PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Several Philadelphia city councilmembers are issuing an apology on the 35th anniversary of the MOVE bombing. On May 13, 1985, police dropped a bomb on a row house and caused an inferno that killed 11 people and destroyed more than 60 homes.
In 1985, the city clashed with members of MOVE, a radical, black back-to-nature group. It culminated in the bombing of MOVE headquarters, which engulfed a city block in flames. Five children were among the 11 people who died.
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Helen Gym, Allan Domb, Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Mark Squilla, Curtis Jones, Jr., Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Kenyatta Johnson, and Cherelle Parker called the MOVE bombing “a brutal attack carried out by the City of Philadelphia on its own citizens.”
“We apologize for the decisions leading to the devastation of that day, and acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of the MOVE Bombing. As members of Council, we acknowledge the significant failures in communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution leading up to and following these tragic events,” the councilmembers said in a joint statement.
William Richmond, fire commissioner at the time, said in 2010 that the fire which spread down the block was not extinguished immediately after the bomb because officials were worried that firefighters could face gunfire, and thought it would destroy a bunker and help get people out of the house. Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. said he ordered the fire to be put out, but Richmond said he never received such an order.
One of the survivors, Ramona Africa, alleged that police opened fire on MOVE members trying to flee the burning home.
Earlier this week, Goode called for a formal apology from the city for the tragedy.
“Many in the city still feel the pain of that day,” Goode wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian. “I know I will always feel the pain.”
Goode said he “was not personally involved in all the decisions that resulted in 11 deaths,” but took responsibility as chief executive of the city and issued what he called his fourth public apology. He said he was “ultimately responsible” for the actions of those he appointed “even though I knew nothing about their specific plan of action.”
The councilmembers plan to formalize the apology with a council resolution later this year.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)