Weatherman (organization)

Weatherman (organization)

Infobox Organization
"Or Weather Underground Organization"

image_border =
size = 250px
caption ="Our signature was...letters of explanation....
Each letter had a logo hand-drawn
across the page...." — BILL AYERS []
formation=1969–c. 1977
type=Revolutionary communist
location=United States of America

Weatherman, known colloquially as the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization, was an American radical left organization founded in 1969 by leaders and members who split from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (or claimed to be the actual SDS).

The group is most famous for a campaign consisting of bombings, jailbreaks, and riots, from 1969 through the middle 1970s. The "Days of Rage", the group's first public demonstration on October 8, 1969, was a riot in Chicago coordinated with the trial of the Chicago Eight. In 1970 the group issued a "Declaration of a State of War" against the United States government, under the name "Weather Underground Organization" (WUO). The bombing attacks were mostly against government buildings, along with several banks. Most were preceded by communiqués that provided evacuation warnings, along with statements of the particular matter to which their attacks were allegedly responding. For the bombing of the United States Capitol on March 1, 1971, they issued a statement saying it was "in protest of the US invasion of Laos." For the bombing of The Pentagon on May 19, 1972, they stated it was "in retaliation for the US bombing raid in Hanoi." For the January 29, 1975 bombing of the Harry S Truman Building housing the United States Department of State, they stated it was "in response to escalation in Vietnam.""The Weather Underground", produced by Carrie Lozano, directed by Bill Siegel and Sam Green, New Video Group, 2003, DVD.]

The Weathermen grew out of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) within the SDS, splitting off to pursue a more radical agenda. It took its name from the lyric "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," from the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues". They also used this lyric as the title of a position paper they distributed at an SDS convention in Chicago on June 18, 1969. The founding document called for a "white fighting force" to be allied with the "Black Liberation Movement" and other radical movementscite book|title=Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity|author=Berger, Dan|page=95|publisher=AK Press|year=2006] to achieve "the destruction of US imperialism and achieve a classless world: world communism."See document 5, cite web|url=|title="You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows."|accessdate=2008-04-119|author=Revolutionary Youth Movement|date=1969]

They largely disintegrated shortly after the US reached a peace accord in Vietnam in 1973 , which saw the general decline of the New Left.

Background and formation

The group emerged from the campus-based opposition to the Vietnam War, as well as the Civil Rights Movements of the late 1960s. During this time, United States military action in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam, escalated. In the U.S., the anti-war sentiment was particularly pronounced during the 1968 U.S. presidential election.

The origins of the Weathermen can be traced to the collapse and fragmentation of the Students for a Democratic Society. The split between the mainstream leadership of SDS, or "National Office," and the Progressive Labor Party pushed SDS as a whole further to the left. National Office leaders such as Bernardine Dohrn and Mike Klonsky began announcing their emerging perspectives, and Klonksy published a document entitled "Toward a Revolutionary Youth Movement" (RYM). RYM promoted the philosophy that young workers possessed the potential to be a revolutionary force to overthrow capitalism, if not by themselves then by transmitting radical ideas to the working class. Klonsky's document reflected the growing leftist philosophy of the National Office and was eventually adopted as official SDS doctrine. During the Summer of 1969, the National Office began to split. A group led by Klonsky became known as RYM II, and the other side, RYM I, was led by Dohrn and endorsed more aggressive tactics, as some members felt that years of non-violent resistance had done little or nothing to stop the Vietnam War. It was also during this time period that the Weathermen sympathized with the radical group Black Panthers. The death of Panther Fred Hampton prompted the Weatherman to issue a declaration of war upon the United States government.

DS Convention, 1969

At an SDS convention in Chicago on June 18, 1969, the National Office attempted to convince unaffiliated delegates not to endorse Progressive Labor ideals. At the beginning of the convention, two position papers were passed out by the National Office leadership, one a revised statement of Klonksy's RYM manifesto, the other called "You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows."The latter document outlined the position of the group that would become the Weathermen. It had been signed by 11 people, including Mark Rudd, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, Bill Ayers, Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, Karen Ashley, Jeff Jones, Gerry Long, and Steve Tappis.

After the summer of 1969 fragmentation of Students for a Democratic Society, Weatherman's adherents explicitly claimed themselves the "real leaders" of SDS and retained control of the SDS National Office. Thereafter, any leaflet, label, or logo bearing the name "Students for a Democratic Society" or "SDS" was in fact the views and politics of Weatherman, and not of SDS as a whole. Weatherman contained the vast majority of former SDS National Committee members, including Mark Rudd, David Gilbert and Bernadine Dohrn. For this reason, the group, while small, was able to easily commandeer the mantle of SDS and all of its membership lists. For a brief time, affiliations with regional SDS cadre were maintained from the National Office, but with Weatherman in charge the relationships did not last long, and local chapters soon disbanded. By February 1970, the group had decided to close the SDS National Office, concluding the major campus-based organization of the 1960s.


The name Weatherman was derived from the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, which featured the lyrics “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The lyrics had been quoted at the bottom of an influential essay in the SDS newspaper, "New Left Notes". Using this title the Weathermen meant, partially, to appeal to the segment of American youth inspired to action for social justice by Dylan’s songs. It appears also that the “Weatherman” moniker used by the group may have been meant as a rebuke against the Progressive Labor Party, whose Worker Student Alliance SDS faction had succeeded in recruiting many former SDSers to its ranks, and had allegedly co-opted the 1969 convention.

The Weatherman group had long held that militancy was becoming more important than nonviolent forms of anti-war action, and that university-campus-based demonstrations needed to be punctuated with more dramatic actions, which had the potential to interfere with the U.S. military and internal security apparatus. The belief was that these types of urban guerrilla actions would act as a catalyst for the coming revolution. Many international events indeed seemed to support the Weathermen’s overall assertion that worldwide revolution was imminent, such as the tumultuous Cultural Revolution in China; the 1968 student revolts in France, Mexico City and elsewhere; the Prague Spring; the emergence of the Tupamaros organization in Uruguay; the emergence of the Guinea-Bissauan Revolution and similar Marxist-led independence movements throughout Africa; and within the United States, the prominence of the Black Panther Party together with a series of “ghetto rebellions” throughout poor black neighborhoods across the country. [Lader, Lawrence. Power on the Left. (New York City: W W Norton, 1979.) 192]

The Weathermen were outspoken advocates of the critical concepts that later came to be known as “white privilege” and identity politics.Fact|date=September 2007 As the unrest in poor black neighborhoods intensified in the early 1970s, Bernardine Dohrn said, “White youth must choose sides "now." They must either fight on the side of the oppressed, or be on the side of the oppressor.”


"Days of Rage"

One of the first acts of the Weathermen after splitting from SDS was to announce they would hold the "Days of Rage" that autumn. This was advertised to "Bring the war home!" Hoping to cause sufficient chaos to "wake" the American public out of what they saw as complacency toward the role of the US in the Vietnam War, the Weathermen meant it to be the largest protest of the decade. They had been told by their regional cadre to expect thousands to attend; however, when they arrived they found only a few hundred people. According to Bill Ayers, "The Days of Rage was an attempt to break from the norms of kind of acceptable theatre of 'here are the anti-war people: containable, marginal, predictable, and here's the little path they're going to march down, and here's where they can make their little statement.' We wanted to say, "No, what we're going to do is whatever we had to do to stop the violence in Vietnam.'"

Shortly before the demonstrations, they blew up a statue in Chicago built to commemorate police casualties incurred in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. The blast broke nearly 100 windows and scattered pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway below.cite book |last=Avrich |title=The Haymarket Tragedy |pages=p. 431 ] The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, only to be blown up by the Weathermen a second time on October 6, 1970. [Adelman. Haymarket Revisited, p. 40. ] The statue was rebuilt once again and Mayor Richard J. Daley posted a 24-hour police guard to protect it.

Though the October 8, 1969 rally in Chicago had failed to draw as many as the Weathermen had anticipated, the two or three hundred who did attend shocked police by rioting through the affluent Gold Coast neighborhood. They smashed the windows of a bank and those of many cars. The crowd ran four blocks before encountering police barricades. They charged the police but broke into small groups; more than 1,000 police counter-attacked. Many protesters were wearing motorcycle or football helmets, but the police were well trained and armed. Large amounts of tear gas were used, and at least twice police ran squad cars into the mob. The rioting lasted approximately half an hour, during which 28 policemen were injured (none seriously). Six Weathermen were shot by the police and an unknown number injured; 68 rioters were arrested.Jacobs, "The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground," 1997.] Jones, A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience, 2004.] Sale, SDS, 1973.]

For the next two days, the Weatherman held no rallies or protests. Supporters of the RYM II movement, led by Klonsky and Noel Ignatin, held peaceful rallies in front of the federal courthouse, an International Harvester factory, and Cook County Hospital. The largest event of the Days of Rage took place on Friday, October 9, when RYM II led an interracial march of 2,000 people through a Spanish-speaking part of Chicago.

On October 10, the Weatherman attempted to regroup and resume their demonstrations. About 300 protesters marched through The Loop, Chicago's main business district, watched by a double-line of heavily armed police. The protesters suddenly broke through the police lines and rampaged through the Loop, smashing the windows of cars and stores. The police were prepared, and quickly isolated the rioters. Within 15 minutes, more than half the crowd had been arrested.

The Days of Rage cost Chicago and the state of Illinois approximately $183,000 ($100,000 for National Guard expenses, $35,000 in damages, and $20,000 for one injured citizen's medical expenses). Most of the Weathermen and SDS leaders were now in jail, and the Weathermen would have to pay over $243,000 to pay for their bail.

Declaration of a State of War

In December 1969, the Chicago Police Department, in conjunction with the FBI, conducted a raid on the home of Black Panther Fred Hampton, in which he and Mark Clark were killed, with four of the seven other people in the apartment wounded. The survivors of the raid were all charged with assault and attempted murder. The police claimed they shot in self-defense, although a controversy arose when the Panthers and other activists presented what was alleged to be evidence suggesting that the sleeping Panthers were not resisting arrest. The charges were later dropped, and the families of the dead won a $1.8 million settlement from the government. It was discovered in 1971 that Hampton had been targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO. [ [ A Huey P. Newton Story - People - Other Players | PBS ] ] [ [ American Experience | Eyes on the Prize | The Story of the Movement | PBS ] ]

In 1970 the group issued a "Declaration of a State of War" against the United States government, using for the first time its new name, the "Weather Underground Organization" (WUO), adopting fake identities, and pursuing covert activities only. These initially included preparations for a bombing of a U.S. military non-commissioned officers' dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey in what Brian Flanagan said had been intended to be "the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory". [ [ Democracy Now! | Ex-Weather Underground Member Kathy Boudin Granted Parole ] ]

Investigated for San Francisco police station bombing

The group was investigated for a bombing that took place on February 16, 1970, in which a pipe bomb filled with shrapnel detonated on the ledge of a window at the Park Station of the San Francisco Police Department. Brian V. McDonnell, a police sergeant, was fatally wounded in the explosion, and Robert Fogarty, another police officer, was severely wounded in his face and legs and was partially blinded. [] The Weathermen, along with the Black Panther Party were initially investigated for the murder, which was never solved. An investigation was reopened in 1999,Zamora, Jim Herron, [ "Plaque honors slain police officer: Eight others injured in bomb attack that killed sergeant in 1970"] , "The San Francisco Chronicle", February 17, 2007] and a San Francisco grand jury looked into the incident, but no indictments followed.KRON 4, [ "30-Y.O. Unsolved SF Murders Reopen"] , November 10, 2003]

Initial New York City bombings

On February 21, 1970, bombs were exploded three gasoline-filled firebombs at the home of New York State Supreme Court Justice Murtagh, who was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party over a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Graffiti was painted on the sidewalk in front of his house: "FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS." The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. The son of Justice Murtagh has no doubt that the Weatherman were responsible for the firebombing of his home, although no one was ever caught or tried for it. [Murtagh, John M. [ Fire in the Night] , "City Journal", April 30, 2008] Murtagh bases the connection on a letter sent to the Associated Press ten months later, in late November of 1970, promising more bombings and signed by Bernardine Dohrn. [ [| Fire in the Night |The Weathermen tried to kill my family | City Journal April 30, 2008] ] That letter is generally assumed to refer to an October bombing of a Queens courthouse, connected with recent prison riots, in which warning was given. [ [ Queens Courthouse Damaged by Bomb; Warning Is Given] "New York Times", October 10, 2008] No organization ever claimed responsibility for the Murtagh bombing.

Greenwich Village explosion

On March 6, 1970, during preparations for the bombing of an officers' dance at the Fort Dix U.S. Army base and for Butler Library at Columbia University,Wakin, Daniel J., [ "Quieter Lives for 60's Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs Hasn't Faded"] , article The New York Times, August 24, 2003, retrieved June 7, 2008] there was an explosion in a Greenwich Village safe house when the nail bomb being constructed prematurely detonated due to a wiring malfunction. WUO members Diana Oughton, Ted Gold, and Terry Robbins died in the explosion. Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin escaped unharmed. It was an accident of history that the site of the Village explosion was the former residence of Merrill Lynch brokerage firm founder Charles Merrill and his son, the poet James Merrill. The younger Merrill subsequently recorded the event in his poem "18 West 11th Street", the title being the address of the house. An FBI report later stated that the group had possessed sufficient amounts of explosive to "level ... both sides of the street". [ [ 020510 michael frank's essay on 11th street ] ]

The bomb preparations have been pointed out by critics of the claim that the Weatherman group did not try to take lives with its bombings. Harvey Klehr, the Andrew W. Mellon professor of politics and history at Emory University in Atlanta, said in 2003, "The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don't know what sort of defense that is."


After the Greenwich Village incident, the group was now well underground, and began to refer to themselves as the Weather Underground Organization. At this juncture, WUO shrank considerably, becoming even fewer than they had been when first formed. The group was devastated by the loss of their friends, and in late April, 1970, members of the Weathermen met in California to discuss what had happened in New York and the future of the organization. The group decided to reevaluate their strategy, particularly in regard to their initial belief in the acceptability of human casualties, rejecting such tactics as kidnapping and assassinations.

They wanted to convince the American public that the United States was truly responsible for the calamity in Vietnam. The group began striking at night, bombing empty offices, with warnings always issued in advance to ensure a safe evacuation. According to David Gilbert, " [their] goal was to not hurt any people, and a lot of work went into that. But we wanted to pick targets that showed to the public who was responsible for what was really going on." After the Greenwich Village explosion, no one was killed by WUO bombs. ] [,,990399,00.html All the rage | Features | Film ] ]

On May 21, 1970, a communiqué from the Weather Underground was issued promising to attack a "symbol or institution of American injustice" within two weeks. [Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, (New York: Random House, 1973), 611.] The communiqué included taunts towards the FBI, daring them to try and find the group, whose members were spread throughout the United States. [Harold Jacobs ed., Weatherman, (Ramparts Press, 1970), 508-511.] Many leftist organizations showed curiosity in the communiqué, and waited to see if the act would in fact occur. However, two weeks would pass without any occurrence. [Harold Jacobs ed., Weatherman, (Ramparts Press, 1970), 374.] Then on June 9, 1970, their first publicly acknowledged bombing occurred at a New York City police station, [Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, (New York: Random House, 1973), 648.] saying it was "in outraged response to the assassination of the Soledad Brother George Jackson," who had recently been killed by prison guards in an escape attempt. The FBI placed the Weather Underground organization on the ten most-wanted list by the end of 1970. On May 19, 1972, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, The Weather Underground placed a bomb in the women’s bathroom in the Air Force wing of The Pentagon. The damage caused flooding that devastated classified information on computer tapes. Leftist groups worldwide applauded the bombing, illustrated by German youth protesting against American military systems in Frankfurt.

"Prairie Fire"

The Weather Underground’s ideology changed direction in the early 1970’s. With help from former Progressive Labor member, Clayton Van Lydegraf, The Weather Underground sought a more Marxist-Leninist approach. The leading members of the Weather Underground collaborated ideas and published their manifesto: "Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism." By the summer of 1974, five thousand copies had surfaced in coffee houses and bookstores across America. Leftist newspapers praised the manifesto.Jeremy Varon, Bringing The War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction And Revolutionary Violence In The Sixties And Seventies, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004), 292] Abbie Hoffman publicly praised "Prairie Fire" and believed every American should be given a copy. [Marty Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992), 258-259.] The manifesto’s influence initiated the formation of the 'Prairie Fire Organizing Committee' in several American cities. Hundreds of above-ground activists helped further the new political vision of the Weather Underground. In the late 1970s, the Weatherman group further split into two factions — the "May 19 Coalition" and the "Prairie Fire Collective" — with Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers in the latter. The Prairie Fire Collective favored coming out of hiding, with members facing the criminal charges against them, while the May 19 Coalition continued in hiding. A decisive factor in Dohrn's coming out of hiding were her concerns about her childrenFact|date=September 2008. The Prairie Fire Collective started to surrender to the authorities from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The remaining Weatherman Underground members continued to violently attack US institutions.

Timothy Leary prison break

In September 1970, the group took a $20,000 payment from a psychedelics distribution organization called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love to break LSD advocate Timothy Leary out of prison, transporting him and his wife to Algeria. Leary joined Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria; his initial press release contains revolutionary rhetoric sympathetic to the Weather Underground's cause. When Leary was eventually captured by the FBI, it is alleged he offered to serve as an informant to capture the Weather Underground members to reduce his prison sentence. Others, such as Robert Anton Wilson, claim he was just feeding false information to the authorities in an attempt to reduce his sentence. Ultimately no one was charged, and Leary served a few more years in prison.Fact|date=March 2007


In April 1971, The "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI" broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. [David Cunningham, There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, The Klan, And FBI Counterintellegence, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004), 33.] The group stole files with several hundred pages, 98% of the files targeted left wing individuals and groups. By the end of April, the FBI offices were to terminate all files dealing with leftist groups. [David Cunningham, There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, The Klan, And FBI Counterintellegence, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004), 35.] The files were a part of an FBI program called COINTELPRO. [Paul Wolf, COINTELPRO, ] However, after COINTELPRO was dissolved in 1971 by J. Edgar Hoover, [Nelson Blackstock, Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, (New York: Anchor Foundation, 1990), 185.] the FBI continued its counterintelligence on groups like the Weather Underground. In 1973, the FBI established the 'Special Target Information Development' program, where agents were sent undercover to penetrate the Weather Underground. Due to the illegal tactics of FBI agents involved with the program, government attorneys requested all weapons- and bomb-related charges be dropped against the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground was no longer a fugitive organization and could turn themselves in with minimal charges against them.Jeremy Varon, Bringing The War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction And Revolutionary Violence In The Sixties And Seventies, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004), 297.]

After the Church Committee revealed the FBI's illegal activities, many agents were investigated. In 1976, former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt publicly stated he had ordered break-ins and that individual agents were merely obeying orders and should not be punished for it. Felt also stated that acting Director L. Patrick Gray had also authorized the break-ins, but Gray denied this. Felt said on the CBS television program "Face the Nation" that he would probably be a "scapegoat" for the Bureau's work. [John Crewdson (August 30, 1976), "Ex-F.B.I. Aide Sees 'Scapegoat' Role", "The New York Times", p. 21.] "I think this is justified and I'd do it again tomorrow", he said on the program. While admitting the break-ins were "extralegal", he justified it as protecting the "greater good". Felt said:

To not take action against these people and know of a bombing in advance would simply be to stick your fingers in your ears and protect your eardrums when the explosion went off and then start the investigation.
The Attorney General in the new Carter administration, Griffin B. Bell, investigated, and on April 10, 1978, a federal grand jury charged Felt, Miller and Gray with conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens by searching their homes without warrants, though Gray's case did not go to trial and was dropped by the government for lack of evidence on December 11, 1980.

The indictment charged violations of Title 18, Section 241 of the United States Code. The indictment charged Felt and the others

did unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to injure and oppress citizens of the United States who were relatives and acquaintances of the Weatherman fugitives, in the free exercise and enjoyments of certain rights and privileges secured to them by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America. [Felt, FBI Pyramid, p. 333.]

Felt and Miller attempted to plea bargain with the government, willing to agree to a misdemeanor guilty plea to conducting searches without warrants—a violation of 18 U.S.C. sec. 2236—but the government rejected the offer in 1979. After eight postponements, the case against Felt and Miller went to trial in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on September 18, 1980. [Robert Pear: "Conspiracy Trial for 2 Ex-F.B.I. Officials Accused in Break-ins", The New York Times, September 19, 1980; & "Long Delayed Trial Over F.B.I. Break-ins to Start in Capital Tomorrow", The New York Times, September 14, 1980, p. 30.] On October 29, former President Richard M. Nixon appeared as a rebuttal witness for the defense, and testified that presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt had authorized the bureau to engage in break-ins while conducting foreign intelligence and counterespionage investigations. [Robert Pear, "Testimony by Nixon Heard in F.B.I. Trial", The New York Times, October 30, 1980.] It was Nixon's first courtroom appearance since his resignation in 1974. Nixon also contributed money to Felt's legal defense fund, Felt's expenses running over $600,000. Also testifying were former Attorneys General Herbert Brownell, Jr., Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, Ramsey Clark, John N. Mitchell, and Richard G. Kleindienst, all of whom said warrantless searches in national security matters were commonplace and not understood to be illegal, but Mitchell and Kleindienst denied they had authorized any of the break-ins at issue in the trial.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on November 6, 1980. Although the charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, Felt was fined $5,000. (Miller was fined $3,500). [Kessler, F.B.I.: Inside the Agency, p. 194.] Writing in "The New York Times" a week after the conviction, Roy Cohn claimed that Felt and Miller were being used as scapegoats by the Carter administration and that it was an unfair prosecution. Cohn wrote it was the "final dirty trick" and that there had been no "personal motive" to their actions. [Roy Cohn, "Stabbing the F.B.I.", The New York Times, November 15, 1980, p. 20.] "The Times" saluted the convictions, saying that it showed "the case has established that zeal is no excuse for violating the Constitution". ["The Right Punishment for F.B.I. Crimes." (Editorial), "The New York Times", December 18, 1980.] Felt and Miller appealed the verdict, and they were later pardoned by Ronald Reagan. []


Despite the change in their status the Weather Underground remained underground for a few more years. However, by 1976 the organization was disintegrating. The Weather Underground held a conference in Chicago called Hard Times. The idea was to create an umbrella organization for all radical groups. However, the event turned sour when Hispanic and Black groups accused the Weather Underground and the Prairie Fire Committee of limiting their roles in racial issues. The conference enhanced a division within the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground faced accusations of abandonment of the revolution by reversing their original ideology.

East coast members favored a commitment to violence and challenged commitments of old leaders, Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers and Jeff Jones. By the end of 1976, the Weather Underground would collapse. [Jeremy Varon, Bringing The War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction And Revolutionary Violence In The Sixties And Seventies, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004), 297-298.] Within two years, many members turned themselves in after taking advantage of President Gerald Ford’s amnesty for draft dodgers.

Mark Rudd turned himself in to authorities on January 20, 1978. Rudd was fined $4,000 and received two years probation. Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers turned themselves in on December 3, 1980, in New York, with substantial media coverage. Charges were dropped for Ayers. Dohrn received three years probation and a $15,000 fine.

Certain members remained underground and joined other radical groups. Years after the dissolution of the WUO, former members Kathy Boudin, Judith Alice Clark, and David Gilbert formed the May 19 Communist Organization, which eventually joined with the Black Liberation Army. On October 20, 1981, in Nyack New York, the group robbed a Brinks armored truck containing $1.6 million. The robbery turned violent, resulting in the murders of two police officers and a security guard. Boudin, Clark, and Gilbert were found guilty and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison, considered the “last gasps” of the Weather Underground. [Richard G. Braungart and Margret M. Braungart, “From Protest to Terrorism: The Case of the SDS and The Weathermen.”, International Movement And Research: Social Movements and Violence: Participation in Underground Organizations, Volume 4, (Greenwich: Jai Press, 1992.), 67.]


Widely-known members of the Weather Underground include Kathy Boudin, Mark Rudd, Terry Robbins, Ted Gold, Naomi Jaffe, Cathy Wilkerson, Jeff Jones, David Gilbert, Susan Stern, Bob Tomashevsky, Sam Karp, Russell Neufeld, Joe Kelly, Laura Whitehorn and the still-married couple Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Most former Weathermen have successfully re-integrated into mainstream society, without necessarily repudiating their original intent.

Weatherman was referred to by some in its own time and afterwards as "terrorist". [No byline, UPI wire story, "Weathermen Got Name From Song: Groups Latest Designation Is Weather Underground", as published in "The New York Times", January 30, 1975: "On Jan. 19, 1971, Bernardine Dohrn, a leading Weatherperson who has never been caught, issued a statement from hiding suggesting that the group was considering tactics other than bombing and terrorism."; Montgomery, Paul L., "Guilty Plea Entered in 'Village' Bombing: Cathlyn Wilkerson Could Be Given Probation or Up to 7 Years", article, "The New York Times", July 19, 1980: "the terrorist Weather Underground"; Powers, Thomas, and Franks, Lucinda, "Diana: The Making of a Terrorist", UPI, news feature series and winner of the Pulitzer Prize; [,4459764 September 23, 1970] : "Of the 400 people who attended the Flint council [of the Weatherman group] , fewer than 100 went underground. For those few, commited to the revolution above all else, it was a matter of logic. Community organizing had failed. Mass demonstrations had failed. Fighting in the streets had failed. Only terror was left." [,4160388 September 17, 1970] : "She [Diana Oughton] never lost her gentleness, either, or her sense of morality; But consumed by revolutionary commitment, she became a terrorist, fully prepared to live as outlaw and killer." [,4393226 September 21, 1970] : "The group's opponents argued that the Weathermen were repeating the errors of the 'Narodniki' (Russian terrorists) who assassinated the czar in 1881 and set back the cause of reform in Russia for decades."; Ayers, Bill, [ "Weather Underground Redux", post April 20, 2006, "Bill Ayers" blog, retrieved September 21, 2008: "This was a time when I, along with most of my closest friends, were referred to again and again as 'home-grown American terrorists'. That’s what Time magazine called us in 1970, and the New York Times, too, and that was the word hurled in my direction from the halls of Congress."] [ [ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: in 32 Volumes by Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.] , 1998, p 331 ("the "'Weathermen,' or 'Weather Underground,' which employed terrorist tactics in its activities.")] [Mehnert, Klaus, "Twilight of the Young, The Radical Movements of the 1960s and Their Legacy", Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1977, page 47: "Within the political youth movement of the late sixties (outside of Latin America), the 'Weathermen' were the first group to reach the front page because of terrorist activities."; Martin, Gus, [ "Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues"] : A number of terrorist groups and cells grew out of this environment. Although the most prominent example was the Weatherman group [...] "; Pruthi, R.K., [ "An Encyclopaedic Survey of Global Terrorism in the 21st Century"] , 2003, p 182: "The best publicized domestic terrorist organization of the revolutionary left has been the Weatherman faction of Students for Democratic Society"; [ "The Terrorist Trap"] by Jeffrey David Simon p 96: "the most active American terrorist group at the end of the 1960s"] The group fell under the auspicies of FBI-New York City Police Anti Terrorist Task Force, a forerunner of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The FBI, on its website, describes organization as having been a "domestic terrorist group", but no longer an active concern. [Web page titled, [ "Byte Out of History: 1975 Terrorism Flashback: State Department Bombing"] , at F.B.I. website, dated January 29, 2004, retrieved September 2, 2008] Others either dispute or clarify the categorization, or justify the group's violence as an appropriate response to the Vietnam war. In his 2001 book about his Weatherman experiences, Bill Ayers stated his objection to describing the WUO (Weather Underground Organization) as "terrorist". Ayers wrote: "Terrorists terrorize, they kill innocent civilians, while we organized and agitated. Terrorists destroy randomly, while our actions bore, we hoped, the precise stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to educate. No, we're not terrorists." [Ayers, Bill, "Fugitive Days", Beacon Press, ISBN 0807071242, p 263] Dan Berger, in his book about the Weatherman, "Outlaws in America", comments that the group "purposefully and successfully avoided injuring anyone... Its war against property by definition means that the WUO was not a terrorist organization."Berger, Dan, "Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity", AK Press: Oakland, California, 2006, ISBN 1904859410 pp 286-287; the book describes Berger as "a writer, activist, and Ph.D. candidate", and the book is dedicated to his grandmother and to Weatherman member David Gilbert]

Bill Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was quoted in an interview to say "I don't regret setting bombs" [ [ profile] ] but has since claimed he was misquoted. [ [ Episodic Notoriety–Fact and Fantasy « Bill Ayers ] ] Brian Flanagan has expressed regret for his actions during the Weatherman years, and compared the group's activities to terrorism. Flanagan said: "When you feel that you have right on your side, you can do some pretty horrific things." [ [ FrontPage Magazine ] ] Mark Rudd, now a teacher of mathematics at Central New Mexico Community College, has said he has "mixed feelings" and feelings of "guilt and shame".

A non-violent faction of the Weather Underground continues today as the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. Their official site reads:

: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. [ [ Prairie Fire Organizing Committee: About Us ] ]

ee also

*List of Weatherman actions
*"The Weather Underground", documentary film
*"Underground", documentary film
*Domestic terrorism in the United States

Further reading

* [ SDS: The Last Hurrah] (DOCUMENT 4 of 5) chronicles the last tumultuous days of the original Students for a Democratic Society and the rise of the Revolutionary Youth Movement and the Worker Student Alliance as the two principal SDS factions. Document 5 of 5 is the program of the section of the RYM that would later adopt the name "Weatherman".
*Alan Adelson's, "SDS" remains the best history of the organization.
* Harold Jacobs, editor (1970). "Weatherman". Ramparts Press.
* Osawatomie. Water Buffalo Print Collective. Journal of the Weather Underground Organization. Seattle. 1975. ["Osawatomie" Issue #2] available on line. Retrieved July 27, 2005.
* Dan Berger (2006). "Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity". Oakland: AK Press.
* Jeremy Varon (2004). "Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies". Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24119-3
* Ron Jacobs (1997). "The way the wind blew: a history of the Weather Underground". London & New York: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-167-8
* Bill Ayers (2001). "Fugitive Days". Boston: Beacon Press.
* Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers. and Jeff Jones, editors (2006). "Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiqués of the Weather Underground, 1970-1974". New York: Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1-58322-726-1
* Cathy Wilkerson (2007). "Flying Close to the Sun," New York: Seven Story Press.
* Unger, Irwin. "The Movement A History of the American New Left, 1959-1972" New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1974.


External links

* [ Vietnam era political protest site (UC Berkeley)] - contains online audiorecordings, texts, and other media related to the Weather Underground
* "The Weather Underground", a 2002 documentary directed and produced by Sam Green, Bill Siegel and Carrie Lozano
** [ Official site]
** [ PBS "Independent Lens" site]
** [ IMDB entry]
* [ FBI files: "Weather Underground Organization (Weatherman)"] . 420 pages. Retrieved June 3, 2005.
* [ "The Weather Underground: A Look Back at the Antiwar Activists Who Met Violence with Violence"] . Guests: Mark Rudd, former member of the Weather Underground, Sam Green and Bill Siegel, documentary filmmakers/directors. Interviewers: Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman. Democracy Now!. Segment available via [ streaming real audio] , or [ MP3 download] . 1 hour 40 minutes. Thursday, June 5, 2003. Retrieved May 20, 2005.
* [ "Jennifer Dohrn: I Was The Target Of Illegal FBI Break-Ins Ordered by Mark Felt aka "Deep Throat"] . Guest: Jennifer Dohrn. Interviewers: Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman. Segment available in [ transcript] and via [ streaming real audio] , [ 128k streaming real video] or [ MP3 download] . 29:32 minutes. Thursday, June 2, 2005. Retrieved June 2, 2005.
* [ "Growing Up in the Weather Underground: A Father and Son Tell Their Story"] . Guests: Thai Jones and Jeff Jones. Interviewers: Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman. "Democracy Now!". Segment available in [ transcript] and via [ streaming real audio] , [ 128k streaming Real Video] or [ MP3 download] . 17:01 minutes. Friday, December 3, 2004. Retrieved May 20, 2005.
* [ Full text of book The Way The Wind Blew] , by Ron Jacobs (1997) about the Weather Underground Organization.
* [ Full text of book Weatherman] , ed. by Harold Jacobs, a collection of documents by and about SDS/Weatherman. This book was published in 1970 and deals only with WUO's early period. Out of print.
* [ Prairie Fire Organizing Committee]

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