raw diet, natural hair, protesting the Vietnam War, anti-police brutality. He also taught against science, technology and instead believed in and encouraged a more nature-based philosophy.

They were not without controversy. They started to store large amounts of weapons, would brandish these weapons in public, make threats against public officials, and aggravate their neighbors by hooking up loudspeakers and using them to broadcast their message to their neighborhood.

Things came to a head on August 8, 1978, when an officer decided to enter the home even though the residents were set to leave the house for good on that day.

A shootout took place and Officer Ramp died in the melee. But with that said, the autopsy and police accounts point to MOVE not being responsible for the death of Officer Ramo. As he was shot in the back and MOVE was in front of him.

Even though the evidence clearly exonerated them, a jury found them guilty in his death. 9 members of the organization were sentenced to prison. Seven of the nine were still incarcerated as of 2018.

It was at this point that the Philadelphia police department would choose to eradicate this group however they could.

Even though the MOVE members had vacated the property and found new housing the police department still had an issue with the group.

That fateful day

Around 5:30 a.m. police appeared on the scene. "Attention, MOVE ... This is America," the police said into a megaphone. "You have to abide by the laws of the United States."

Though the department tried to dislodge the MOVE members several different ways, none were successful.

Which prompted the Mayor to say he intended to "seize control of the house ... by any means possible."

Once the house was set on fire several witnesses from the neighborhood along with the only adult to make her way out with her life - Ramona Africa stated that while the house was ablaze and as people were trying to escape the fire, Officers continued to fire on those who tried to leave. Which would force them back into the burning house.

A separate commission was assembled to investigate the deadly attack and their findings were that dropping bombs in a neighborhood filled with rowhouses was "unconscionable" as well as the fact that the bombing would not have taken place had the MOVE house and its occupants been situated in a comparable white neighborhood.".

My thoughts

Were the Officers, and the city found responsible for the deaths and destruction? NO

But was one of the only people left alive arrested and charged with rioting and conspiracy Yes?

Ramona Africa was incarcerated for seven years.

Would this have happened if it was a white neighborhood? the commission answered that very clearly - NO

Did the Waco bombing turn out completely wrong? Yes and up until this day the government is still dealing with the blowback from the heinous acts that happened there.

  • How many of you remember what happened in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on May 13, 1985?

Very few. and for those of you who did know, how many of you learned it from the news, 60 Minutes, Chris Hanson, or the made for tv movie that played on NBC? None of you because this mini holocaust was not taught nor talked about.

  • Would this happen now? If it did, would this be the response?

We will never know until it happens and that's the problem. As long as we continue to look at violent acts committed against Black people as one-off incidents that are only spurred by a few "bad apples" we will continue to excuse these heinous crimes as veritable acts of God. Rather than what they are.

These are the acts of people, cities, local and state governments, as well as the Federal government - who continue to see Black people as less than and disposable.

This is what the fight is about, it isn't just about one incident or several current incidents; it's about a country and a large portion of its citizen's inability to value to lives of those they deem not worthy.

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