Families of victims from the decades-old deadly police bombing of a Black liberation group’s headquarters in Philadelphia experienced a whirlwind this week with reports of a new injustice from the city-sanctioned violence.
Partial human remains from the bombing against the MOVE organization discovered a few years earlier have were destroyed by a city official, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Thursday.
But in a turn of events, a city employee said they defied the order to destroy the remains. Late Friday evening it was revealed the remains thought to be destroyed by the Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley were actually still intact.
Earlier in the day, the Associated Press reported that Farley learned of the remains in 2017. According to a city statement, Farley claims to have acted without the knowledge of any other city leadership.
Instead of contacting survivors or families of the bombing victims, Farley simply destroyed the remains. Local news reported the mayor said Farley’s actions lacked empathy and demanded his resignation effective immediately.
Kenney said he only learned of the destructive action Tuesday. He informed the families of MOVE members in a private meeting before making a public statement.
On May 13, 1985, a bomb was dropped on a row house in Philadelphia, unleashing a relentless fire that eventually burned down 61 houses, killed 11 people (including five children) and injured dozens of others. The fire department stood by idly. The Philadelphia Police Department did the same. The fire raged on, swallowing up home after home until more than 200 were without shelter.
Thirty-six years after Philadelphia dropped bombs on a Black neighborhood, survivors continue to grapple with the heinous actions of local officials and law enforcement. One of two survivors of the bombing, Ramona Africa previously described trying to escape the building but being pinned down by police.
Before the remains were discovered Friday, Kenney apologized to remaining MOVE members and their families. But some say more than an overdue apology is needed.
Ernest Owens, editor-at-large for Philadelphia magazine, challenged Kenney to put his money where his mouth is and called on the city to pay reparations.
Owens called the MOVE bombing modern Philadelphia’s “original sin.” He also noted Kenney had a change of tune from an interview a year earlier. Prior to learning of Farley’s breach of public trust, Kenney expressed no desire to apologize for anything.
Owens further challenged the city to be more transparent and agree to community demands of a new commission for an honest review of the bombing and the city’s handling since then.
Many questions still remain, including why the city held on to remains for over three decades, let alone why remains landed in the hands of the Penn Museum. As Owens pointed out, it’s past time for the city of “Brotherly Love” to atone for the inhumane brutality levied at the Africa family ever since.
This news in Philadelphia comes about a month after reports of children’s remains from the MOVE bombing used as part of a forensic anthropology course. The Guardian reported the remains of a teenage girl were a part of the anthropological collections of the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. The remains were on display as a part of a “case study” using the events of the bombing as a backdrop.
While not shocking, the treatment of Black children and their families postmortem is disappointing. Black bodies on display for studying and examining seem like something from a bygone era where questionable medical ethics was rampant.
Philadelphia Police's Timeline Of Terror: From Walter Wallace to Starbucks to MOVE, And More
1. 2020: Philly cops charged for brutalizing George Floyd protestersSource:Getty 1 of 17
2. 2020: Cops violently remove Black man from bus for not wearing a mask
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Video Shows Cops Violently Removing Black Man From Bus For Not Wearing A Mask— NewsOne (@newsone) April 10, 2020
A disturbing video has surfaced online that supports the anxieties that Black people have been experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic. https://t.co/XDa5MQsQHW
3. 2020: Dozens of Philadelphia cops suspended for violent and racist social media posts3 of 17
4. 2019: Philadelphia police chief outed over shirt mocking Rodney King
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Reminder that the Philadelphia Police Commissioner proudly wore a T Shirt glamorizing how the LAPD beat Rodney King.— josh (@joshxriker) December 25, 2019
Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand pic.twitter.com/i8dq2Uilsr
5. 2018 Starbucks arrests
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@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
6. 2018: Blackface scandal
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Meet Philadelphia Police Officer Hung Nguyen badge number #6659 posted this picture of him in blackface on his fb page. I'm asking Commissioner Richard Ross to immediately fire the officer. @PPDCommish pic.twitter.com/pTZw87KzIN— Asa khalif (@AsaKhalif) October 31, 2018
7. 2018: Philadelphia police terrify an 11-year-old so much that he vomitedSource:Getty 7 of 17
8. 2018: Officer charged with murder8 of 17
9. 2018: Father violently gunned down by police was unarmed, newly engaged
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Philadelphia Police Officer Richard Nicoletti who shot and murdered Jeffrey Dennis according to my sources has a pattern of this behavior. The officer has been involved with 6 shootings. Jeffrey Dennis was the 6th man he shot. The last man he shot was in 2012. #Justice4Jeffrey pic.twitter.com/QJzezlF1C9— Asa khalif (@AsaKhalif) December 19, 2018