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The Weathermen

Updated on April 2, 2011

A Radical Group That Has Not Gone Away

The Weathermen were a radical group of domestic terrorists that split from the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s because they didn't believe in peaceful protest. Their name comes from a line in a Bob Dylan song: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The Weathermen ended up getting into some legal trouble; as a result, they became more covert, and became known as the Weather Underground.

Many thought that their story ended in the 1960s, to be relegated to the pages of the history books. If only that was the case. While the Weathermen, or Weather Underground, might not be an official organization today, their members still hold radical views. Even worse, their members hold positions of power in government and education. Their influence extends all the way to the White House. It is important to know something about this group that won't go away.


The Weathermen have their origins in the summer of 1969. At the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) convention on June 18, 1969, they distributed a position paper that called for an alliance between a "white fighting force" and the "Black Liberation movement". Their stated goal was to achieve "the destruction of US imperialism and achieve a classless world: world communism."

At the time of the Weathermen's formation, the world was in turmoil. The Vietnam War had been going on for years. The military draft took away many young men to the war; some did not come back. The 1960s was also the decade of the civil rights movement; Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated the year prior.

After years of peaceful marches and sit-ins, some people were getting restless. They didn't believe that peaceful action was changing things quickly enough. One group chose to change their tactics and become more violent. These were the Weathermen.

The original position paper was signed by several people, some which are household names today because of their ties to Barack Obama: Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, Karen Ashley, John Jacobs, Howie Machtinger, Gerry Long, Jim Mellen, Mark Rudd, Terry Robbins, and Steve Tappis

Seeds of Violence

"We petitioned, we demonstrated, we sat in. I was willing to get hit over the head, I did; I was willing to go to prison, I did. To me, it was a question of what had to be done to stop the much greater violence that was going on."

~ David Gilbert

Days of Rage
Days of Rage

The Days of Rage ~ The Summer of Rage?

Will History Repeat Itself?

One of the first events that the new Weathermen organization organized was the Days of Rage. This was a series of actions that took place between October 8 and 11, 1969. A few days prior to that event, on October 5, a statue which commemorated the deaths of police officers in the Haymarket Affair of 1886 was blown up, causing windows to be broken and statue shrapnel to fly all the way to the freeway.

On October 8, Jeff Jones announced that the protesters would march to the Drake Hotel. Julius Hoffman, a judge who was overseeing the Chicago 8 trial (who were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot), was living at the hotel. On their march to the hotel, they broke windows in cars and buildings. While police cars were damaged, so were those of lower-middle-class homes. The police fought back; six Weathermen were shot, others were injured, and tear gas was used.

On October 9, Bernadine Dohrn addressed a group of women, who were going to raid a draft board office. They were stopped by the police before they could leave Grant Park. All events for the evening were cancelled.

On October 10, another round of protests began. The police were quick to stop them, but some windows were damaged before they could be stopped. Many Weathermen were arrested.

The Weathermen never got around to the events of October 11th. Many of them had been arrested at this point.

British police thought that the summer of 2010 would be a Summer of Rage due to the recession. Indeed, there were protests in the country in the second half of 2010. In January of 2011, there was a "Day of Rage" in Egypt. Coincidence? Today, the Weathermen have a lot of connections to people that are in power. Is it a coincidence that Weathermen terminology is being used once again?

The Origins of "Death Camp" Rumors?

For years, some of the more "tin hat" types have suggested that the US government was building concentration camps for American citizens. Most mainstream people thought that was crazy talk. However, the Weathermen were planning on creating "re-education" camps in the Southwest. Those that would not line up with their way of thinking would be eliminated. At the time, they believed that 25 million people would have to be killed. That would correlate to about 36 million people today, given the increase in the US population.

When the "tin hat" types started talking about these concentration camps, people like George Bush and BIll Clinton were in office. These people didn't have the connections to the Weathermen (that I know of). However, Barack Obama, our current president, does have a lot of connections to the Weathermen. Should we give more weight to this interview today? Sometimes I think that there's more to some of the tin hat information that people give it credit for.

Haymarket Police Memorial that the Weathermen blew up
Haymarket Police Memorial that the Weathermen blew up

Infamous Weathermen Acts

Over the years, the Weather Underground engaged in several activities.

February 1970 - a bomb explodes at the Golden Gate branch of the San Francisco police department. One officer was killed, others were wounded (so much for the Weathermen saying they didn't hurt anybody). Bombs are also thrown that month at a judge's house, police cars, and military recruiting stations.

March 1970 - Diana Oughton, Theodore Gold, and Terry Robbins are all killed while constructing a nail bomb. This bomb was intended for a dance for Non-commissioned officers at Fort Dix.

May 1970 - the National Guard Association building in Washington DC is bombed.

June 1970 - New York City Police Bombing - ten sticks of dynamite were used to bomb the police headquarters in New York City.

July 1970 - a military base in San Francisco, as well as two Bank of America branches, are bombed.

September 1970 - Timothy Leary Prison Break - the Weathermen broke Timothy Leary, LSD advocate, out of prison, and helped him and his wife escape to Algeria.

October 1970 - three courthouses are bombed.

March 1971 - the Weathermen bomb the US Capitol building.

August 1971 - Weathermen bomb the Office of California Prisons

September 1971 - the New York Department of Corrections is bombed.

October 1971 - an office at MIT's research facility is bombed.

May 1972 - Pentagon bombing. On Ho Chi Minh's birthday, the Weathermen decided to give the communists a present by blowing up a bomb in the women's bathroom of the Air Force Wing of the Pentagon. The damage from the bombing caused classified information to be destroyed.

May 1973 - A police precinct in New York is bombed.

September 1973 - the ITT headquarters in New York is bombed.

March 1974 - the San Francisco offices of the Department of Education, Health, and Welfare is bombed.

May 1974 - the California Attorney General's office is bombed.

June 1974 - the Gulf Oil headquarters at Pittsburgh is bombed.

September 1974 - the Anaconda Corporation is bombed.

January 1975 - the office of the State Department, along with other Department of Defense buildings, is bombed.

June 1975 - a Puerto Rican bank is bombed in New York City.

September 1975 - the Kennecott Corporation is bombed.

October 1981 - the Brinks robbery is performed by some Weathermen. Two policemen and one Brinks Security guard are killed. The robbery was for $1.6 million dollars.

Are The Weathermen Really Gone?

The Weather Underground as an organization doesn't exist today. Many of the members reorganized into an organization called Prairie Fire. They have a web site, but it looks like it hasn't been updated since 2006. The name of the group comes from a quote by Mao Tse Tung "a single spark can start a Prairie fire".

Many former Weathermen hold teaching positions in college campuses today.

Recently, it has come to my attention that the paper "You Don't Need To Be a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows" is almost like a blueprint for things going on today. It's only 28 pages long, you might want to read it.

Photo by Entheta.
Photo by Entheta.

Bill Ayers

Bill Ayers married Bernadine Dohrn and entered a life of politics and academia. He has served on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a philanthropic organization. He was also a professor at the University of Chicago College of Education, until he retired in the summer of 2010. He has also authored several books.

Barack Obama's political career was launched at the Ayers' home.

Bill Ayers was a recent supporter of the "Peace Flotilla" that tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in June 2010.

Does Ayers have Regrets?

"I've thought about this a lot. Being almost 60, it's impossible to not have lots and lots of regrets about lots and lots of things, but the question of did we do something that was horrendous, awful? ... I don't think so. I think what we did was to respond to a situation that was unconscionable."

~ Bill Ayers (2004)

Young Bernadine Dohrn
Young Bernadine Dohrn

Bernadine Dohrn

Bernadine Dohrn once said of the Manson murders: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" She later said it was a joke, but her actions are in line with actually believing that this would be a good thing.

She hasn't completely disappeared from American life. In 1991, she became an associate professor at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. In 1994, she said that "I still see myself as a radical." She is also married to Bill Ayers.

One of Dohrn's most recent actions was to support the "Peace Flotilla" that tried to break the Israeli blocade in Gaza. The "Peace Flotilla" ended up beating Israeli Defense Force personnel with metal pipes and chains.

The Obama-Ayers Connection

Barack Obama says that he does not know Bill Ayers very well, but they have served on several boards together, and have a history that goes back a while.

- Obama's political career was kicked off by an event held in the Ayers' home in 1995.

- Obama and Ayers both served on the board of the Woods Foundation of Chicago together. William Wright's church received money from this organization at one point.

- Obama and Ayers both served on the board at the Annenberg Challenge Project.

Jeff Jones

Jeff Jones was one of the other founders of the Weathermen (along with Bill Ayers). Since his days as a radical, he has cleaned himself up. In 1997 he was named citizen of the year by the Chicago Annenburg Challenge project. He is currently a professor at the University of Chicago. He has served on the board of the Woods Foundation with Barack Obama.

Kathy Boudin

Kathy Boudin was sent to prison in 1984 for felony murder. While in prison, she worked with AIDS patients and adult literacy programs, and became a public health expert. She was released from prison in 2003. While in prison, Ayers and Dohrn took care of her daughter Chesa, which she had with David Gilbert.

David Gilbert

David Gilbert is the father of Chesa with Kathy Boudin. He is still in prison today for his involvement in the murder during the 1981 Brinks robbery. He is serving 70 years to life.

Linda Sue Evans

Linda Sue Evans was also sentenced to prison for 40 years because of her involvement in the Brinks robbery and murder. She was also convicted of other violence. Fortunately for her, Bill Clinton commuted her sentence in 2001. She now campaigns for inmate's rights, including extending the right to vote to convicted felons. She worked with Van Jones' Ella Baker Center in the past.


Glenn Beck, June 2010 - Episode on the "Peace Flotilla"

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      BillieMorales 7 years ago

      Excellent article about the weathermen. Can't believe they got away with bombings and never went to jail.