Over 200 MOVE supporters and members gathered May 14 near the site where Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on the group’s row house 20 years ago. Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor ordered the fire department “to let the fire burn.” Eleven MOVE members, including five children, died in the blaze.

Two members who escaped testified that police fired on those who tried to leave the burning house. Sixty-one houses in the block burned to the ground leaving 250 people homeless. Then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first African American mayor, knew about the police plan to drop the explosive on the house and later apologized. A 1985 investigation report condemned government officials for irresponsibility but no city officials or employees faced criminal charges. Ramona Africa, a victim, was convicted of riot and conspiracy and served 7 years in prison. She sued the city and received a $1.5 million settlement.

“It makes no sense, even today,” said William H. Brown III, the lawyer who chaired the investigation. “Every time I think about it, the angrier I get. There was no reason to drop that bomb.”

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