By Miles Jaye

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a European style grand boulevard with two tree-lined access roads and more center lanes than I can remember, leads you to or away from the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art. You don’t have to be an art lover, in fact, you never have to enter the museum to appreciate the visual– its awesome, a world class landmark. It’s the site of Rocky Balboa’s iconic step climb and fist raised, feet shuffling celebration declaring Philly as the home of champions. Rocky is Philly. Joe Frazier is Philly. The Liberty Bell is Philly. Cheesesteaks are Philly. The Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies– Philly. Fairmont Park is one of the nation’s best and one of my favorites– it’s Philly. Benjamin Franklin, his key and kite are Philly, The City of Brotherly Love.

It was 1985! The order? “Let the fire burn!” They did… it did! Mayor Wilson Goode gave Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor instructions to extinguish the fire, however, the Commissioner does not recall passing those life-saving instructions on to the Fire Chief. The result of that “break” in communication: eleven men, women and children died in the blaze that day– six adults and five children. 65 homes burned to the ground, and in the background was the sound of 10,000 rounds being fired by the police which, by all accounts, prevented members of MOVE, a radical, communal Black liberation group, from escaping the inferno. Eyewitnesses recall the members, including women and children, fleeing the flames only to be forced back into the burning building by police gunfire. Also heard that day, was the order transmitted across the command radio– “Let the fire burn!” They did… it did!

This was not Chicago in one of the two dozen race riots across America in the Red Summer of 1919, and while it’s a reminder of “Black Wall Street” in 1921 Tulsa, this was not Oklahoma. It’s reminiscent of Rosewood 1923, but this was not rural Florida. This was not the turn of the century, the 20’s, the 50’s or 60’s. This was not the deep South. It was Osage Avenue in the city of Philadelphia, and it was the 13th of May, 1985. The incendiary device dropped on a West Philadelphia neighborhood is a reminder of the Sunday morning bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 but this device was military grade, packed with C-4 plastic explosive, intended to do maximum damage. This was a device intended for war, but it was dropped on the roof of a row house in the City of Brotherly Love like bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima from Enola Gay.

Enola Gay, the aircraft selected to deliver the first Atomic bomb over Japan was a WWII B-29 bomber. The Osage Avenue device was delivered by a National Guard helicopter. Philadelphia police officers boarded a National Guard aircraft to deploy a deadly military device on civilians. Eleven citizens were executed, incinerated that fateful day. Six children were executed the day after Mother’s Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an act of State sponsored murder, but no one was held accountable.

State Prosecutors and the Grand Jury determined the MOVE members were not attempting to escape the inferno when they were turned back by a hail of automatic gunfire. It was concluded that they, including the children, had chosen to reenter the building as a final act of defiance– group suicide. Despite the great outcry citing official misconduct and excessive use of force, no city officials were ever convicted of wrongdoing. The question is, how much has changed in the 101 years since the 1919 mass massacres?

Despite the disappointing results of the Mueller Report, and the seemingly pointless Impeachment process, the jury is in on Trump– he is the personification of a delusional, demented, paranoid old man– a classic despot. As such, in 2018, he warned of caravans of lawless hoards and violent gangs making their way across the southern border from which only he could protect “us”. They never came! Today, he warns suburban housewives of the onslaught of crime, violence and low-income housing headed their way, from which only he can save them.

Trump warns of a plane filled with “thugs” dressed in black and from Kenosha, Wisconsin, he has declared himself the law & order candidate, yet he fails to warn us against teen terrorists carrying automatic weapons across state lines prepared to kill, and offers no comforting words for victims of violence such as Jacob Blake and his family. Donald Trump and his vigilante goons are the lawless hoards, they are the violent gangs. The caravans are not at the southern border, they’re here, and they’re not on foot, they’re in pickup trucks with Trump 2020 banners flapping in the wind. They are the White-Supremacists, and Neo-Nazis, who constitute the modern-day continuation of a long tradition and a dark history of bombing, burning, lynching, looting and shootings in the name of justice, law and order.
Corrupt cops and mobs so barbaric that they took souvenirs of fingers, toes, and genitals. They collected hunters’ trophies of their kills and pictures admiring their handiwork– scorched corpses.

Add the MOVE Massacre to debates over which lives matter and which do not… then decide how much America has changed since the Red Summer of 1919.

That’s what’s on my mind!


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