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The MOVE disaster - Essay Example

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The MOVE disaster

Vincent changed his name as John Africa and all his followers and MOVE members too had added the term 'Africa' as their surnames. The cofounder Glassey had a home in Powelton village neighborhood of Philadelphia and made it their headquarters (Powelton Village, 1978). In a very short period, the MOVE had attained the look of a radical force campaigning against the use of technology. CNN quite often used to describe it in its news dispatches as a loose knit organization of blacks advocating the 'back to nature' lifestyle and preaching against technology. The 'back to nature' lifestyle methods of MOVE members had caused severe sanitarian problems to the neighbors who complained against their activities. Acting on the complaint, Mayor Frank Rizzo ordered a blockade of the neighborhood to get the MOVE members out of the house on August 8,
1978 but it was not successful. In the subsequent firing, between police and MOVE members, one police officer was killed and some police officers were injured. As a follow up measure, Leaphart and eight other MOVE members were arrested and sentenced to prison on murder charges. The remaining followers of Leaphart had then moved into a house in the Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia owned by a relative of one of the MOVE members (Osage Avenue, 1985, first para) and continued their activities. Moreover, the public continued to lodge complaints against them on and off.

The disaster: What happened

On May 13, 1985, the day of the disaster, a major confrontation took place between the MOVE members and the Philadelphia police. The police planned to open fire, evict the radicals, and arrest them. Accordingly, they started opening fire on the MOVE home attracting return fire. But a heavy and long encounter followed between the police and the MOVE members in which the former used 10000 rounds of ammunition, tear gas and explosives to break down the heavily fortified MOVE house. As the encounter failed to make the MOVE members surrender, the bombing unit of the police, as a last resort, dropped on their house at 5.27 PM a square package of explosives designed to destroy a bunker atop the house and drop it through to the second floor where the radicals were residing. The heavy impact of the bombing had ignited a big fire spreading very fast to the neighboring homes. It resulted in the death of 11 persons in the MOVE home

including 5 children and the destruction of 61 adjacent homes rendering 250 residents homeless. Police targeted the MOVE home and bombed it from a helicopter but it ended up in the unwanted disaster badly affecting the neighbors too. The fire had become controllable at 11.40 PM only (Background, second Para and William K. Stevens / New York Times 14may 85).

The disaster: Why did it happen

The disaster was the result of bad planning on the part of the police and other officials involved in the operation. The lane in which the MOVE home stood was narrow and congested and the police knew it. Moreover, all the adjacent homes were somehow in a row and linked to the MOVE house on either side. As the bomb fell on the MOVE home from above, the impact was heavy and resulted in an explosion and big fire damaging the neighboring houses. When the fire broke out, it had spread very fast destroying other houses before the fire was under control at 11.40 pm and it took ...Show more


MOVE, a small radical organization of some blacks, had become a law and order headache for Philadelphia citizens and police department as well since its inception in 1972. On May 13, 1985, the city police used force and bombed the home of MOVE members with a view to eliminating their threat perennially…
Author : willow17
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