On Thursday (Nov. 12), the Philadelphia City Council voted to issue a formal apology for the 1985 MOVE bombing that left 11 people, including 5 children, dead in a Black neighborhood in West Philly.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the decision, which was first introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, was voted on almost unanimously. Councilmember Brian O’Neil voted against giving an apology to the victims. This will be the first formal apology since the bombing took place on May 13, 1985. The yearly anniversary of that date will now be “an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment.”
Gauthier’s district includes the neighborhood where the bombing occurred. She introduced the proposal days after Walter Wallace Jr. was fatally shot by local police officers.
“We can draw a straight line from the unresolved pain and trauma of that day to Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing earlier this week in the very same neighborhood,” Gauthier said. “Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”
Back in 1985, police officers dropped an explosive on the roof of a residence after engaging in an altercation with the Black radical and naturalist group MOVE. The officers were attempting to evict them from their property. Most of the victims were Black.
W. Wilson Goode Sr., who was mayor of the city at the time of the bombing, called on officials to issue a formal apology in an op-ed for The Guardian. “The event will remain on my conscience for the rest of my life,” he wrote. Instead, Mayor Jim Kenney and Council President Darrell L. Clarke focused on the pandemic.
Gauthier wants the city to examine how amending things between Black residents in West Philly and law enforcement would look like. “If we had gone through the hard work of reconciliation after the MOVE bombing, maybe those officers would have seen in Walter Wallace someone in need of a helping hand rather than a threat,” she said. “They would have seen him and realized he was someone’s son, father, husband, neighbor.”