The Philadelphia City Council formally apologized for the deadly 1985 MOVE bombing in a resolution passed on Thursday, Nov. 12 .
Every member of the council, except Councilmember Brian O’Neill, approved the apology, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department dropped an explosive device on the roof of a residential building. The blast killed 11 members of MOVE, a Black liberation group founded by John Afrika, who promoted a “back-to-nature” lifestyle. Five of the people killed were children.
The resolution was sponsored by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents the district where the bombing occurred.
“This is very important to me,” Gauthier told The Philadelphia Tribune. “This is my district. Everybody remembers that image of Osage Avenue burning. I remember thinking it was a horrible thing.”
Gauthier introduced the resolution three days after the death of Walter Wallace, a West Philadelphia resident who lived with mental health issues and was killed by police in October.
“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 neighborhood,” Gauthier explained to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”
The resolution also deemed May 13 “an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment.”
The approval of the resolution is the first time the city of Philadelphia formally took responsibility for the bombing. W. Wilson Goode, who was mayor of Philadelphia at the time of the bomb, apologized in May. Eleven individual members of the city council issued an apologetic statement the same month.
“The event will remain on my conscience for the rest of my life. I was the mayor of Philadelphia at the time. Although I was not personally involved in all the decisions that resulted in 11 deaths, I was chief executive of the city,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian. “I would not intentionally harm anyone, but it happened on my watch. I am ultimately responsible for those I appointed. I accept that responsibility and I apologize for their reckless actions that brought about this horrific outcome, even though I knew nothing about their specific plan of action.”
Goode also urged the city to acknowledge the tragedy.
“After 35 years it would be helpful for the healing of all involved, especially the victims of this terrible event, if there was a formal apology made by the City of Philadelphia,” Goode argued. “That way we can begin to build a bridge that spans from the tragic events of the past into our future. Many in the city still feel the pain of that day. I know I will always feel the pain.”