May 13, 1985: Police terror bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia
By Betsey Piette
Anticipating a renewed police attack, MOVE fortified the group’s new home in the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in a predominantly African-American area of west Philadelphia. They used a loud speaker system in an effort to educate their neighbors about the case of the MOVE 9 and the ongoing danger of police attack.
Saying they were responding to neighbors’ complaints, 500 police evacuated the neighborhood at dawn on May 13, 1985, then surrounded and attacked the house with over 10,000 rounds of ammunition in 90 minutes. Small explosive charges and water from fire department hoses were also used to attempt to penetrate the house. All the while, police and city officials were aware that several children were inside.
In January 1985, four months before the siege, a special agent of the FBI had given the Philadelphia police bomb squad 30 blocks of C-4, the most lethal of military plastic explosives. In the afternoon of May 13, a police helicopter dropped a bomb containing C-4 on the roof of the MOVE home on Osage Avenue, starting a fire.
The fire, which started on the roof of the house, was allowed to burn for 45 minutes before fire hoses were turned on. By then, the blaze was starting to devour the entire block. MOVE members who attempted to escape from the rear of the building were shot at by police. Only Ramona Africa and 13-year-old Birdie Africa escaped the fire. Eleven MOVE members were killed in the fire, and 250 area residents were left homeless.