Weathermen

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The Weathermen, also known as the Weather Underground Organization, was a US-based, self-described "revolutionary organization of communist men and women" formed by members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), splintering that organization in the process. The group advocated the overthrow of the government of the United States and capitalism, and toward that end, they carried out a campaign of bombings, jailbreaks, and riots. It was active from 1969 to 1976.

The name of the group derives from the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues", which featured the lyrics, "You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows", quoted at the bottom of an influential essay in the SDS newspaper, New Left Notes.

In October 1969, they organized their first event, called the "Days of Rage" in Chicago. The opening salvo in the Days of Rage came on the night of October 6, when they blew up a statue dedicated to police casualties in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. Although the October 8 rally failed to draw as many participants as they had anticipated, the estimated three hundred who did attend shocked police by leading a riot through Chicago's business district, smashing windows and cars. Six people were shot and seventy arrested. Two smaller violent conflicts with police followed the next two nights.

In 1970, following the shooting of Black Panther Fred Hampton, the group issued a Declaration of War against the United States government, changing its name to the "weather underground organization", adopting fake identities, and pursuing covert activities only. These initially included preparations for a bombing of US military noncommissioned officers' dance at Fort Dix. But when three Underground members died in an accidental explosion while preparing the bomb in a Greenwich Village, New York City safe house, other cells reevaluated their plans and decided to pursue only non-lethal projects.

The group released a number of manifestos and declarations, while conducting a series of bombings, attacking the U.S. Capitol, The Pentagon, police and prison buildings, and the rebuilt Haymarket statue again, among other targets. They successfully broke LSD advocate Timothy Leary out of prison and transported him to Algeria. They remained largely successful at avoiding the police.

In the mid- and late 1970s, the group began dissolving, as many members turned themselves in to the police, and others moved onto other armed revolutionary groups. Very few served prison sentences, as the evidence gathered against them by the FBI's COINTELPRO program was inadmissable in court due to the illegallity of the methods used to obtain it.

Famous members of the Weather Underground include Kathy Boudin, Mark Rudd, and the still-married couple Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.

Many former Weathermen have reintegrated into society, without necessarily repudiating their original intent. Bill Ayers, now a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, said in a September 11, 2001 New York Times profile "I don't regret setting bombs,...I believe we didn't do enough."

A group that splintered off of Students for a Democratic Society in 1969, the Weather Underground was led by Bernadine Dohrn and based mostly in the Bay Area. After a bomb accidentally exploded in a New York townhome, killing three Weathermen, the faction decided against targeting human life. Instead they placed bombs in buildings of their political enemies, and called in warnings to ensure that the site was evacuated before the bombs exploded. The Weathermen were motivated by a belief that they needed to "bring the war home", that Americans needed to experience for themselves the violence of the Vietnam War in order to force revolutionary change at home. The name 'Weathermen' is taken from the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues", which advises that 'you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows'.


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