Police and firefighters during the assault ...
On Tuesday, August 8th, hundreds of cops in flak jackets and riot helmets sur-rounded the 33rd Street location at dawn and ordered MOVE to surrender.
By August of 1978 the government had:
- searched MOVE's house to insure the absence of weapons and explosives,
- continued to keep the house under surveillance after the search,
- manufactured the appearance of a legal basis to arrest MOVE,
- kept legal improprieties out of media coverage while mak-ing MOVE out to be the villains with a 90-day deadline myth.
Rizzo was now in a position to use his favorite solution to civic conflicts : Brute force and lots of it. Police then rolled in specially modified construction vehicles and tore down the fence and smashed out the windows. Just before 7:00 am, MOVE was notified by bull-horn: "Uniformed officers will enter your house for the purpose of taking each of you into custody. Any resistance or use of force will be met with force." In the next hour a total of 45 armed police entered and slowly searched the three story house only to find that MOVE was barricaded in the basement. Around 8:00 am, firemen pried off the boarded up basement windows and turned on water canons. MOVE adults were soon wading in rising water with children in their arms in danger of drowning. Suddenly, gunshots rang out and police throughout the area opened fire. In the short period of sustained gunfire, Officer James Ramp was fatally wounded. Three other policemen and several firemen were also hit. (The minutes of a police staff meeting two days later noted one captain's opinion of "an excessive amount of unneccesary firing on the part of police personnel when there were no targets per se to shoot at." One of the stake-out officers later admitted under oath that he had emptied his carbine into the very basement from which he heard screaming women and crying children.) After the gunshots subsided and tear gas was fired in, MOVE adults began carrying children out of the basement and were immediately arrested by angry cops.
Later in the day, the large crowds that had gathered in the area were chased down and broken up by police on horseback. Many people were knocked to the ground and brutally beaten. Others were chased into their very homes and assaulted by police.
AUGUST 8, 1978
"Video / 11 min / NB" ©Temple University Philadelphia