The Last of the S.D.S: Flint War Council

Following the events of ,”Days of Rage”, S.D.S facilitated another national conference in Flint Michigan on December 26th 1969, until December 31st. This meeting was dubbed the “Flint War Council”, based on the emphasis the meeting had on John Jacobs call for violent revolution and direct action social movement organization. This event called for the necessity of armed struggle and guerrilla warfare being a necessity in order to combat American imperialism. During this time violence justification seminars where conducted, as well as group discussion on ideology and goals. Rudimentary military training was conducted and copies of Carlos Marighella’s “Manueal of The Urban Guerilla” were circulated.

The first major change produced by the “War Council” was the dissolution of S.D.S. In order to distance the group from the non-violent protest history of their past, as well as the focus on labor rights. Its was officially decided that the S.D.S would be taken over by the Weatherman. This radical change however, caused a major backlash, soon after this meeting many local chapters of S.D.S disbanded and later the national headquarters was closed down. This limited the Weather Underground’s ability to communicate with the mainstream culture.

The Second and more prominent decision of the “War Council” was the Weathermen’s decision to take up arms, go underground, and begin the militant guerrilla war against American imperialism. In an effort to promote direct action. Fallowing the writing of Carlos Marighella, and creating a formation based on Che Guevera’s revolutionary “Foco”, method The Weather Underground organized the creation of hidden cells throughout the nation (See Guerrilla Militancy: A Viable Option?). Each would be under it’s own command and would conduct their own attacks. They would also all be in communication with each-other through the unofficial primary cell in New York City. They then decided that the first planned attack of the Underground would be in New York against Judge John Murtagh, who at the time was overseeing the trial of “Panther 21”.

The “War Council”, ended with John Jacobs speaking against the complacency of mainstream America, and the pacifism seen in you prto-tests to this day. He then continued to speak about how the youth of today, where the high energy members of tomorrows world, and through armed struggle and conflict, would create a new world driven by sex and drugs, that they where against all things considered good and decent by the American mainstream. He finalizes by saying “We will burn and loot and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmare.” The Weather Underground was then born.

Obama/Ayers Connection

When Obama was eight years old, Ayers was taking part in his actions with the WUO. After the WUO disbanded and Ayers was let off the served on a board together advocating for education on behalf of the poor. Later during Obama’s early political campaign for presidency, Ayers was asked by the senator to have coffee with Obama. Obama was welcomed into Ayers’ home and as Ayers points out in the interview below with ABC, that Obama probably visited 20 other homes that day. Obama and Ayers’ relationship was very much so professional and the fact that Obama is conserned with multiple point of views and walks of life (while still having a mind of his own as Ayers points out) should be seen as a positive aspect in his campaign.

Sarah Palin, John McCain and many others have exploited the Obama/Ayers connection. While Ayers may be one of the members of The Weather Underground that has remained very stern in his dedication, with no regrets of the bombs that he planted, Obama’s interaction with Ayers was minimal. Not only was Obama only 8 when Ayers was planting bombs, his neighborhood and charity board affiliation should not be put under such harsh light.

Here is a video from Good Morning America from 2008 of Ayers being interviewed on his interactions with Obama and WUO: 

In researching, countless conservative articles exploit this idea of terrorism. Since 9/11 using the word “terrorist” to describe a militant social group such as The Weather Underground (WUO) is in reality silencing a potentially intelligent debate. By attacking WUO in this manner today, one is refusing to see what you can learn from our past.

Violence and Terrorism

What is violence?

According to the WUO (Weather Underground Organization), by not acting against violence, you are taking the side of the oppressor. In fact, you are the oppressor.

The WUO has controversially claimed that they do not intend to inflict violence on any person, but rather on institutions. I believe this claim is held true after a tactical change which occurred in response to the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion. While the bomb that was intended to kill police officers at a ball backfired and ended up killing three of their own, they responded by writing their first Communique, stating “Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of Amerikan Injustice.”

In this regard you could argue that The Weather Underground is not a terrorist organization, that terrorist organizations are meant to send a message through terrorizing people, not destroying things. The WUO is not trying to bring fear into the hearts of Americans as much as show them what they are doing (or what they are doing by not doing anything). Ayers wrote in his book “Fugitive Days” that “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.”

Dan Berger also brings up terrorism in his book “Outlaws of America” in which he states that the group had “purposefully and successfully avoided injuring anyone… Its war against property by definition means that the WUO was not a terrorist organization.” However this is controversial even within the group, Mark Rudd has mixed feelings of sometimes guilt and shame, Brian Flanagan compares his past actions to terrorism, while Bill Ayers is completely unrelenting.

Calling The Weather Underground terrorists when the US has done so much worse is a ridiculous argument that is common place today. In one interview by Good Morning America, posted in the Ayers/Obama page, notes that we need to look at the Weather Underground in the context of its time– it was when the US was in the war with Vietnam and bombing Laos. In the interview this point wasn’t taken seriously but when you look at the definition of “terrorism” and see that it’s violence and intimidation you cannot say that the US did not and does not even today fall under that category. Using the word “terrorism” implies something new since 9/11, something more than violent; Terrorism implies striking fear into the people and killing mass amounts of people and The Weather Underground does not fit under those categories… the US well, that’s another argument.

Here is a discussion by Anthony and I about WUO and Terrorism.

Brinks Robbery: The End of The Underground

After the dissolution of much of the Weather Underground, remaining members David Gilbert, Samuel Brown, Judith Alice Clark, and Kathy Boudin, formed a new organization titled, ” The May 19th Communist Organization”. In coalition with Wayne Williams, and Donald Weems, two senior members of “The Black Liberation Army”, a plan was set in action to rob a Brinks Armored truck, in Nanuet New York, carrying 1.6 million dollars in order to fund further militant activism.

The plan went into action at 3:55 p.m. at the Nanuet Mall, on October 20th 1981. Two brinks security guards Peter Paige and Joe Trombino, had just begun to load bags of money taken from the mall that day into their armored brinks truck. As they where loading this is when the members of the “Black Liberation Army”, and the newly formed “May 19th Communist Organization”, emerged from a nearby van and began to fire on the two security guards with shotguns and M16. All for mentioned members where present for the shooting except for Kathy Boudin, and David Gilbert, who were waiting in a U-haul truck in a nearby parking lot. Paige was killed instantly at the scene, and Trombino was severely injured, but managed to survive.

After taking the money and fleeing the scene in the original van, the two groups reconvened, at the U-Haul truck, and loaded the van into the back, to drive off. A college student who lived across the street, however witnessed the exchange and warned local authorities. Four police officers later spotted the truck, and pulled it over off the entrance ramp of New York State route 59. The officers where then confused if they had apprehended the right vehicle, with Boudin and Gilbert in the drivers seats. Both of whom did not match the description of any of the original assailants.

Feigning innocence Boudin, and Gilbert where able to convinve the officers to lower their weapons. As they did the remaining six members of the robbery sprung from the back of the U-Haul firing into the 4 officers. Officer Waverly Brown was instantly shot multiple times and dies at the scene. Officer Edwin O’grady, who was also hit died soon after in the ambulance the the hospital. The other two officers where injured. At this point the members of the robbery retreated back into the armored truck and fled the scene of the second shoot-out.

While fleeing though one of the remaining officers, Brian Lennon, shot the speeding U-Haul, catching it’s tire and causing it to collide with his police cruiser.

With U-Haul totaled, the assailants fled the scene, some leaving in the van in the back, others attempting to steal vehicles from nearby motorists. Kathy Boudin, attempted to flee on foot. Soon after the van carrying Gilbert, and Clark, during the high speed, getaway collided with a guard rail, and the two where soon apprehended. Another “May 19th Communist”, and former “Weather Underground”, member Marylin Buck was traced back to her home using the license plate off the Van, and was soon arrested.  Boudin, Brown, and Weems, where soon arrested later. Finally in 1986, enough evidence was compiled to apprehend Williams.

Many have described the Brinks robbery as the last of the “Weather Underground”. The film “The Weather Underground”, describes the event as the unofficial end. The reasons behind this coincided with the fact that this was the resort of the few remaining members of the organization, to regain power. The event rested on the death of individuals, which earlier and more prominent tactics of the organization did not, causing the once semi-sound ideology of the movement to rupture. This break in ideology marked the end of the organization, and the beginning of new forms of activism.

Days of Rage

On October 8th-10th 1969, The Weathermen hosted a protest in Chicago. Fallowing John Jacobs ideology of “bringing the war home”, this protest was title “Days of Rage”, and was created in an effort to bring public awareness to a higher level about the war in Vietnam. This protest in accordance with Vietnam was also an effort to bring to light the ideology of a brutal imperialistic America.

Although the protest failed to draw as many members as expected, only a few hundred attended, the event did not fail to raise public awareness, and present a message. The first rally held on October 8th, shocked the public eye when members of the Weatherman rioted through Chicago’s upper-class Gold Coast neighborhood. They smashed the windows of parked expensive cars, broke into lining banks, and multiple retail business, as well as attempting arson on one of mentioned banks. The riot continued 4 blocks before encountering police barricades. These first barricades however, where broken by rioters, and the protest continued until finally Chicago police sent in over 500 officers with tear gas and riot gear to quell the rioters. In the aftermath 28 police officers where injured, 6 Weatherman where shot, and another 68 members where arrested.

Although the Weatherman held no more rallies until October 10th. On October 9th, Mike Klonsky, and Noel Ignatin with the S.D.S held a peaceful march  of over 2000 international members through Chicago.

On October 10th the Weathermen continued their demonstrations marching through the Loop, Chicago’s premier business area. With over 300 protesters the Weatherman where being watched by multiple line of riot officers. Despite this protection the Protesters eventually broke through the line officers smashing car windows and store fronts. This however only lasted about 15 minutes, and resulted in the arrest of about half the Weathermen members.

Although the Weathermen protest resulted in the incarceration of many members, the idea behind the riots was not lost, nor was the message. The actions of “Days of Rage”, would act as a cataclysm, for the S.D.S December convention in Flint Michigan, aptly named the Flint War Council.


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)?

Preparing for Rage: The Haymarket Memorial Bombing

On October 7th 1969, the still weatherman planted a bomb that destroyed the statue, dedicated to the police officers involved in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. The Haymarket Riot was the cataclysm of Chicago’s turn of the century movement for labor activism. During the riot a bomb was planted that killed 7 police officers. Even though these deaths did occur many activists believe the statue is almost an atrocity depicting the “heroic”, demise of 7 officers, while completely ignoring, and arguably even villanizing the much larger amount of protesters killed due to police gunfire during the riot, and the even larger number killed prior because of police brutality that was facilitated by Chicago’s elite.

Due to this bigotry the weatherman destroyed the statue as a sign of protest against American imperialism, and distribution of wealth. The statue was then rebuilt on May 4th 1970, and sub-sequentially was destroyed by the Weather underground again on October 6th of the same year. The statue was then again rebuilt a third time, and a 24 hour police guard was posted, later however the statue was destroyed again. This final destruction however, may or may not have been caused by the Weather Underground.

Bombs and Arson: The First Strike of the Weather Underground

February 1970, The Weather Underground conducted their first two violent strikes against what they considered to be prime examples of American imperialism. The first attack occurred on February 16th at the Parks County Police station in San Fransisco. When at 10:45 P.M. a pipe bomb filled with nail shrapnel exploded on a ledge on the top floor of the station fatally wounding police sergeant Brain Mcdonnell and wounding 9 others. Although this attack could not be traced back to the Weather Underground, it’s still quite speculated that the organization was behind the bombing. In fact F.B.I agent Larry Grathwohl stated in a report that “there are irrefutable and compelling reasons that establish that Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, are responsible for the bombing.”

The Second attack of February 1970, occurred at the residence of New York supreme court justice judge John M. Murtagh. Murtagh at the time was ruling over the trial of “Panther 21” a case in which members of the Black Panther Party where allegedly plotting to blow up New York landmarks, and department stores. On the night of February 21st. a molotov cocktail was thrown onto Murtagh’s front porch, as well as on his car. In addition multiple windows of his home where broken, and spray-painted in red on the side-walk in front of his home where the words “Free Panther 21”, “Kill the Pigs”, and “The Vietcong have Won”. Although no one was caught or accused of the crime, it is speculated that the Weather Underground where responsible based on the decision and speculation of the last S.D.S conference in in December.

Before the Weather, Students For a Democratic Society

S.D.S or Students for A Democratic Society was created the Summer of 1960, and held its first meeting that same year at the University of Michigan Anne Arbor. Formed out of the organization, The Student League for Industrial Democracy, S.D.S, originally started as a labor based organization, associated with proper worker treatment, and labor unity. This However changed dramatically when a document called the Port Huron Statement, written by Tom Hayden, was adopted as S.D.S’s political manifesto.  With this new ideology in place the S.D.S expanded to critiquing other major issues, including the arms race, racial discrimination, the war in Vietnam, and economic inequality. During this time S.D.S lead many political rallies, teach-ins, and sit-ins in order to raise public awareness, and to further their goals. They also banded in many instances with other social movement organizations of the time including the Progressive Labor Party, and S.N.C.C.

This continued until 1969, when the S.D.S, split with the Progressive Labor Party, this was due to an ever increasing rift between, S.D.S’s original labor emphasis of the past, and the new civil rights and anti-war sentiments that began to dominate the organization. During this turbulent time S.D.S Mike Klonsky published a pamphlet titled “Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement” or the RYM.  The RYM instilled the philosophy that young workers possessed the potential to be a revolutionary force to overthrow capitalism, and was quickly used as the official S.D.S doctrine. However, this new philosophy caused a new rift to emerge within the S.D.S

At the S.D.S convention of June 1969, two major documents circulated throughout the crowd, in order to convince membership to not be taken over by progressive labor. The first document was a revised edition of Klonsky’s RYM, which stuck behind original ideals of non-violent actions in order to raise awareness, uphold young worker ideals. The second document was titled “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows“. Adapted from Bob Dylan lyrics in his song Subterranean Homesick Blues, this piece of literature, described that the use of non-violent resistance had done little to nothing to stop the Vietnam war, and secondly called for the creation of a clandestine revolutionary party. Signed by major S.D.S member Karen Ashley, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Gerry Long, Howie Machtinger, Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, Mark Rudd, and Steve Tappis.

This document and these leaders during the convention would facilitate the Weatherman faction, the predecessor to the Weather Underground. With the creation of this faction John Jacobs presented the slogan “bring the war home”, as well as a resolution he had created at a convention the previous year titled “The Elections Don’t Mean Shit—Vote Where the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street, which further emphasized the need for direct action. Finally planning took place for the creation of  a later event, “Days of Rage”.

Soon After the convention in July of 1969 30 members of the newly former Weathermen chapter of S.D.S, traveled to Cuba in order to meet revolutionary leaders. This was in order to discuss tactics, ideology, and American imperialism. It is also speculated that it was during this time the Weather Underground gained knowledge in homemade explosives, which they use quite frequently later on.

From Guevara to Marighella: The Guerrilla Tactics of The Weather Underground

The Weather Underground are primarily remembered for the violent militant tactics they used as a form of social activism. From bombings to prison breaks, to later arguably robbery in the case of Brinks, the question remains where did these tactics derive from? Where they the product on inspiration derived from a conflicting socio-economic climate brewing in America, and arguably the world at the time? Well to a degree yes, and to a degree no. During the 1970’s The Weather Underground took tactics from two of South and Central Americas most renown guerrilla revolutionaries, Those being Che Guevara, out of the Cuban Revolution, and Carlos Marighella, who was both involved with Guevara during the Cuban Revolution, and attempted to form his own communist revolution is his own country of Brazil. Taking tactics from these individuals and, putting their own ideology and form behind the ideals these two men presented the Weather Underground formed their own form of unique guerrilla tactics designed to succeed within a modern democracy.

To start what did the Weather Underground adapt from Guevara and the Cuban Revolution? Well to start it was in Cuba from prior revolutionaries that the Weather underground was first trained in the art of making explosive and propaganda, shortly after their conception at the Summer 1969 S.D.S convention. Furthermore the weather undergrounds entire organizational model was derived from the model primarily created by Guevara known as “Foco”. Foco itself was to a degree derived from Marxist tactics, including the Stalin tactic of a popular front, for the most part it also took in ideology from the Maoist strategy of “a peoples war”, in which large decisive battles would be strategically avoided, and the uprising would start within small groups, and then would begin to continuously grow larger. Foco changes, from traditional Maoist and Marxist tactics by focusing on an uprising entirely driven by workers and peasants without any outside or government help. Guevara believed it was a peoples war and an overthrow would occur because of the people.

Foco was employed by The Weather Underground as a basis for their organizational structure. Using small guerrilla cells throughout the nation, The Weather Underground was able to use tactics from hiding, and then disappear. Like the way Guevara planned these cells in Cuba, so did the Underground, having each cell use its own form of leadership, while communicating through a network of cells, and to the main cell located in New York. The Weather also actively advocated for the Foco idea of having the “revolution” be a people revolution, without the aid of outside government. Finally the ideology of avoiding decisive battles was taken into account. With the very limited personnel the Weather had at it’s disposal large scale decisive attacks would have to avoided. The way weather differs from Guevara and fallows more the ideology of Guerrilla tactics proposed by Carlos Marighella, was in location,ideology, and guerrilla action oriented tactics.

Within his writing, “Manuel of the Urban Guerrilla”, Carlos Marighella uses a very similar model to that of Guevara, except for a few key components. Components that would later be used by the Weather Underground. To start Marighella doesn’t believe that a successful revolution should begin in hidden suburban areas, such as woods and mountains. Marighella calls for action to be fought starting within large urban areas then spreading out towards the country-side. This is done in an effort to damage those in power where they hold the most power, and to show the greatest amount of the population how much damage a single individual can cause. This is also in an effort to in crease the speed of recruitment of new individuals to believe in the Guerrilla cause. Secondly Marighella, calls for direct hard hitting action attacks. Rather then attacking only to liberate new land, then retreating to rebuild such as the idea of Foco, Marighella calls for a continuously offensive Guerrilla movement, sometimes for no reason, but to keep the government guessing. This is in an effort to continuously pressure the enemy in order to draw them out, and have them make errors within their tactics. Finally Marighella, has a very unique ideology that differs from Guevara and greatly influences the Weather Underground. Where Guevara believes that a government is the oppressor, Marighella states that all oppressive governments have a large source of power backing them, of a more foreign government oppressor. In most of Marighella’s writings, and within the Weather Underground this oppressor is United States Imperialism.

The use of Marighella’s tactics are easy to see within The Weather Underground during the 1970’s. Almost all weather cells where located in large urban cities, The majority of the undergrounds tactics where offensive in nature, and maybe most importantly, both viewed the United States government as the primary imperialistic oppressor.

The Weather Underground did differ from these two models, however in two major ways. Firstly rather than a workers, (peoples) war, much of the weather underground believed  far more in a war of the new age a youth war, fighting against archaic ideals of American Imperialism. Secondly, especially after the Greenwich Village explosion, The Weather Underground didn’t believe in or facilitate the death of “those compliant with the oppressor”, in this case officers of the law, government officials, and military personnel. In fact the Weather Underground went to very extensive lengths to avoid such deaths. This final non-fatality based ideology is the one major separator between the Weather Underground and other South and Central American revolutionary organizations.