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Weathermen:see Students for a Democratic SocietyStudents for a Democratic Society
(SDS), in U.S. history, a radical student organization of the 1960s. In the influential Port Huron (Mich.) Statement (1962), the organization, founded in 1960, presented its vision for post–Vietnam War America and called for students to
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The much-maligned Weathermen did blow up quite a few buildings and police cars, but to their credit, the only people who got killed by one of their explosive devices were some of their own bomb makers.
The Weathermen, also known as the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), took their name from the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which includes the lyrics, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” In other words, any astute individual living in the late 1960s could see that societal revolution was imminent.
At first the Weathermen were composed largely of former members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who had begun their “insurgency” as a means of creating a new America of “participatory democracy,” which would grow out of the nation’s campuses. The Weathermen were far more revolutionary, avowedly communist in ideology and openly advocating the overthrow of the American government and its capitalistic system. While the most violent the SDS became was in the trashing of some college administrators’ offices, the Weathermen engaged in a war against the government that included bombings, jailbreaks, and inciting riots and lasted from 1969 to 1976.
A timeline of some of the major events in the WUO’s war with the U.S. government:
October 6, 1969: The Weathermen achieve international attention with their “Days of Rage” in Chicago when they blow up a statue that had been dedicated to the police officers killed in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. During the next two days, three hundred rioters rampage through Chicago’s business district, smashing windows and overturning cars. Police shoot six rioters and arrest seventy.
December 6, 1969: The WUO bombs several police cars in a precinct parking lot on North Halstead Street in Chicago to protest the December 4 killings of Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Matt Clark by police officers.
February 13, 1970: Police cars in Berkeley, California, are bombed.
March 6, 1970: Thirty-four sticks of dynamite are discovered in the 13th Police District of Detroit. That same day, WUO members Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins accidentally blow up along with their bomb factory in Greenwich Village.
May 10, 1970: The National Guard building in Washington, D.C., is bombed in protest of the National Guard killings of four students at Kent State University in Ohio.
May 21, 1970: Bernadine Dohrn is credited as the author of the WUO’s official “Declaration of a State of War” with the United States.
June 9, 1970: New York City police headquarters is bombed.
July 16, 1970: The Presidio Army Base in San Francisco is bombed to honor the eleventh anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
August 1970: The Marin County, California, courthouse is bombed.
September 22, 1970: The WUO helps Dr. Timothy Leary, LSD guru, escape from the California Men’s Colony prison.
October 8, 1970: Queens Courthouse is bombed in solidarity with the New York prison riots. The Harvard Center for International Affairs is bombed to protest the war in Vietnam.
February 28, 1971: The U.S. Capitol is bombed to protest the Laos invasion.
September 17, 1971: The New York Department of Corrections is bombed to protest the killing of twenty-nine inmates during the riot at Attica Penitentiary.
May 1972: The Pentagon is bombed to protest air force raids on Hanoi.
March 6, 1974: The Department of Health, Education and Welfare offices in San Francisco are bombed to protest the alleged sterilization of poor women.
May 13, 1974: The office of the California attorney general is bombed in honor of the six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army killed by police.
June 17, 1974: The headquarters of Gulf Oil is bombed in Pittsburgh to protest its activities in Angola and Vietnam.
July 1974: The WUO publishes its book Prairie Fire, calling for a unified Communist Party and continuing to stress the need for acts of violence.
January 28, 1975: The State Department is bombed in retaliation for the escalation of the war in Vietnam.
In spite of a program of bombings conducted over a period of six years against the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and numerous police and prison buildings, the WUO took elaborate measures to warn all personnel to evacuate the targets before the bombs exploded. Their war against the U.S. was waged successfully without the loss of life on the part of the government. The only the deaths that occurred were of the three WUO members in the accidental explosion of the Greenwich Village bomb factory. The WUO members were also largely successful in evading capture by the police and FBI. Some individuals who became associated with the WUO during or after the group disbanded were Diane Donghi, Kathy Boudin, Mark Rudd, Bernadine Dohrn, and Bill Ayers.
By the late 1970s most of the members had turned themselves in to the authorities or had joined other revolutionary groups. Few of the WUO served prison time because the evidence gathered against them by the FBI’s COINTELPRO was ruled in court to have been illegally acquired.