30 Years Later: Primary Sources on the MOVE Conflagration

Contact Prints, Box 1-16, PSIC Collection

Contact Prints, Box 1-16, PSIC Collection

By Austin Nolen

On Wednesday, it will have been thirty years since Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on a West Philly row house occupied by the controversial radical group MOVE. The bombing came after years of increasing tension between the city, the group and its neighbors. Two public government reports, by a city commission and a county grand jury, were highly critical of the planning (or lack thereof) of the attempted arrest of MOVE members, but no city officials or employees were ever charged.

PSIC 1002, Box 1-1, PSIC Collection

PSIC 1002, Box 1-1, PSIC Collection

As can be expected from such a serious use of force in a politically charged situation, not only do people vigorously disagree over their interpretations of the events, but even over the facts themselves. To help inform the conversation over perhaps the worst day in the city’s modern history, The Declaration is publishing online for the first time the findings of the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (PSIC) and the county investigating grand jury impaneled to consider the bombing. A federal grand jury considered and declined to indict in the case as well, but under different federal rules, made no public report. We are also publishing selected images which were reviewed by both the commission and the county grand jury.

The Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission’s report:

The findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission, March 6th, 1986. Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission. Philadelphia, PA, 1986.

PSIC 3024, Box 3-2, PSIC Collection

PSIC 3024, Box 3-2, PSIC Collection

The Report of the County Investigating Grand Jury of May 15th, 1986, courtesy of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

PSIC 3018, Box 3-2, PSIC Collection

PSIC 3018, Box 3-2, PSIC Collection

PSIC 3018, Box 3-2, PSIC Collection

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

PSIC 3001, Box 3-1, PSIC Collection

PSIC 3001, Box 3-1, PSIC Collection

Part 9:

Part 10:

Part 11:

Part 12:

PSIC 3195, Box 3-20, PSIC Collection

PSIC 3195, Box 3-20, PSIC Collection

All photos and the PSIC report courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center. Temple University Libraries. Philadelphia, PA.

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There are 6 comments

  1. Krazykat

    1st of all people seem to forget our 1st Black Mayor was Mayor Good. He was in charge of the city at the time. Those poor black people that the police were terrorizing were drug dealing bullies of that neighborhood. The Romona Africa was standing on the rood tops with machine guns, her and her thugs were terrorizing the whole West Philly area and poising the people with their drugs. These ppl were not innocent by any means at all. They were nasty dirty people, they threw their dirty diapers out the windows and hated the American ppl and government. The only thing they did not dislike about America was the money they were making off of others misery. I encourage you to dig a bit deeper and look into all the facts. Ask me how I know? I grew up right by there.

    Like

    1. austintnolen

      Thanks for your comment. I would encourage you to read the documents I posted – my aim was to provide these historical documents as a reference for anyone interested in the issue, not to take a particular side. I believe you’ll find that the documents assign blame to all sides.

      Like

  2. F. Nowd

    Krazykat, the MOVE members may in fact been absolutely horrible and despicable people, but that does not give authorities the right to be Judge, Jury and executioner. What happened there is simply called murder. Then and now, everything about it is was wrong.

    Like

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