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May 13, 1985: Philly Bombs, Literally

By dlindorff - Posted on 14 May 2010

By Linn Washington Jr.

Philadelphia loves to brag about it’s ‘Firsts,’ citing such notable things as the nation’s first capital (1774), America’s first zoo (1874) and the birthplace of the world’s first digital computer ENIAC (1946).

There is one ‘First’ that will never appear in slick tourist handouts from the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau though, and that’s the city’s first air raid on May 13, 1985, when the city deliberately bombed an occupied house containing children, sparking a deadly firestorm.

A bomb dropped on an American city by that city’s own police force?

Yes, a bomb made with hi-explosive military C-4 and powerful Tovex dropped by Philadelphia police from a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter onto the roof of 6221 Osage Ave., located in West Philadelphia just blocks from the University of Pennsylvania – considered America’s ‘First’ university.
That 5:27PM bombing ignited a small fire that grew steadily because of an unconscionable decision by Philadelphia’s then Police Commissioner, Greg Sambor.

The commissioner ordered arriving firefighters not to fight the spreading blaze, telling them to “let the fire burn” because he wanted to use the flames as a “tactical weapon” to drive out persons barricaded inside the bombed house...

For the rest of this article, please go to the new news site:

"25 Years Ago: Philadelphia Police Bombs MOVE Headquarters Killing 11, Destroying 65 Homes", May 13, 2010

I'll excerpt the description and the brief bio's for the guests.

"Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of a massive police operation in Philadelphia that culminated in the helicopter bombing of the headquarters of a radical group known as MOVE. The fire from the attack killed six adults and five children and destroyed sixty-five homes. Despite two grand jury investigations and a commission finding that top officials were grossly negligent, no one from city government was criminally charged. MOVE was a Philadelphia-based radical movement that was dedicated to black liberation and a back-to-nature lifestyle. It was founded by John Africa, and all its members took on the surname Africa. We hear from Mumia Abu-Jamal and speak with Ramona Africa, the only adult survivor of the bombing. [includes rush transcript]



Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist on death row in Pennsylvania. From a radio commentary recorded for

Ramona Africa, only adult member of MOVE to survive the 1985 bombing. She escaped with major burns by crawling through a basement window with a thirteen-year-old boy then known as Birdie Africa. Ramona went on to serve seven years in prison on a riot charge."

DOING a Google search and a Google Videos search, many links are returned for Ramona Africa. There seems to be a link specifically for the MOVE organization, probably the history of the bombing, etcetera, by "law" so-called enforcement, more aptly called TERRORISM and cold-blooded massacre. I read one or more excellent articles several years ago about what happened and these might have been at the MOVE website, but I can only recall that the description the article(s) provided were excellently written. It was clear from what I had read that this must not be forgotten history.

There's the website, JOHN AFRICA'S MOVE Organization, at, and it certainly looks like it must be a website truly dedicated to this story.

About the DN! interview:

Mumia Abu Jamal provides an excellent, great radio commentary from death row, and given his lucidity and great words, I find it very difficult to believe that he should even be in prison, much less on death row.

Ramona Africa provides a great interview and account of what really happened and it is backed by what the gov't declared.

Juan Gonzalez, co-host of DN!, was a witness or this extreme and war-like crime against the MOVE Community and part of what he describes having seen is what Ramona Africa says was a helicopter, police I think, having dropped a military C4 bomb on the house. He also witnessed the firefighters doing nothing, after they had been ordered to stand down; as well as having witnessed the police cold-bloodedly shooting members of the community.

Excellent interview.

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