Philadelphia, PA — City Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) today issued the following statement on the disclosure that remains of MOVE victims were improperly disposed of by city officials:
The news that remains of MOVE victims killed in the 1985 bombing by law enforcement were controlled and improperly disposed of by Philadelphia officials is profoundly and deeply disturbing to me.
For 36 years, our city has wrestled with the legacy of what happened on May 13, 1985 in West Philadelphia, where law enforcement dropped a bomb on a rowhouse roof, and then let the bunker burn. The resulting fire caused 11 deaths, five of them children. An entire city block was destroyed. No city officials in charge were ever held responsible for their conduct, and I have called that a grave injustice.
Now, on the heels of a recent controversy at the Penn Museum over its handling of the remains of MOVE victims from the bombing, we learned today that officials at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office improperly disposed of other remains of victims from the bombing. That is unconscionable, unacceptable and outrageous.
A basic respect for the dead and human decency should have compelled the city to safeguard the victims’ remains in its care, and to seek their return to appropriate families or relatives. The fact that this was not done is yet another injustice committed on MOVE families by the city.
Institutions across the country are struggling to explain their conduct in possessing and handling the remains of peoples of color over many decades. Our city should and must hold itself to a higher standard of care. As members of City Council have repeatedly said, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed deep disparities in how minority residents are treated in terms of health care, employment, and other opportunities in Philadelphia. This disturbing incident reveals further disparities in how the city treats minority people in death as well as in life.
I welcome the independent investigation of this incident announced by the Mayor’s Office and Law Department today.
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