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The 1985 MOVE Bombing & Massacre: 11 Dead Including Children, Over 500 Police Shot 10,000 Plus Rounds, 61 Homes Burned

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Living communally in a house in West Philadelphia, members of MOVE all changed their surnames to Africa, shunned modern technology and materialism, and preached support of animal rights, revolution and a return to nature.

Their first conflict with law enforcement occurred in 1978 when police tried to evict them from their house.


In 1981, the group moved to a row house on Osage Avenue.

On the morning of May 13, 1985, the police moved on the house.

Arriving with arrest warrants for four residents of the house, the police ordered them to come out peacefully.

In response to gunfire from inside the house, more than 500 police officers discharged over 10,000 rounds of ammunition in 90 minutes.


Despite pleas for de-escalation to the mayor from City Council President Joseph Coleman and State Senator Hardy Williams, Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor gave the order to bomb the house.

At 5:28 p.m., a satchel bomb composed of FBI-supplied C4 and Tovex TR2, a dynamite substitute, on a 45-second timer was dropped from a state police helicopter, detonating near the fortified pillbox on the roof of the house.

The blaze raged out of control, spreading down the block of row houses and hopping the narrow streets.

Apart from a woman and 13-year-old boy who escaped when the fire started, everyone in the MOVE house was dead. The 11 deaths included MOVE founder John Africa, five adults and five children between the ages of seven and 13.

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