Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Move Over

Blogger's new software continues to perform exquisitely. Fun work around I need to do to centre the picture captions. 1: Attempt to justify centre. This will fail. 2: Then I need to place an indent at the start of the sentence, which will then appear on the next line down. 3: At which point the Blogger software will realise there's a sentence above it, and justify centre now works. 4: I can then delete the indent. But we can not judge too harshly, after all advanced word processors like this are new cutting edge technology!

Helicopters are not known for dropping bombs. This is normally due to the difficulties in aiming the devices. An aircraft imparts a degree of forward movement that can be calculated and predicted. The relatively slow-moving helicopter cannot be calculated. Equally, a helicopter hovering over its target has a huge number of random factors involved in a straight drop, not least of all actually aiming the bomb. There is also the risk of a helicopter hovering within a hostile air defence net having the life expectancy of a mayfly. However, when faced with extremes the helicopter has been used as an ersatz bomber at times. Today I wanted to look at one of those incidents, as it is a well-documented incident and somewhat fascinating, even if it is outside our usual topics. 

A group photo of some of the MOVE members.

In 1972 Vincent Leaphart changed his name to John Africa. This was a symbolic moment for him as he had just founded a movement called MOVE. Like many movements MOVE had an answer to the modern world and offered to save it. On one hand it was a pro-black power organisation. However, it also preached primitivism, animal rights, and communalism. Essentially all the members were to change their surname to Africa, live in the same place, eat only raw vegetables, shun modern technology, science and medicine, but be armed! The other habit of MOVE was to preach to their neighbours at all times of day and night by a bullhorn. These rants were often filled with profanities. The area was also littered with the organisations rubbish which they dumped at will. 

Also a group photo of some of the MOVE members.

In 1977 the authorities of Philadelphia responded to the complaints from the neighbours of MOVE by obtaining a court order for MOVE to leave their current property. MOVE attempted to negotiate with the police agreeing to leave, should a list of those in prison be released. Accounts differ on what happened next. However, some state that the organisations weapons were handed over (which were all broken), others that weapons remained inside. A year after the court order had been issued, and the authorities had attempted to resolve the situation peacefully, force was deemed a requirement. When the police attempted to enter the house and evict the last few MOVE members remaining inside a firefight erupted, and a police officer was hit and killed. As usual both sides have their version of events. MOVE suggests that the officer was shot in the back by his own side, and they had no working weapons left in the house. The state said the officer was facing away from the house when hit. Regardless the nine MOVE members were tried and convicted of third-degree murder.

Leaphart was not in the house. It may be that he and a few others had left prior to the police action, so the organisation still had its nucleus. In 1981 they moved into another house and re-started their sermons. In addition, they ensured they had a significant amount of weaponry and constructed a steel lined bunker on the roof of their new property. They also fitted a loudspeaker arrangement. In 1985 the complaints of the usual nature followed from the local residents. In 1985 the first African American Mayor of Philadelphia Wilson Goode and his Chief of Police agreed that the organisation should be classified as a terrorist organisation and moved to close it down. They had a variety of warrants, including unlawful possession of weapons. 

The MOVE bunker

On the 13th of May 1985 the nearby residents were evacuated, and some 500 police mounted a major operation to arrest four members of MOVE. Upon setting up a cordon the police called for the surrender of the individuals concerned. The only response they got was gunfire. For ninety minutes a blistering firefight erupted. It is said that the police alone fired some 10,000 rounds of ammunition, including tear gas. MOVE had constructed their defences well, and they withstood the barrage, and were able to return fire. 

The bunker being hit by high pressure water streams in an attempt to force the MOVE gunmen to surrender. you can just see part of the loud speaker arrangement on the centre of the 1st floor.

Like the North Hollywood shoot-out, when the police were outmatched, they turned to external sources for help. In this case it was the FBI who supplied a small amount of explosives. These were formed into satchel charges and given to the crew of a police helicopter. MOVE had constructed their bunkers to resist ground attack, never imagining an air attack, and so it is likely they could not bring fire to bear on the helicopter. At 1728 one of these improvised bombs was dropped against the bunker. It seems that the FBI had supplied C-4 explosive, and the device had been added to with a modern dynamite equivalent. 


Footage of the police Helicopter dropping the satchel charge

The explosive caused fuel for a generator (which if you consider MOVE's goals should not have been there) to catch fire. Soon the blaze spread, at first there was some concern that MOVE would shoot at the firefighters, however they were eventually ordered in when it became apparent this was not the case, and the prior dampening down had failed. It seems there was a failure in the lines of communication and the crews were not moved up. 

The fire spreading

Of the twelve people inside (some of which were children) only two escaped the fire. The fire burned for some considerable time, gutting some sixty-five houses. 


Aftermath of the fire



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Image Credits:

philly.com, www.phillymag.com and www.vox.com