Oct 18, 2023 - News

Philadelphia unveils new exhibit about 1985 MOVE bombing

Images seen inside the MOVE bombing exhibit in Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building

Images seen inside the MOVE bombing exhibit in Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

Philadelphia officials unveiled the city's first and only permanent exhibit dedicated to the 1985 MOVE bombing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The exhibit is the latest example of the city's reexamination of the bombing — one of the most divisive events in Philadelphia's recent history — since the 2020 racial justice protests.

What's happening: The exhibit, "Remembering MOVE: May 13, 1985," is now located inside the Municipal Services Building beside City Hall.

  • It's made up of a pair of display cases that hold more than 120 documents, including photos, a video, and a timeline of how the bombing unfolded.

Catch up quick: Hundreds of police officers laid siege to the West Philly home of Black liberation group MOVE in 1985, following a violent confrontation between cops and members of the organization.

  • Despite knowing there were children inside, police dropped a bomb on the house — with approval from city officials — and allowed the resulting blaze to burn out of control.
  • The fire killed 11 people, including five children, and destroyed more than 60 homes in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood.
  • In late 2020, City Council voted to formally apologize for the bombing for the first time — 35 years after the fact — and establish a day of remembrance.

What they're saying: The exhibit increases the visibility of the bombing to ensure it never happens again, Mike Africa Jr., a member of MOVE, tells Axios.

  • "If people don't know this thing happened, if people don't know the magnitude, if people don't understand people were murdered … [then] history is doomed to repeat itself," he said.

Between the lines: The installation of the exhibit stems from an independent report last year looking into the MOVE bombing and handling of victims' remains.

  • That report was part of the fallout after a former city health commissioner directed the medical examiner's office to destroy remains associated with the MOVE bombing that were still in the city's possession in 2017. That order was not carried out.
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