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Initially formed as a splinter group which believed that peaceful protests were ineffective, the Weathermen were widely criticized for their use of violence as a means of social and political change.
But for the Weathermen, violent action was nothing short of necessary in a time of crisis, a last-ditch effort to grab the country’s attention.
How did the Weathermen arrive at this point? Some of the group’s former members, interviewed in THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, cite the murder of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in a December 1969 Chicago police raid as a turning point. What many believed to be a government-sanctioned killing in an effort to wipe out militant groups such as the Panthers was, for the Weathermen, the final straw.
How do you feel about what you did? Would you do it again under similar circumstances?
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.
Two thousand people a day were being murdered in Vietnam in a terrorist war, an official terrorist war… This was what was going on in our names. So we tried to resist it, tried to fight it. Built a huge mass movement, built a huge organization, and still the war went on and escalated. And every day we didn’t stop the war, two thousand people would be killed. I don’t think what we did was extreme…. We didn’t cross lines that were completely unacceptable. I don’t think so. We destroyed property in a fairly restrained level, given what we were up against.
I can iterate four or five things that I have profoundly complex feelings about. I wish that we hadn’t been hierarchical, and had a concept of leadership. I wish that I had bridged the feminist movement and the anti-war movement better than I did. I wish that we hadn’t used the language of war. You heard me saying a declaration of war. I wish we had used the language of resistance.
Obviously, we didn’t stop the war. We were part of an authentic, aroused opposition to the U.S. empire and to racism at home. Those were two issues we had a grip on…. Of course, I wish we had done better, and I wish we had stopped the war earlier, and I wish we had been more effective, and I wish we had been more unifying. Or at least fought for unity even when we couldn’t achieve it.