Philadelphia City Council Apologises For Racist Police Bomb Attack 35 Years Later

by : Julia Banim on : 18 Nov 2020 18:32

The Philadelphia City Council has made a formal apology 35 years after a police bomb left 11 people dead.

On May 13, 1985, a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the roof of a row house occupied by MOVE, a Philadelphia-based Black liberation group. Out of the 11 people killed in the subsequent blaze, five were children, with the youngest being just nine years old.


The bomb ignited multiple barrels of gasoline that had been stored on the roof of the property, sparking an inferno that decimated more than 60 other homes in the mostly Black residential neighbourhood, resulting in hundreds of people being left homeless.

Move bombingPA

At 6am on the day in question, Philadelphia police officers came under gunfire from individuals inside the property, leading to a day-long standoff.

The Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission later discovered that officers had fired more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in under 90 minutes at the occupied property, before dropping military-grade explosives.


As per The New York Times, the commissioner’s report determined the police officers’ actions had been ‘clearly excessive and unreasonable’, and that the plan to drop a bomb on the property had been ‘unconscionable and should have been rejected out-of-hand’.

Nobody has ever been held accountable for the tragedy, and even after two grand jury investigations and the deaths being classified as ‘unjustified homicides’, no police officers or city officials have ever been charged for their part in what is now referred to as the MOVE bombing.

Move bombingPA

This new resolution was almost unanimously approved, and also establishes the MOVE bombing anniversary as ‘an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment’.


Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, whose West Philadelphia district includes the destroyed neighbourhood, sponsored the resolution, introducing it just days after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.

Wallace Jr. was shot less than a mile away from where the MOVE bombing took place, and Gauthier drew connections between the two devastating events during a speech to City Council in October.

As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Gauthier said:

We can draw a straight line from the unresolved pain and trauma of that day to Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing earlier this week in the very same neighbourhood.

Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.

MOVE Bombing@CouncilmemberJG/Twitter

Taking to Twitter after the resolution was passed, Gauthier thanked her council colleagues for their support, writing:

This resolution serves as recognition for of the pain and trauma that these events have brought upon the Cobbs Creek community, and Black people in our city as a whole.

As per The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mayor Jim Kenney described the council’s resolution as being ‘a positive step in the healing process our city desperately needs’, adding:


This year we saw the pain and trauma caused by the MOVE bombing are still alive in West Philadelphia, so I commend Council for taking this step toward healing.

Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor, who directed the MOVE bombing, resigned from his position in November 1985. In 1988, a grand jury cleared Mayor W. Wilson Goode and other top city officials of any criminal liability for death and destruction resulting from the bombing operation.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, Now, philadelphia


PHL Council and 3 others
  1. PHL Council

    Move Resolution

  2. The New York Times


  3. The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Philly City Council has formally apologized for the deadly 1985 MOVE bombing

  4. Councilmember Jamie Gauthier/Twitter