It was March 6, 1970. While the calendar may have indicated that the 60s were over, they weren’t. Drugs continued. Festival music continued. Civil rights demands continued. The Vietnam War continued.
The issues of the 60s had simply morphed into the 70s’ issues, just as many of them continue today.
Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins were part of the Weathermen, a radical offshoot of the Student for a Democratic Society. The Weathermen’s mission permitted violence and Gold, Oughton, and Robbins were constructing a bomb that day in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The plan was to bomb a non-commissioned officers’ dance at Fort Dix, NJ.
The bomb accidentally exploded, killing all three. At first the explosion was thought to have been the result of a gas leak (NYT article).
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” was a line from Bob Dylan’s 1965 “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” That line was the genesis of the group’s first name.
By 1969, like other frustrated groups whose mission was thwarted by the Establishment’s power and control, the Weathermen emerged when Bernardine Dohrn and others split with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Weathermen felt that the SDS’s peaceful protests against the continuing Vietnam War were futile.
The ultimate goal of the Weather Underground was to overthrow the US Government. From its June 18, 1969 Manifesto: “…people in this country must ask in considering the question of revolution…where they stand in relation to the masses of people throughout the world whom US imperialism is oppressing.”
On October 6, 1969, the Weathermen had planted a bomb that blew up a statue in Chicago built to commemorate police casualties incurred in the 1886 Haymarket Riot (NYT article).
Chicago rebuilt the statue and unveiled on May 4, 1970 ironically, the same day as the Kent State massacre The Weather Underground blew it up again on October 6, 1970 (NYT article)
Chicago repaired the statue again and placed it under round-the-clock surveillance before cost considerations brought about the decision to put the statue in the Police Headquarter lobby (NYT article).
Days of Rage
Three days after the first bombing, the Days of Rage (October 8 – 11, 1969) in Chicago followed. To the Weathermen, protest meant direct action and direct actions included vandalization and confrontation. A huge Chicago police and State militia presence prevented most demonstrations from achieving their goals. Dozens were injured, and more than 280 protesters were arrested.
Judge’s home bombed
Early in the morning on February 21, 1970 gas bombs exploded in front of NY Supreme Court Justice John M. Murtagh’s home. Murtagh was presiding over the pretrial hearings of Black Panther Party members regarding a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. No one was hurt.
At that point, the Weathermen went into hiding and re-named the group the Weather Underground.
On June 9, 1970, a bomb exploded in the headquarters of the New York City Police Department. No one was hurt.
On May 19, 1972, North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, the Weather Underground placed a bomb in the women’s bathroom in the Air Force wing of the Pentagon. No one was hurt.
Arrests were often made, but mistrials and dropped charges often followed due to the illegal methods the government had used to gather evidence.
In 2002, The Weather Underground documentary told the story of the organization’s rise and fall. (Snag films dot com)
A faction of the Weather Underground continues today as the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. Their official site apparently read (though the site no longer is extant): We oppose oppression in all its forms including racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and imperialism. We demand liberation and justice for all peoples. We recognize that we live in a capitalist system that favors a select few and oppresses the majority. This system cannot be reformed or voted out of office because reforms and elections do not challenge the fundamental causes of injustice
Ironically, today if you Google search “Weather Underground,” the top result is the commercial weather service. The Establishment has co-opted Che again.
- Related link >>> Overland dot org story
- Related link >>> PBS Independent Lens story
- Related link >>> WU Manifesto @ Archive dot org