The 39-hour siege sounds like the setup for a Steven Seagal movie. It was carried out by about 10 members of the Hanafi Movement, a radical splinter section of the Nation of Islam. The buildings they seized were a Jewish community center, the Islamic Center of Washington, and the District Building, which was the city government's headquarters. So they essentially seized the capital of America's capital. The Hanafi holed up in the buildings with their hostages, many of whom were wounded (including future morally impaired D.C. Mayor Marion Barry). Two people, a cop and a journalist, were killed outright. Seriously, can you not just picture Seagal in that scenario, gluing fake sidelocks to his head and rambling about Jewish Mysticism as he arm-locks a terrorist?
And then it turned into an entirely different kind of movie: the terrorists' demands were to stop all theaters from showing a film called The Message (or Mohammad, Messenger of God) which they viewed as blasphemous, handily ignoring the fact that said movie was not actually American at all. They also wanted money. Namely, $750 in cash. That's not a typo -- their leader just happened to be angry about some old court fees and wanted them refunded.
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The refund was available at the DMV, but conquering D.C. was quicker and easier.