May 13, 1985 Philadelphia  the only time a bomb was ever used on US soil against it’s own citizens.

A bomb was dropped onto the roof of the row house occupied by MOVE.  Inside the home at the time (which authorities knew) were children and yet they went forward, “ By the time of the 1985 incident, the group had built a bunker on the roof of the house.In addition, authorities believed MOVE was stockpiling weapons. In 1977, its sole white member, co-founder Donald Glassey, became an FBI informant on the group after being arrested on weapons charges, leading these agents to confiscate large amounts of MOVE munitions. 

Seeking to raid MOVE in response to complaints by neighbors, after years of ongoing tensions with authorities, on May 13, 1985, police confronted the group.When the raid failed, authorities dropped the bomb.

They said, “…let the fire burn”    Even though the house was surrounded with fire trucks at the time, the order was given to “…let the fire burn,” according to documentary filmmakers, who took this chilling phrase as the film’s title.     

It is said that authorities believed MOVE members would flee the engulfing fire.    “Let The Fire Burn is historical documentary as epic tragedy,” Osder said in his director’s statement.

“I was growing up outside Philadelphia in 1985 when the fire happened,” his statement also notes. “I remember being truly scared. I was struck that the children killed in the house (burned alive) were my own age, living in my own town. Their parents and the police had utterly failed to protect them. Regardless of politics or race or whether MOVE was a cult, I knew even as a child that the children were not to blame for what happened to them and that a fundamental injustice had occurred.”

Two survivors, unforgettable woundsOnly two members of MOVE survived, a boy who was 13 at the time, and a woman named Ramona Africa. (The surname “Africa” was taken by all MOVE members.)In 2013, 28 years after the bombing of MOVE, Ramona Africa still bears the brunt of the physical and emotional scars inflicted that day.”   from

Above shows the helicopter dropping the explosive bomb onto the MOVE row house roof.

61 homes were destroyed, an entire city block was leveled, 11 people died including 5 children, and left hundreds homeless.  It all started with the attempt to arrest 4 MOVE members and quickly turned into an event the city of Philadelphia will never forget.  

There were 2 survivors of the bombing Birdie Africa (the only child to survive) and Ramona Africa.  Sadly in 2014 Birdie passed away in a drawing accident.

       Picture above is of Birdie showing scars and photo of little boy in Police car is also Birdie.

MOVE was formed in 1972 by John Africa as a black liberation group, they spoke out against injustice, lived communally and believed in defending themselves when needed.

9 members of MOVE have been in prison since 1978 when police first went to the row house.  You can read more about them here:

To learn more about the group and the events that led up to the only time a bomb was dropped on US soil by police follow these links:    this is  a website of the MOVE group

Also check out the documentary “Let it Burn”  you can find it on youtube

Photo and information credit to all the links above


Ramona Africa