The Philadelphia City Council voted last week to formally apologize for the city’s approval of a bombing of its own citizens in 1985, which left 11 mostly Black citizens dead, including five children and ultimately was the cause for the loss of 61 homes.
The council’s resolution, which was approved by all but one member, was the first apology for the deadly incident since it took place. It also makes the anniversary of the bombing, May 13, an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the time, police dropped explosives from a helicopter on a home transformed into a compound in West Philadelphia after a conflict with the group MOVE, a Black liberation and naturist organization, which the city was trying to evict. The flames from the bombs spread through the block, damaging much of the neighborhood. Criticism erupted after it was determined that many of the victims were Black.
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents the district where the MOVE bombing took place, introduced the resolution just days after the Oct. 26 police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who was shot dead, ironically only blocks away from the 1985 incident, while having an apparent mental episode.
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“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 said in a speech to City Council in October. “Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”
Former Philadelphia mayor Wilson B. Goode, who was in office at the time, called for a formal apology prior to the 35th anniversary of the bombing. In an editorial published in The Guardian, he took responsibility and called for healing.
“Although I was not personally involved in all the decisions that resulted in 11 deaths, I was chief executive of the city,” said Goode. “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.”
Current Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called the council’s resolution a “positive step in our healing process.”
“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,” said Kenney.
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