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On May 13, 1985, the City of Philadelphia and its police department issued an attack on the residents of Osage Avenue — a Black liberation group known as MOVE.

The founder of the movement was John Africa, born Vincent Leaphart. The group was rooted in living in a communal and family-style environment that advocated for pro-Black, environmental and animal rights.  

“In nonviolent but disruptive demonstrations, members protested at zoos, pet stores, and political rallies,” Vox detailed, adding, “The group believed in composting, homeschooling, and a diet of raw foods, and spoke out against war and police brutality.”

The outlet further described the movement as “anti-government, anti-technology and anti-corruption.”

Thirty-seven years ago, the police department bombed the residential block under the command of Philly’s then-mayor, Wilson Goode.

The attack left 11 people dead, including five children.

The destruction and aftermath left “Sixty-one homes were destroyed, and more than 250 citizens were left homeless,” Vox noted.

The bombing followed the long-standing tensions MOVE had with Philly’s government. 

Things particularly escalated when, after a 15-month standoff with the authorities, Mayor Frank Rizzo ordered the group to be forcibly removed from the homes in 1978. 

Because a police officer named James Rump was shot during the city’s attempt to remove MOVE members from their homestead, nine of the movement’s members were collectively held responsible for the one bullet that killed the local officer.

The group of nine was convicted and given life sentences.

Members of the movement and nearby residents continuously maintained the group’s innocence.

2021 was the first year Philidelphia officially recognized the anniversary as a day of remembrance, according to The Guardian.

As for the group’s female members, Merle Africa died while still incarcerated in 1998, and Janet Hollaway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa were released on parole in May 2019.

Formerly known as Debbie Sims Africa, Debbie Davis was granted her freedom in 2018. 

Debbie’s husband Mike — also a member of MOVE 9 — and their child Mike Jr. spoke after the parents’ release about becoming “disenchanted” with the MOVE movement, and their “long-held concerns about the group’s direction.”

The trio were the subjects of the 2020 documentary 40 Years a Prisoner by filmmaker Tommy Oliver.

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