On May 13, 1985, two bombs were dropped from a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter onto a residential building in a largely black Philadelphia neighborhood, killing 11 people including five children, and destroying more than 60 homes. The bombing was done in an effort to forcefully evict MOVE, a black environmentalist group that was involved in an armed stand-off with the Philadelphia Police Department just before the bombs were dropped. Now, on the 35th anniversary of the event that left a black community in turmoil, close to a dozen Philadelphia city councilmembers are issuing a formal apology for what they called a “brutal attack.”
From a statement sent to The Root:
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Kendra Brooks (At Large), Helen Gym (At Large), Allan Domb (At Large), Isaiah Thomas (At Large), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large), Mark Squilla (1st District), Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), and Cherelle Parker (9th District), today issued the following statement:
Today, on the 35th anniversary of the MOVE Bombing – a brutal attack carried out by the City of Philadelphia on its own citizens – we offer an apology for the decisions that led to this tragic event and announce our intent to introduce a formal resolution to this effect later this year. We call upon the City of Philadelphia to declare May 13th an annual day of reflection, observation, and recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Additionally, we call on all people of the City of Philadelphia to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.
The official apology comes days after former mayor W. Wilson Goode, who was mayor at the time of the bombing, penned an op-ed article for The Guardian apologizing for his own role in the tragic incident and urging representatives for the city of Philadelphia to do the same.
“The event will remain on my conscience for the rest of my life,” Goode wrote. “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. I would not intentionally harm anyone, but it happened on my watch. I am ultimately responsible for those I appointed.”
“But there’s something more I want to suggest on this important anniversary,” Goode continued. “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.”
No apology can make right the senseless loss of life and the destruction of homes that occurred that day, but perhaps the simple acknowledgment of the reckless actions of law enforcement will serve as a healing point for survivors of the tragedy as well as the affected community.