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The turbulent 60's: The Weathermen

The Weather Underground Organization (WUO), commonly known as the Weather Underground, was an American radical left-wing organization founded on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan. Originally called Weatherman, the group first organized in 1969 as a faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Their goal was to create a clandestine revolutionary movement with the aim of overthrowing the US government.

Weather Underground logo

Characterized by their revolutionary affinity with the Black power and opposition to the Vietnam War, the Weathermen conducted a string of bombings through the mid-1970s, and took part in actions such as the jailbreak of Timothy Leary. In 1970 the group issued a 'Declaration of a State of War' between the US government and the Weather Underground Organization.

The bombing attacks mostly targeted government buildings, along with several banks. Most were preceded by evacuation warnings, along with communiqués identifying the particular matter that the attack was intended to protest. No persons were killed in any of their acts of property destruction, although three members of the group were killed in the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion. The Weathermen took its name from the lyric "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", from the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues". This was also the title of a position paper distributed at the SDS convention in Chicago on June 18, 1969. This founding document called for a "white fighting force" to be allied with the "Black Liberation Movement" and other radical movements to achieve "the destruction of US imperialism and achieve a classless world: world communism". The Weathermen disintegrated after the United States reached a peace accord in Vietnam in 1973.

Kent State: The Catalyst

Kent State, 1968

The Kent State Massaacre occurred on May 4, 1970 on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio, and involved the mass shooting of college students by the Ohio National Guard . The National Guard troops fired 67 rounds and killed four students, wounding nine others including one student who suffered permanent paralysis. Some of the students shot had been protesting against the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.