MOVE Neighbor: Officials Underestimated Situation
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Nine months before police dropped a bomb and burned out nearly two city blocks in an assault on the radical group MOVE, a city official had said ″only an act of God″ would change the situation, a neighbor of the group testified Wednesday.
Lloyd Wilson, testifying before a special investigating commission, attributed the remark to former City Managing Director Leo Brooks during a meeting to discuss the MOVE problem in the Osage Avenue neighborhood of west Philadelphia.
″I met with the managing director and with Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor and told them what was happening, and Brooks told me that only an act of God could change this,″ Wilson said.
″I was taken back that a man who was a former general would have such a shallow view of solving the situation. I don’t think they knew how serious the situation was. They were sympathetic but not much else.″
Wilson was one of five former MOVE neighbors who testified during the second day of public hearings by the commission appointed by Mayor W. Wilson Goode to investigate the attempt to evict MOVE members from their fortified rowhouse.
Wilson’s home was one of 61 destroyed in a fire that started when police bombed a bunker atop the MOVE house. The blaze, which was allowed to rage unchecked for more than an hour, also killed seven MOVE members and four of their children, left 270 residents homeless and caused more than $10 million in damage.
Clifford Bond, block captain on Osage Avenue, said the residents of the quiet, middle-income neighborhood ″had a serious problem and no one was paying attention to it.″
Bond quoted Goode as saying on Memorial Day 1984 that ″he would rather live with the stench than with bloodshed. But he wasn’t living with the stench. We were.″
Bond told the 11-member panel the public hearings were ″the first time we have a forum to listen to the pain and anguish that we went through.″
The neighbors said MOVE members made threats and assaults against them, shouted obscenities over a loudspeaker, littered the street and back alleys with rotting food and trash, and allowed cats and dogs to roam.
All testified they complained since 1983 to Goode, the police, a half-dozen city departments including Health, Welfare and Licenses and Inspection, but got no help.
″City officials told us that the mayor had given orders not to do anything, to keep hands off,″ said Cassandra Carter.
″The city did nothing, the mayor knew, the police knew, everybody knew what MOVE was doing and saying, but they did nothing,″ said Betty Mapp. Their attitude was obnoxious.″
Goode, at his weekly news conference, declined to comment on the testimony.
″I do not plan at this press conference or any press conference to discuss any testimony in the MOVE hearings,″ Goode said. ″I will testify sometime this week or next week and be ready to respond to any questions at that time.″