The long-awaited documentary about the Weather Underground opened Friday night in L.A.
Who were they? From the website of the film –
In October 1969 hundreds of young people, clad in football helmets and wielding lead pipes, marched through an upscale Chicago shopping district, pummeling parked cars and smashing shop windows in their path.
This was the first demonstration of the Weather Underground’s “Days of Rage.” Outraged by the Vietnam War and racism in America, the organization waged a low-level war against the U.S. government through much of the 1970s, bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history.
Many of them spent years underground, and bombed a not inconsiderable number of carefully chosen government targets. No one was ever injured or killed in their bombings. (Except for three of them who blew themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse while constructing a bomb).
The film features interviews with former members Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert Brian Flanagan, and others. Most of them were never prosecuted. Why? Because the FBI broke so many laws trying to find them that their evidence was inadmissible in court, that’s why…
The movie lets them talk, and wisely chooses not to impose a judgment. They get the context of the times quite right, and put the politics in the foreground, which is where it should be in discussing the Weather Underground. They come across as real people driven half-mad by the Vietnam War who had to invent what they were doing as they were doing it, with no clues or cues from anyplace else. A white revolutionary group in America is what they were.
Today, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers are married. He is a respected educator and author, and recently wrote Fugitive Days about their life underground. Dohrn is a professor of law. They raised Kathy Boudin’s just born son Chesa as their own when Boudin, another Weather Underground member, went to prison. He is now 22, a Rhodes scholar and a prison activist. She was just granted parole after 22 years, so Chesa will soon finally get to see his mom outside of prison.
None of them are particularly penitent about what they did. Did they make tactical and ethical blunders along the way? Sure. Would they do it again? It appears most would.
The Weather Underground believed that to do nothing while our government slaughtered and bombed in Vietnam would have been utter immorality. Which makes this a tale worth telling in these times of insane wars and invasions.