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1985

A raid is set for MOVE headquarters

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, police begin evacuating people from their Osage Avenue homes in order to prepare for an operation against MOVE, a radical cult group that had assembled a large arsenal. By the end of the confrontation, 11 people were dead and 61 homes had been burned down.

The roots of the 1985 incident date back to 1978 when a confrontation between MOVE and the police left Officer James Ramp dead. Several innocent MOVE members were convicted of murder, enraging other members. Leader John Africa began a counterattack on Christmas Eve, 1983. At the MOVE headquarters at 6221 Osage Avenue, members set up several loudspeakers and began shouting profanities at their neighbors. Even more ominously, MOVE began assembling a cache of weapons and building bunkers in their row house.

Everything came to a head in May 1985 when Mayor W. Wilson Goode ordered police to raid the MOVE headquarters. Authorities soon realized that there was very little they could do to remove MOVE members from their entrenched position. At about 5:30 p.m. on May 13, a small bomb was dropped on the roof of the building in an attempt to destroy their bunker. This proved disastrous, as the roof was covered with tar and gas, and a blistering fire broke out.

It took the fire department an hour to begin extinguishing the fire. By this time, it was raging out of control. In the ensuing chaos, six adults and five children inside the MOVE home were killed. By the time the fire had been contained, nearly an entire block of homes in Philadelphia had burned down.

Much like the Waco, Texas, raid of the Branch Davidians eight years later, the government came under heavy criticism for their harsh handling of the confrontation. In 1986, a jury awarded $1.5 million to three survivors of the MOVE raid.

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