6222 Osage Avenue

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Bombed 1985 

The Disappointed Tourist: 6221 Osage Avenue, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

This should never have happened. Anon.

6221 Osage Avenue was the headquarters of MOVE, a Black anarcho-primitivist movement founded by 1972 by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart) from 1981 to 1985, when it was bombed by a Philadelphia Police helicopter. The bombing killed six MOVE members and five of their children and also destroyed 65 adjacent houses, which had been vacated during the confrontation. The police moved in after years of complaints from and confrontations with neighbors. Neighbors complained in particular about bullhorn requests for the freeing of the nine MOVE members that had previously received life sentences in connection with a 1978 standoff with the police that had resulted in the death of one officer and injuries to 16 other officers and firefighters.  In 1985, five hundred police officers arrived with arrest warrants charging MOVE members with parole violations, illegal possession of firearms, contempt of court and other crimes. The Mayor and Police commissioner classified MOVE as a terrorist organization and insisted that they vacate the premises. When MOVE did not respond, the police attacked. The bombing was strongly condemned and MOVE survivors were awarded $1.5 million in a 1996 settlement. Other residents made homeless by the bombing also filed suit against the city and were awarded $12.83 million in 2005. This painting is based on an uncredited photograph which I think shows the back of the street.