Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s the average American’s view of the ongoing war in Vietnam was getting worse quickly. The war had raged for almost 15 years now, and for many Americans it was time for it to end. A combination of pro-civil rights groups and left-leaning groups on Michigan college campuses lead to the creation of the Weather Underground, a militant and radical left-leaning group.
After the initial 1968 election, tensions on the war were high. Politicians using the war’s failure as a tool to get them elected claiming they would end it made the American populace fully aware of how bad the situation really was, allowing groups like the Weather Underground to get supporters. Although consisting mostly of “hippies” and somewhat moderate liberals, the organization quickly devolved into a armed group of anti-war communists who pushed their political views through violence. This involved at first symbolic attacks, such as the bombing of the Haymarket Police Memorial which was dedicated to the loss of police in the Haymarket bombings. The Weather Underground showed dedication and good organization, as they did this three times as the local police kept rebuilding the memorial after each bombing. Next the Weather Underground organized a riot called the “Days of Rage” in which 300 or so members of the group rioted in the streets of the Gold Coast Neighborhood, smashing cars and a bank. Eventually the police arrived to fight off the protesters, which involved ramming cop cars into the protesters and shooting some. 28 police were injured while six weathermen were shot to death and 68 arrested. Later on the Weather Underground attacked a Supreme Court Justice presiding over a Black Panther case by throwing molotov cocktails at him. The Weather Underground then attacked his house, throwing molotov cocktails at his second floor. Finally the biggest crime the Weather Underground committed was their attack on the Pentagon, which involved bombing the women’s bathrooms in the building causing mass flooding and the loss of hundreds of classified documents.
After the Vietnam War had ended, the organization had only enjoyed one more year of relevance, as the group had gone from trying to end the war to outright support of Marxism and the establishment of communism in the United States as their final goal. Ironically, the group dissolved entirely when black and latino members accused the white members of holding all the power, ending the group after it splintered into many groups based on race. Although some groups later attempted to use the name and commit crimes under the label, there was no real organized group.
As a society today we can learn from this organizations’ exploits in the Vietnam era. Groups exist in the far-left such as Antifa who have riots and attack police like the Weather Underground members did, and although people argue that this will get the government to do something in reality violence will only make the government crack down harder. If we are to push for what we want in government we must raise awareness and have mass strikes or other peaceful means of protest.
Article by Sie Arciszewski
Ayers, Bill. “Weather Underground Redux.” Bill Ayers, 27 Mar. 2007, billayers.org/2006/04/20/weather-underground-redux/.