Imagine this: a cop knocks on the door of your row home in West Philadelphia and tells you to evacuate the area. It’s May of 1985 and you have been dealing with a nuisance in the area. A house that constantly blares loud political messages. There is a significant bunker on the roof. The occupants have boarded up many of the windows and doors and are generally stand-offish towards outsiders.
MOVE is an organization formed by John Africa formed in 1972 in Philadelphia. Members of MOVE were engaged in public demonstrations against racism and police brutality among other things. In 1978, six years before the infamous confrontation, there was another run in with police at their previous house. This confrontation resulted in the death of a police officer and the imprisonment of nine MOVE members.
After continued attempts to reason with the members of MOVE and essentially make them better neighbors, the Philadelphia police department and the Mayor of Philadelphia decided enough was enough. In May of 1985, they set out on a plan of action. The MOVE members had barricaded the windows and doors of 6221 Osage Avenue and the police believed that they had several guns on the premises. After hours of confrontation, the house was bombed. The fire killed six adults and five children, and displaced an entire neighborhood of mostly black families who lost their houses in the aftermath of this bombing and subsequent fire. Sixty one homes surrounding the MOVE house were completely destroyed.
Check out Tracy and Holly’s episode on this event here