I don’t get much direct feedback on my writings, but I received more than a few pats on the back for the ‘Historic Conversation on the MOVE Story in Chester‘ blog post.
Ironically, I attended as an audience member at MJ Freed Theater to find out what ‘Remember MOVE’ was all about, however, the event moved me so greatly, I wanted to share with my readers how powerful a moment it was to be present in a space that seemed to spark a restart of an important historic moment that appears to have been frozen in time, memory, and significance.
The blog post was a summarized recap from the various speakers that evening. Yet, the two concepts from that evening’s discussion that has continued to weigh heavily on my mind are:
1. A Chester home occupied by MOVE members was sieged the morning of May 13, 1985 almost 12 hours before the Philadelphia bombing, and
2. Many of the main actors involved in the events of that day along with current Philadelphia city officials are considering offering a formal apology for what occurred, or at least a public acknowledgement.
What I didn’t share in the blog post was the Chester connection to MOVE. We learned how the Philadelphia MOVE families, for safety reasons, regularly relocated their infants and small children to other places for their care. Chester, Rochester, NY, and Virginia were the three areas.
Each of those locations were sieged by the law at some point and the police activity at the Chester home was the most aggressive. The Philadelphia Daily News reports on May 13, 1985…
Chester police conducted their own siege of a MOVE house today at almost the same time that Philadelphia police were attacking the MOVE compound in the 6200 block of Osage Ave. in West Philadelphia. A woman and five children left the Chester house at 602 McIlvaine Street,. after taking a five-minute tear gas bombardment at 6:15 a.m.
The article goes on to describe the conditions of the home that led the Chester police to take the children away from the adult and place them in the care of the Delaware County Children and Youth Services Department. There was never any other mention of what happened to them.
Also in that same article, reporters obtain quotes from people who lived near the Chester home and reported…
Neighbors reacted negatively to the siege, claiming police routed good citizens. “They never bothered nobody,” said one elderly man who lived in back of the MOVE home. Other neighbors described the MOVE members as “quiet, peace-loving people who kept to themselves.” They said the MOVE members had lived in the house about four years and consisted mainly of the woman, about nine children, and occasionally a man.
MOVE and Mother’s Day have a ominous connection. It was on Mothers’ Day, Sunday, May 12, 1985, that neighbors on Osage Ave in Philadelphia were removed from their homes in preparation for the Philadelphia siege the next day that ended with the bomb being dropped on the MOVE home in addition to other activity which culminated in killing MOVE adults and children and long prison sentences for those who survived. (Go to prison for surviving a bombing?)
In the past few months, Philadelphia mayor at the time, W. Wilson Goode, the fire chief, and MOVE family members have gotten together for the first time to talk about the events of May 13, 1985 and beyond. Amazingly, if there was ever an example of how time heals all wounds (okay, maybe not all), there are signs of reconciliation, acknowledgement of wrongdoings, and a potential public apology in the works from the City of Philadelphia. That is HUGE!
I’m going to stick my 2-cents in and suggest what would be even HUGE-er. Wouldn’t it be fitting that the City of Chester beat Philly to the punch with a public apology? Considering Chester police raided the Chester home before Philadelphia police raided the Philly home, why not apologize in the same chronological order?
One final quote from the Daily News article is worth sharing…
Chester police, however, said their surveillance, begun last summer at the request of Philadelphia police…
Police response in the Chester raid which was directed by Philadelphia officials pales in comparison to what went on in Philadelphia. We’ll never understand the relationship between the two law enforcement agencies that allowed one to direct the other to perform such and act, and for it to be carried out.
Both cities need to apologize. May 13 is this Monday. Wouldn’t it be great to see it happen on this anniversary?