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The Bombing of MOVE, 35 Years Later

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The Bombing of MOVE, 35 Years Later

Our radio adaptation of the film, Let the Fire Burn explores the controversial, 1985 clash between police in Philadelphia and MOVE, a radical, non-violent, back-to-nature group. After a standoff with the group MOVE, Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb on the roof of MOVE’s home, killing 11 people including five children, and destroying approximately 61 homes. Thirty-five years later, Philadelphia is still known as “The City that Bombed Itself.” The city’s brutal show force, unjustified to many, exists as part of a decades-long tradition of violent policing aimed at African-Americans.

TRANSCRIPT BELOW.

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Featuring

  • 13 year-old Birdie Africa, later known as Michael Moses Ward
  • Ramona Africa
  • Mayor Wilson Goode Sr.
  • Gregore J. Sambor – Philadelphia Police Commissioner
  • Tony Eastley
  • LaVerne Sims
  • Bennie Swans – Crisis Negotiator
  • Clifford Bond
  • Janice Walker
  • Cassandra Carter – Neighbor
  • Sgt. Albert Revel
  • Louise James
  • William Brown, III
  • Rev. Paul Washington
  • Officers Markus Bariana, Donald R. Griffiths, William J. Trudell, Lawrence D’Ulisse and Officer James Berghaier
  • William Richmond – Fire Commissioner 
  • Ed Rendell – District Attorney
  • the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission hearings

Making Contact Staff

  • Host: Anita Johnson
  • Executive Director: Lisa Rudman
  • Staff Producers: Anita Johnson, Monica Lopez, Salima Hamirani
  • Web Manager: Kathryn Styer

Music

  • Music included in the film by Chris Mangum
  • Blue Dot Sessions Highway 430
  • Audiobinger The Garden State

 

NARR: This week on Making Contact

The Film, Let the Fire Burn: “When I look at the Bay Area it’s always home. And when I say home that means I was originally planted there. My ancestors have been there since the beginning of time. So. I’m always home. So that’s a blessing. But there’s a double edged sword. This other piece of me has to do with seeing bulldozers pulling up street and not knowing if my ancestors are going to be there as well. And knowing that all the 425 plus burial sites of my ancestors, have been destroyed because of development Yes. The big story on action news tonight is the effort to evict move from its house on the 60 to 100 block of Osage Avenue.  The effort has turned into a disaster. The fire is now five alarms still raging out of control, as you can see.

NARR: Today you’ll hear excerpts from the documentary, Let the Fire Burn. The film, directed by Jason Osder, examines the controversial, 1985 clash between police in Philadelphia and MOVE, a radical, non-violent, back-to-nature group.

The Film, Let the Fire Burn:

 

NARR: MOVE, founded in 1972 is a political and religious organization whose principles mirrored that of its founder John Africa, (born Vincent Leaphart) an African American war veteran who practiced the idea of life liberation combined with environmental and animal rights. MOVE members see themselves as family and adopted the surname of “Africa” as an identifier. The group’s mission is to challenge the system, highlight the hypocrisy of government and live a healthy lifestyle.

The Film, Let the Fire Burn:

 

NARR: On the evening of May 13th, 1985, the city of Philadelphia dropped a satchel bomb, filled with Tovex and C-4 explosives on MOVE’s Osage Ave home. The bombing resulted in the death of 11 MOVE members, including five children. It destroyed 61 homes and devastated an entire community. 

I’m Anita Johnson your host this week.  The tragic events of May 13th, still linger 35 years-later.  A haunting and violent depiction of America at its worst.

 

The Film, Let the Fire Burn:

 

NARR:

After the 1985 bombing, Mayor Wilson Goode (the first African American to hold that position) appointed the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission to investigate the events leading up to and including the attack on MOVE. On March 6, 1986, the commission issued a report denouncing the actions of the city, stating that “dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.”

For his role, Mayor Goode eventually issued a public apology. And despite the Commission’s report, neither the mayor who approved the bombing, nor the officers who carried it out faced any official repercussions.

Ramona Africa, the only surviving adult MOVE member was convicted on charges of riot and conspiracy; she served seven years in prison. And the one child to survive, 13 year-old, Birdie Africa also known as Michael Moses Ward wasn’t charged with a crime.

In 1996 a federal jury ordered the city to pay a $ 1.5 million dollar civil suit. The jury found that the city used excessive force and violated MOVE members’ constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Thirty-five years later, Philadelphia is still known as “The City that Bombed Itself.” The city’s brutal show force, unjustified to many, exists as part of a decades long tradition of violent policing aimed at African-Americans.

Music Up:

You’ve been listening to excerpts from the documentary Let the Fire Burn, the bombing of the MOVE organization in 1985. You can access the full documentary online at kinolorber.com/film/letthefireburn or log onto the Making Contact website for more information.

The Making Contact team is executive director Lisa Rudman. Producers Monica Lopez, Anita Johnson, and Salima Hamirani. And the web manager is Kathryn Styer.

You can sign up for our updates at radioproject.org. Follow us on social media and send us your feedback and topic suggestions — we’d love to hear from you.  Thanks for listening to Making Contact! I’ve been your host, Anita Johnson.

 

 

 

 

Author: Radio Project

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