In 1972 – (45 years ago) – in Osaka, Japan, a fire at the Sennichi Department Store killed 118 people. The fire started in the dress department and quickly spread to other areas in the building that were being remodeled, where burning construction materials filled the stairwells with poisonous fumes. The building had no fire sprinklers. In a nightclub on the seventh floor, patrons found the fire exits locked, and in desperation they began jumping from the windows. It took firefighters three days to put out the blaze. Ninety-six people were found dead inside the nightclub, twenty-two died from jumping, and another seventy-eight were injured, including twenty-seven firefighters. Three managers of the building later went to prison for criminal negligence and accidental homicide.
In 1985 – (32 years ago) – Philadelphia police bombed the headquarters of MOVE, a radical commune that advocated black liberation and shunned modern technology. The group was well stocked with guns and ammo, and nine members had already gone to prison for third-degree murder in the death of a cop. The group occupied a row house in West Philadelphia, where neighbors complained to the police about their rooftop bullhorn political speeches. When police arrived and were denied entry, they resorted to fire hoses and tear gas, and were answered with bullets. The resulting shootout led to a two-day armed standoff, which ended when a state police helicopter dropped two one-pound bombs on the house, sparking a fire that quickly spread across the neighborhood. With orders to hold off, firefighters stood by and watched the police gun down commune members who came running out of the burning house. Eleven people, including five children, were killed; some sixty-five houses were destroyed; and more than 250 people were left homeless. Eleven years later, a federal jury found that the city had used excessive force and violated the Fourth Amendment. It ordered payment of $1.5 million to three commune survivors, and Philadelphia briefly became known as “The City That Bombed Itself.” Mayor Wilson Goode issued a formal apology, but nobody in the city government was ever criminally charged.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi