Patch #252: Weather Underground

Patch #252Weather Underground

Formed as a splinter group from the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weather Underground were a radical, militant organization formed in 1969 to be a white ally group for Black liberation and to oppose unchecked U.S. imperialism in Laos, Vietnam, and Korea. Breaking into an FBI building, the Weather Underground proved the ongoing existence of COINTELPRO, an illegal aspect of government spying and infiltration to push radical groups towards extremism and militarism in order to discredit them. As a result, the Weather Underground members largely avoided lengthy prison sentences because the government could not catch them without violating its own laws. Far from perfect, the group bombed banks, the Pentagon, the U.S. Capital, and other government buildings and did suffer human casualties, including some of their own members. The Weather Underground also broke LSD experimenter Timothy Leary out of prison, who went on to become an FBI informant about the group, and to organize the Days of Rage, to protest the trial of the Chicago Eight, where organizers of the Democratic National Convention protest were charged with conspiracy to riot for expressing their rights to free speech. Despite being some of the FBI's Most Wanted in 1974, the government dropped charges because pursuing the members' crimes would reveal foreign intelligence secrets. The Weather Underground's real legacy, while imperfect, is demonstrating the government's illegal targeting of civil rights leaders, labor rights organizations, and the broader left wing, finding hundreds of pages documenting acts of intimidation and disinformation by the FBI, as well as attempts to erode public support for popular movements.