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Tensions between MOVE, a Black liberation group in Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Police had been brewing for years. MOVE, which still exists today, stood against government, corporations, and technology, and focused heavily on animal and environmental rights, believing that people should return to nature. The group was known for nonviolent protests, but often had run-ins with authorities due to their outspokenness regarding police brutality.
In the 1980s, the group had moved to Osage Avenue, a quiet residential neighborhood in Philadelphia. Their neighbors frequently complained about the group to the government, and in 1985, Wilson Goode, who was the first Black mayor of Philadelphia, issued an order to evict the group from their home. They refused, setting the stage for a standoff between MOVE and Philadelphia officials.
On May 13, 1985, police entered the home and ordered everyone inside to get out. Nearly 500 officers were on the scene. When the residents refused to leave, police tried to forcibly remove the seven adults and six children who were inside. Police began throwing canisters of tear gas, and MOVE members responded by shooting. After the gunfight, officials ordered that a satchel bomb that was laced with Tovex, which is a dynamite substitute, be dropped on the house from a helicopter. The house went up in flames, killing 11 people and destroying 61 other homes on the block. More than 250 residents were left homeless as a result.
In 1986, a task force found that the actions of the Philadelphia government were unconscionable. Goode made a public apology, but no one was formally charged. Ramona Africa, who was the only surviving adult MOVE member, refused to testify in court and served seven years in prison for rioting and conspiracy.