The war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement motivated many Americans, black and white, to get involved in protests, riots, and in overthrowing the government. The Weather Underground was composed of predominately white middle class students who felt that not acting was in itself violence. By taking the sides of the Vietnamese, blacks, and the oppressed, they felt they were leaving the side of the oppressor (which they were born into). Peaceful means were being exhausted, just as John F. Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
The WUO formed out of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which splintered around the same time. While trying to get SDS to join the militant cause, the Society fell from it’s grips and may be one reason why the WUO went underground, unable to motivate the masses in riots and rallies. The “Days of Rage” in Chicago were the true turning point for WUO to go underground though, when only a few hundred showed up to what they expected to be a huge rally to destroy the corporate downtown and give America a little taste of the war that was happening in Vietnam.
After going underground they successfully bombed the pentagon, state department and capital building along with others. This change in tactics made each attack deliberate and meaningful; when George Jackson was killed by prison guards, the WUO bombed the Department of Corrections in San Francisco and the Office of California Prisons in Sacramento; the Kent State shootings lead the WUO to bomb the National Guard Association building in DC; when the US bombed Laos, the WUO bombed the US Capitol building; when the US raided Hanoi, the WUO attacked the pentagon.
While they used bombs as a counter to US imperialism, they went to great extents trying not to harm any person in the making. After their unsuccessful attempt at bombing an “officer’s dance” at Fort Dix, New Jersey which would have killed many police officers and their families, and instead killing three of their own in the what was to become known as The Greenwich Townhouse Explosion when the bomb went off unsuccessfully, the WUO’s tactics again changed. Now they were issuing warnings about the bombs in order to prevent injuries.
[image courtesy of SDS website] By this time the WUO were on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a full-scale manhunt for them issued in 1973, it was eventually halted because CIA admitted to illegally obtaining evidence, many charges, including those from the Days of Rage were therefore dropped. Today, three of the WUO are college professors, one is in jail, three are dead, all living their lives, but why are they called “terrorists”? What does the conservative media aim to do by framing them as such? Is it possible for a violent social movement to successfully overthrow US government and imperialism today (inciting national revolution and evading the FBI)?