Monday, May 16, 2005

Rally Marks 20th Anniversary of Deadly Police Bombing of MOVE Home in Philadelphia

By PATRICK WALTERS Associated Press Writer

The Associated PressThe Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA May 14, 2005 — Under the watchful eyes of police and neighbors, the militant group MOVE marked the 20th anniversary Saturday of the police bombing that destroyed the organization's home and killed 11 members.

Group members and supporters gathered in West Philadelphia near the site where police trying to evict armed MOVE members from a rowhouse dropped an explosive from a helicopter. Officers then ordered firefighters to keep their distance as flames killed six adults and five children and consumed 61 adjacent homes.

"We will never allow another May 13, 1985," MOVE supporter Orie Ross shouted through a bullhorn to about 75 people. "Our family can't be replaced."

The group, which once espoused equality with animals, had clashed with neighbors and police long before the bombing. Neighbors complained that group members shouted from bullhorns late into the night, were confrontational and unsanitary, and jogged on people's roofs.

At the rally, members called for the release of the "MOVE 9" those they said were wrongly convicted in the 1978 death of police officer James Ramp. Eight remain in prison; the ninth died of cancer in 1998.

Today, MOVE has a few dozen members, most of whom live in a pair of houses in Philadelphia's Kingsessing neighborhood. Other residents of the block describe them as good neighbors.

The group, which once preached against technology, now has a Web site. It describes itself as a revolutionary organization that believes in life, natural law and self defense but rejects the government and big business.

Neighbors watched Saturday's rally from their front stoops, some shaking their heads and eyeing the event suspiciously. Several declined to comment on the demonstration or the anniversary, saying they preferred to put it behind them.

Some neighbors have been fighting the city since the day of the fire. Embarrassed city officials promised to rebuild, but the new houses were defective and millions of dollars spent on repairs failed to solve the problems.

MOVE supporter Fatirah Aziz holds a sign at a demonstration in Philadelpia, Saturday, May 14, 2005. Members and supporters of the antiestablishment group MOVE rallied Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the day police dropped a bomb on their home, sparking a fire that killed 11 group members, five of them children, and consumed 61 adjacent homes. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)