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35 years after the MOVE attack that killed 11, Philadelphia apologizes

Philadelphia City Council formally apologized this week for the 1985 decision to drop a makeshift bomb on a row house occupied by separatist group MOVE, a desperate move that resulted in a fire that killed 11 people and destroyed 61 houses.

The resolution, approved on Thursday, marked the first time the city has officially apologized for the action. The measure, which also calls for an annual day of commemoration on May 13, the anniversary of the bombing, was sponsored by Jamie Gauthier, a city councilor who grew up near the West Philadelphia neighborhood where the bombing took place. .

Ms Gauthier remembers watching the aftermath of the bombing on television as a child and said the neighborhood was only starting to fully recover from the devastation.

“There have been divisions in our town between the police and the community for decades, and I think if we had done the real job of acknowledging what happened with MOVE and other acts of violence police officer, and we had really worked not only on recognition but in building better relationships and working for reconciliation, we would not find ourselves in the place we are now, ”she said in an interview on Friday.

“It always struck me that we did this, that our city did that and that no one was ever held responsible,” she added. “I thought it was unacceptable.”

Ms Gautier began circulating a draft resolution ahead of the May 13 anniversary of the MOVE attack, but the effort stalled and then was delayed due to coronavirus restrictions. The murder of George Floyd on May 25 gave renewed energy to the resolution, she said, and the need to recognize the effects the police murders of blacks have had on the community. increased even more with the October 26 murder of Walter Wallace Jr., who was shot and killed by police during an encounter in the same neighborhood where the MOVE house once stood.

In a statement, Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia acknowledged the importance of the resolution. “In an effort to learn from our past and do better through our residents in the future, this annual day of observation is a positive step in the healing process that our city desperately needs,” he said. “This year, we have seen that the pain and trauma from the MOVE bombing is still alive in West Philadelphia, so I commend the Council for taking this step towards healing.”

The mayor acknowledged the missteps in the city’s attempts to rebuild the neighborhood in the years immediately following the attack, but said a recent public-private partnership had succeeded in rebuilding houses in the affected area.

MOVE, a group described by its members as a “back-to-nature movement” that would bring the United States back to Native Americans and abolish all government, has been viewed as an “authoritarian and violence-threatening sect” by city officials. , who said the group used threats, abuse and intimidation to terrify neighbors and provoke confrontations. At the time of the attack, police were acting to evacuate the group from a townhouse at 6221 Osage Avenue in response to complaints from neighbors about the dirty living conditions in the house and the overnight amplified lectures from MOVE members. .

At 6 a.m. on May 13, 1985, Philadelphia Police were shot at by people inside the house, which led to a one-day standoff. Throughout the day, the Philadelphia Special Commission of Inquiry later found, police had fired more than 10,000 rounds in less than 90 minutes at the townhouse, which was occupied by men, women and men. children. Describing the actions of the police as “patently excessive and unreasonable,” the commission report acknowledges that the police have not been able to fully suppress the shooting from the house and that efforts to negotiate with people at the interior were haphazard and unsuccessful.

Police bomb squad members made an improvised bomb from plastic explosives, and an officer dropped a helicopter charge on the roof of the MOVE townhouse in an attempt to destroy a bunker fortified wall that the group had built there. At 5:27 p.m., the bomb exploded, igniting a blaze that police ordered firefighters to let burn. The fire spread, eventually destroying 60 other houses nearby.

“The plan to bomb the MOVE house was reckless, ill-conceived and hastily approved,” according to the commission’s report in 1986. “Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unacceptable and should have been rejected out of hand.

“The hasty, reckless and irresponsible decision by the Police Commissioner and the Fire Marshal to use fire as a tactical weapon was unacceptable,” the report added.

The deaths of 11 people, six adults and five children, in the action of the police, were classified as “wrongful killings”.

Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor, who directed the aerial bombardment, resigned in November 1985. A grand jury in 1988 cleared Mayor W. Wilson Goode and other senior city officials of criminal responsibility for the death and destruction resulting from the operation.

In an editorial published by The Guardian on May 10, Mr Goode, the former mayor, called on the city to issue a formal apology for the attack. “I apologize and encourage others to do the same,” Mr. Goode wrote. “We will be a better city for this.”

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Trump rejected Philadelphia. The city was rewarded.

Two of Mr. Biden’s granddaughters lived in the city and attended the University of Pennsylvania at West Philadelphia, which was also the alma mater for Mr. Biden’s son Beau, who died in 2015, and the daughter. President-elect Ashley, who was reportedly still living in the city last month.

After Mr. Biden’s vice-presidency, the university became a key part of its professional base, establishing the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.

He was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as a professor by the university, and several of his close advisers, including potential appointees in the fledgling Biden administration, were repeatedly affiliated with the center. Among them are Steve Ricchetti, chairman of the Biden campaign and former vice-presidential chief of staff to the president-elect, as well as Brian McKeon, Colin Kahl, Michael Carpenter and Dan Erikson, former advisers to Mr Biden.

When Mr Biden launched his presidential run, he chose Philadelphia for the campaign headquarters, along with his announcement speech and kickoff fundraiser, held at a house in the leafy neighborhood of West Mount Airy owned by David L. Cohen, a senior executive at Comcast. Mr. Cohen, who is also chairman of the board of the University of Pennsylvania, participated in the grand opening of the Biden Center.

Mr Biden’s campaign staff included a number of Philadelphia-area natives in prominent roles, including his national political director, Erin Wilson.

To increase the turnout in the city, Democrats have done everything they can. They called in reinforcements from celebrities like Debra Messing and Kathy Najimy and sent them knocking on doors. They lined up John Legend to sing for a crowded parking lot. And they sent the best political surrogates, including former President Barack Obama and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, to campaign in the city.

Local Democrats have increased the effort. Representative Dwight Evans has organized trailers to travel through neighborhoods in his district, which includes parts of North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia, honking their horns to remind residents to vote. On Sunday, his trailer traveled 35 miles. Philadelphia stretches just 15 miles from north to south.

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Video: Protesters dance outside the Philadelphia counting site

Large groups of protesters gathered outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday night as Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead increased in the state of the battlefield. By Emily Rhyne.

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Video: ‘Let’s move forward,’ says Philadelphia mayor

What the president has to do is put on his big boy pants frankly. He has to recognize the fact that he lost and he has to congratulate the winner just like Jimmy Carter did, just like George HW Bush did. And frankly, just like Al Gore did, stop this and let us move forward as a country. And that’s my feeling. I doubt he’s listening to me, but that’s it. So, in the days to come, remember that this is not about the victory of a single candidate or a single political party. It is truly a victory for our democracy. It may sound cliché, but today it is so true. Votes will continue to be counted until all valid postal ballots, postal votes and provisional ballots are counted. So while some, including the President, continue to spew out unfounded fraud allegations, allegations his team failed to produce an iota of evidence for, what we have seen here in Philadelphia is pure democracy and simple. Our founding fathers who designed the system just a 15 minute walk down the street, I know, would be proud – 233 years after the Constitutional Convention we stand in this convention center and proclaim the system still works, people have speak.

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Video: Protest duel in Philadelphia for and against the vote count

new video loaded: Protest duel in Philadelphia for and against the vote count

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Protest duel in Philadelphia for and against the vote count

Protesters, both those calling for all votes to be counted and supporters of President Trump seeking to stop the tally, gathered outside the Philadelphia Convention Center, where the votes were counted on Thursday.

“Donald Trump now! Donald Trump now! “Donald Trump now!” “Donald Trump now!” [music in background] [drumming] [music playing] [music playing]

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Video: Hundreds of people in Philadelphia protest against police

new video loaded: In Philadelphia, hundreds of people protest against the police

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In Philadelphia, hundreds of people protest against the police

Protesters gathered outside City Hall on Wednesday night to condemn the Oct. 26 police assassination of Walter Wallace, a black resident of West Philadelphia. They also expressed their support for the vote count still underway in Pennsylvania.

“Long live Walter Wallace!” “Long live Walter Wallace!” “Long live Walter Wallace!” “Long live Walter Wallace!” “Long live Walter Wallace!” “Inspire!” “Inspire!” “There is no stopping power of the people, because the power of the people does not stop.” “There is no power to stop the people, because the power of the people does not stop. “There are no good cops in a racist system.” “I said there are no good cops in a racist system. “There are no good cops in a racist system.” “We say there are no good cops in a racist system.” [band playing]

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Philadelphia posts body video of fatal black man shooting by police

Philadelphia officials on Wednesday called for calm as they released body camera footage from last week of two police officers fatally shooting a black man with a history of mental illness who was holding a knife. Police also announced new training measures to help officers respond to mental health crises.

The man, Walter Wallace Jr., 27, was fatally shot by officers on October 26 in an encounter which was also captured on video by a spectator and shared on social media.

In the spectator video and in police body cam footage, Mr. Wallace is seen walking down the street towards the officers, who back up and point their guns at him. Officers repeatedly yelled at Mr. Wallace to “put the knife down” and then repeatedly shoot. After Mr. Wallace falls to the ground, his mother screams and rushes to his body.

In body camera footage, a woman can be heard repeatedly shouting that Mr. Wallace is “mental” as officers point their guns at him.

The shooting sparked protests and looting in the city, prompting Governor Tom Wolf to call on the National Guard and the city to order a 9 p.m. curfew, which expired last week.

In the days that followed, more than 200 people were arrested, cars were set on fire and more than 50 officers were injured, escalating tensions in a country already plagued by election day.

White House blamed Liberal Democrats’ ‘war on police’ for destruction, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Kamala Harris lamented Mr. Wallace’s death, condemned the looting and blasted Mr. Trump for stoking “the flames of division in our society.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, the mayor of Philadelphia, the district attorney and the police commissioner joined with black clergy in expressing their sadness and grief over Mr Wallace’s death. They urged people not to resort to violence in response to the body camera images, as well as the 911 calls and police radio broadcasts that were broadcast.

“We know this is an incredibly painful moment, given so many failures over generations to protect all residents of Philadelphia, especially those who are black or brown,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

The “very painful” videos, he said, “will stir up anger, rage, distress, raise more questions – and rightly so.”

Larry Krasner, the district attorney, called the shooting a “terrible tragedy” and said it showed officers had failed to respond correctly to a distressed mother about her son’s mental health crisis.

“The government failed because his son was killed less than a minute after the government took over,” he said. “As a member of the government, I apologize.”

Still, Mr Krasner said if residents wanted to honor Mr Wallace and respect his family’s wishes, they shouldn’t “dishonor his memory by tearing the town apart.”

Mary Floyd Palmer, one of the clergy who spoke at the press conference, said Mr. Wallace “should be here today”. She said Philadelphians should show compassion and care in response to her death.

“God is watching,” she said. “Our children too. What will they say about what you have done? “

About 300 people gathered outside City Hall on Wednesday to protest the murder. They were standing in front of a banner that read Count Every Vote, near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where city officials were counting ballots in the presidential election.

As the helicopters flew overhead, about two dozen National Guard soldiers stood alongside the Philadelphia police.

City officials said the police department and the district attorney’s office were continuing to investigate the shooting.

The officers were identified on Wednesday as Sean Matarazzo, 25, who has worked in the department since 2018, and Thomas Munz, 26, who has been with the force since 2017. The police department said the two officers had been placed on “restrictive duty” while the investigation continues.

John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge # 5, the union that represents the city’s officers, said he’s been calling for the video to be released and 911 calls since last Tuesday.

“Eight days later, city officials held an hour-long press conference blaming these officers for this incident in which they were forced to make a split-second decision,” Mr. McNesby. “It is unfounded and not supported by facts.”

He said the officers followed their training and the department’s policy.

“Mayor Kenney called this ‘police violence’,” said McNesby. “However, the real violence was perpetrated by a man armed with a knife who confronted our police officers.

City officials said they were expanding programs to help police defuse mental health crises without violence.

Next week, officials said, 911 call takers and dispatchers will be trained to better identify calls related to people in crisis, so they can dispatch specially trained agents.

By January, specially trained officers will respond to those calls along with civilian mental health experts, officials said.

“We firmly believe that mental illness, disabilities and substance use disorders are not crimes,” said Jill Bowen, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services in Philadelphia . “Those affected by these challenges have the right to treatment, recovery, well-being and life.”

Jon Hurdle contributed reporting.

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Video: Protests continue in Philadelphia

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Protests continue in Philadelphia

Protesters gathered in the streets for a second night on Tuesday after Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old black man, was killed by two officers.

I believe in my heart, I feel that justice must be done to help my son and help my family.

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Protests in Philadelphia continue after fatal police shootings

PHILADELPHIA – Protesters looted shops and clashed with police on Tuesday night on a second night of street protests against the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old black man, during a confrontation more than 24 hours earlier.

Local television and news websites showed looters breaking into stores in the Port Richmond neighborhood, northeast of the city center, as police grapple with protesters in the heart of West Philadelphia , where Mr. Wallace was killed Monday afternoon after approaching police with a knife.

The victim’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., urged the looters to stop. “It will leave a bad scar on my son, with all this looting and chaos,” Wallace said in an interview on CNN. “This is where we live, and it’s the only community resource we have, and if we take all the resources and burn them, we have nothing.”

Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that she would release information about the shooting in the next few days, but was unsure if that would include body camera footage of officers who have shot Mr. Wallace.

“It’s common for officers to respond to domestic disturbances or any type of call with a gun, as it’s one of the tools we wear on our toolbelt,” said Commissioner Outlaw, who added that officers were not carrying a stun gun.

The protests in Philadelphia are the latest in a series of nationwide protests demanding justice over the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., And Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, among others.

In addition to the signs and chants, some of the rallies from New York to Portland, Oregon, included the looting, arson and destruction of police vehicles. Police sometimes aggressively targeted protesters, throwing tear gas and hitting them with batons.

In a joint statement Tuesday, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic presidential candidate, and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, sought to validate protesters’ anger at the to the death of Mr. Wallace while discouraging violence and attacks on the police.

“We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death,” said Mr Biden and Ms Harris. But, they added: “Looting is not a protest, it is a crime. It distracts attention from the real tragedy of a shortened life.

Thirty policemen were injured on Monday as protesters threw bricks and stones at them, a police spokesman said, adding that a policeman had a broken leg after being hit by a van. The Pennsylvania National Guard was scheduled to send hundreds of people to Philadelphia in the coming days, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Protesters rallied in response to Mr Wallace’s death. In a video posted to social media, cries of “Save!” and “Put down the knife!” can be heard walking towards two officers before collapsing in a flurry of gunfire. A woman moans as other agents arrive.

“Brother, they just killed him in front of me,” one man can be heard saying in the video. “You don’t have to hit him that many times.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Monday night that he had spoken with Mr. Wallace’s family and that a full investigation into the shooting would be conducted.

“I watched the video of this tragic incident,” he said, “and it presents tough questions that need to be answered.”

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting from New York.

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Video: protesters and police clash in Philadelphia

Philadelphia police on Monday killed a 27-year-old black man who they said was armed with a knife, sparking protests and violent clashes, according to the New York Times.