May 13, 2015:

30 Years Since the Massacre of the MOVE Household and the Incineration of Osage Avenue

May 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Osage Avenue burns after Philadelphia police dropped bomb on MOVE house. May 13, 1985. 11 people died and 61 homes burned down.

Thirty years ago, the mayor of Philadelphia was Wilson Goode, the city’s first Black mayor, and lots of Black people and progressive white people put their faith in him to make the oppressive system “work” for the people.

But thirty years ago, on May 13, 1985, city authorities, acting on Mayor Goode’s direct orders, carried out a massacre against the residents of a house on Osage Avenue on Philly’s West Side, and then unleashed a catastrophe for the mainly Black community around it.  Their target was the home of a collective of Black radicals, the MOVE organization, which had already been the victim of years of violent assaults by the system aimed at crushing this rebellious group and anyone connected with it.*

On May 13, 1985, hundreds of police surrounded and attacked the home in the morning, firing thousands of bullets and using explosives on a home in which they knew there were a number of children.

But that was not enough for this system.

When MOVE did not surrender, the mayor ordered that a bomb be dropped on the roof. The MOVE house became a raging inferno. 

But that was not enough for this system.

They unleashed a wall of gunfire against anyone who tried to escape the flames, forcing them back into the fire to die. Between the bullets and flames, 11 people were murdered, including five children. Only two occupants survived the massacre. 

But that was not enough for this system.

The MOVE house was in a neighborhood of houses built closely together, yet the city ordered the Fire Department NOT to put out the flames, even as they spread beyond the MOVE house, roaring from one building to the next. By the end of the day, a whole block of houses, home to 250 people, had been destroyed.

But that was not enough for this system.

While the perpetrators of this horrendous crime – the mayor and the police – walked free, the only adult survivor, Ramona Africa, was arrested and spent seven years in prison for refusing to renounce MOVE, while the surviving child, Birdie Africa, was seized by the system and taken away from his family.

And with that, these authorities – those who serve the needs of a system that bellows with rage when youth in Baltimore fighting for justice break some windows, who cry crocodile tears about the deaths of Black men and the systematic impoverishment of the Black community, who cannot shut up about how “exceptional” America is – with that, these monsters called it a day!

Drawing the Line

In the wake this stunning and horrifying event, many people were paralyzed, partly by the sheer nightmarishness of what had happened, but also by the fact that this crime was carried out under the authority of a Black mayor. Far too many people who would have been outraged and outspoken if the same thing had happened in a city with white political leaders were silent in the aftermath of the massacre on Osage Avenue.

In response to this shameful situation, Carl Dix and others initiated the Draw the Line statement to denounce the MOVE massacre, and struggled fiercely for people to act on conscience and principal, not on false hopes, illusions and cowardice. The statement was signed by more than 100 prominent Black figures and others. It denounced the collusion of Black elected officials in the repression of the Black community, saying, in part: "When Black elected officials use their positions of power to attack Black people, or to cover up for or excuse such attacks, they are no friends of ours."

Never Forget or Forgive the MOVE Massacre!

Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!


* This included the persecution of Mumia-abu-Jamal, former Black Panther, revolutionary journalist and MOVE supporter, who had been framed up and locked away in prison three years earlier, where he remains today, fighting for his life! See “F*%king horrible”: The Public Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal?”. [back]


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