PHILADELPHIA, PA (ABC News) – The former mayor of Philadelphia who led the city 3 1/2 decades ago when police dropped a bomb on a chawl and caused a fire that killed 11 people and destroyed more than 60 homes called for a formal apology from the city for the tragedy .
Former mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. said in an Sunday op-ed in the British newspaper The Guardian that “after 35 years will be very helpful for healing all involved, especially the victims of this terrible event.”
“Many people in the city still felt the pain that day,” he said. “I know I will always feel the pain.”
Goode, the city’s first black mayor, led Philadelphia in 1985 when the city was at odds with members of the MOVE, a black radical group that returned to nature. It culminated in the bombing of the MOVE headquarters, which engulfed the burning city block. Five children were among 11 people who died.
“There will never be a reason to drop explosives from helicopters into homes with men, women and children inside and then let the fire burn,” wrote Goode, who served from 1984 to 1992.
Goode said he was “not personally involved in all the decisions that resulted in 11 deaths,” but took responsibility as the city’s chief executive and issued what he called his fourth public apology. He said he was “ultimately responsible” for the actions of the people he appointed “even though I did not know about their specific action plans.”
William Richmond, firefighting commissioner at the time, said in 2010 that the fire that spread across the block did not immediately extinguish after the bomb because officials were worried that firefighters could face gunfire, and thought it would destroy a bunker and help get people out of the house. Goode said he ordered the fire to be extinguished, but Richmond said he had never received such an order.
One of the victims, Ramona Afrika, alleged that police fired on MOVE members who were trying to escape from the burning house.
MOVE members reject Sunday’s apology idea, marking it as an insincere tactic.
“There is no apology that will bring back my baby or children in the house or our brother, husband, sister” or other victims, said Sue Africa.
In September 2018, Goode defended his legacy from the cry of protesters when the city named the west Philadelphia street in his honor, saying he accepted responsibility but added, “You will not define me one day in my life. I am more than that. “
“Why wasn’t he tried one day, mainly because 11 people were killed?” Sue Africa said Sunday.
Janine Africa, who is one of nine MOVE members sentenced to between 30 and 100 years in prison in the 1978 shooting of Officer James Ramp, pleaded not guilty, but said that she and other MOVE members were tried on charges of one day’s action.
“I did it 41 years for a day, and they never proved I killed anyone,” he said. MOVE members say they believe that Ramp was shot accidentally by another officer.
“They are lying, they are lying now, and we know that apology is a lie,” he said.
Former Governor Ed Rendell, who succeeded Goode as mayor and district attorney sued by MOVE members, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he now regretted his handling of the prosecution of several members. He said if he had to repeat it, he would offer those who were not leaders who submitted an agreement that included a lighter sentence.
“I follow the law, but prosecutors always have the discretion to use their judgment,” Rendell said. “For what they do compared to what others do in Philadelphia, they spend too much time.”
“If they have to do it again,” Janine Afrika said of the events on the day of the bombing, “they would do the same if they thought they could get away with it.”
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