When The City Of Philadelphia Dropped A Bomb On Its Own People

The purpose of this post is to inform readers about the MOVE group and the MOVE bombing. MOVE was founded in 1972 by John Africa and the organization advocated for nature laws + natural living. A few years later during 1977 Mayor Wilson Goode and police commissioner Gregore J. Sambor classified the MOVE group as a terrorist organization and received permission to remove the MOVE group from their headquarters. This would lead to a standoff between the MOVE group and police officers during 1978. 1 cop died and 16 officers + firefighters were injured. 9 members from the MOVE group was sentenced to 30-100 years for the incident. The officer that died was James J. Ramp. He died after being shot once in the back of his neck. The MOVE members said they’re innocent because they never fired weapons at officers and there weren’t any functioning firearms at the property. According to eyewitnesses the bullet that struck officer James J. Ramp was fired from behind. This would mean MOVE members never shot officer Ramp and he was killed by friendly fire. Officers also retrieved inoperative firearms from the MOVE property. This didn’t stop prosecutors from saying otherwise.

Members of MOVE gather in front of their house in the Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1978.
Members of MOVE in front of their house in the Powelton Village neighborhood in 1978 (Photo Cred: Leif Skoogfors/Corbis)

Chuck, Delbert, Eddie, Janet, Janine, Merle, Michael, Phil and Debbie Sims Africa were charged with third-degree murder for the death of officer Ramp. Merle Africa died in prison during 1998 at age 47. Phil Africa died in prison during 2015 at the age of 59. Debbie Sims Africa was released on parole during 2016 at the age of 60. Michael Davis Africa was released on parole during 2018 at the age of 64. Janine (63), Eddie (69), and Janet (68) Africa were released on parole during 2019. Chuck Sims Africa was released on parole during 2020.

Workers searching through the rubble in West Philadelphia on May 15, 1985, two days after a police helicopter dropped an improvised bomb onto a rowhouse, leaving 11 people dead.
Two days after bomb was dropped. (Photo Cred: George Widman)

On Monday May 13, 1985 the city of Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The main target for the bomb was the MOVE property located at 6221 Osage Avenue. Before the bomb was dropped there was about 500 police officers attempting to serve arrest warrants at a home occupied by MOVE members. In efforts to clear the home city officials shut off the water and electricity at the residence. Police commissioner Gregore J. Sambor stood outside of the home alongside Mayor Wilson Goode and read a long speech directed towards the MOVE group. The speech started with “Attention MOVE: This is America. You have to abide by the laws of the United States.”. At the end of the speech the MOVE group was told they had 15 minutes to evacuate the home. This is when a MOVE member allegedly fired at the police. In result police officers fired more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the MOVE home for 90 minutes straight. They would eventually run out of bullets and ask the police academy to bring more. While waiting for bullets the SWAT teams at the scene attempted to blow holes into the side of the MOVE home with dynamite. This plan didn’t work and they were unable to get inside. After a long attempt to serve warrants to MOVE members the police received permission to drop a bomb on the MOVE home. After dropping two 1 pound bombs (made of FBI supplied Tovex) 61 West Philadelphia homes burned for hours. The fire would unfortunately kill 11 people (6 adults, 5 children) and leave more than 250 people homeless. Ramona Africa would be the only MOVE member to survive the bombing. In 1996 the City Of Philadelphia paid Ramona $500,000 ($921,000 today) for the pain, suffering, and harm suffered from the fire. In 2005 the residents affected by the fire was paid $12.3 million ($18 million today). Although the city issued an apology and said the bombing was reckless, ill-conceived and hastily approved not one police officer or city official faced criminal charges. The adults and children that died in the fire were John Africa, Frank Africa, Teresa Africa, Conrad Africa, Rhonda Africa, Raymond Africa, Tree, Netta, Deleisha, Phil and Tomasa.

Police officers on a rooftop as fires burned after the bomb was dropped on MOVE headquarters.
Police officers on a rooftop after the bomb was dropped. (Photo Cred: George Widman)
Map of Philadelphia

During 2021 city residents found out the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office asked Dr. Alan Mann from the department of anthropology at the University of Penn to conduct an examination on the remains of 2 MOVE children (14yr old Tree and 12yr Deleisha) in 1985. Like clockwork Penn issued an apology to the MOVE group. The apology can be read here. In 2001 Dr. Alan Mann gave the remains of the MOVE children to Dr. Thomas Farley. On the 36th anniversary of the MOVE bombing Dr. Thomas Farley made an announcement to the public and said he threw away some of the remains of the MOVE children. He resigned from his position a week later. Shortly after the announcement Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement revealing that the staff in the medical examiner’s office found a box with remains of the MOVE family. Like clockwork the city issued an apology to the MOVE family. As of right now the Penn Museum, the Medical Examiner’s Office of Philadelphia and Princeton University have no idea where the rest of the remains are and what happened to them over the years.

John Africa, founder of MOVE, leaves a federal courthouse in Philadelphia, after being acquitted on weapons and conspiracy charges on July 23, 1981.
John Africa, founder of MOVE shown leaving a federal courthouse in Philadelphia on July 23, 1981 (Photo Cred: Bill Ingraham)
MOVE members hold sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons as they stand in front of their barricaded headquarters on May 21, 1977.
MOVE members in front of their headquarters on May 21, 1977 (Photo Cred: AP)
MOVE member, Ramona Africa, after being sentenced on April 14, 1986 her role in the fatal confrontation with police on May 13, 1985.
MOVE member Ramona Africa after being sentenced on April 14, 1986 (Photo Cred: Peter Morgan)
Mayor W. Wilson Goode, center, leaves court after testifying at the trial of MOVE member, Ramona Africa, on January 25, 1986.
Mayor W. Wilson Goode leaving court after testifying at the trial of MOVE member Ramona Africa on January 25, 1986 (Photo Cred: Peter Morgan)

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