The Osage neighborhood of West Philadelphia was packed Wednesday afternoon as protesters, public figures, and the community paid tribute to a dark moment that has clouded the city’s history.
30 years ago, 11 people died (5 of them were children) and 60 homes were destroyed due to the controversial bombing of a predominately black Osage community by local law enforcement. Decades of speculation has suggested that racial bias and police misconduct sparked the incident, leaving many descendants and residents mistrustful of the current justice system.
“MOVE marked the first time that a city bombed itself…black lives didn’t matter even in 1985,” said Linn Washington, Associate Professor at Temple.
Washington, who is one of the few remaining reporters that first covered the tragedy on location, remains skeptical about the current local police system. “Ramsey, our police commissioner, is a nice guy but still follows orders…police brutality was happening then as it still is today.”
Such a sentiment spread throughout the protest that started at 63rd & Osage and carried on peacefully through 38th and Chestnut. Signs displayed solidarity and awareness for the protesters in Baltimore, Ferguson, and for those wanting the exoneration of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
One poster stood out in the front of the crowd that called nearby drivers to “Honk against police brutality.”
Devante Gray, 22, creator of the sign, felt that it was his “moral and social obligation to protest today as a young black man.”
“I grew up in West Philly all my life and didn’t know until recently how much MOVE still affects my area – the injustice is everywhere,” says Gray.
Gray, whose family co-owns West Willie Produce at 18 S. 62nd Street, believes it is important that the community around MOVE still remind others about it “no matter how many cameras and reporters are trying to film the movement.”
“It’s our community,” he proclaimed. “We need to be out here taking back our rights…the reason the police are not out there bothering us is because we have the cameras here – but that will not stop us from leading our cause to take a stand.”
Throughout the march, there were two notable stops that sparked growing congestion – including one at a police station.
Once the crowd reached the front of the 18th Police District building, protesters stopped for a moment to give various comrades from across the country an opportunity to give words of solidarity. It was also a time for many to shout their strong language and insults at the current police department.
“Black lives matter, MOVE lives matter!” they could be heard yelling as they passed residents who would sometimes greet them with power fists up or strong head nods in respect.
At the intersection of 39th and Chestnut they met with a group of young black men who celebrated with the crowd as they then joined the march up the 38th block.
It was at this moment where one young boy began the small chant of “30 years later, still on the MOVE.”