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The Source: When Domestic Terror Was Blasé

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An American culture where bombs were considered normal is difficult to imagine. But thanks to groups like the SLA and Weathermen Underground, that was the reality of the late 60s and early 70s.

These groups organized as a reaction to the unsuccessful movements of 1967 and 1968. In 1969, with failed dreams and a harsh new president, frustrated protesters decided it was time to go to the “next level.” Instead of marches, demonstrations took the form of bombings, kidnappings, and police assassinations. Seven main groups worked under this belief that violence was the only way to make a difference. These activists believed that America was on the brink of revolution and that their protests would help bring about the change they badly wanted.

Author Bryan Burrough’s new book, Days of Rage, explores these different groups, their goals, and their tactics. Though the groups used violence as a tool and were responsible for some deaths, Burrough avoids using the term “terrorist.” Instead using bombs to kill, the groups typically warned buildings ahead of time to allow for evacuation. It all came down to attracting attention to the issues groups wanted to change, including protesting police and the Vietnam War. The bombs acted as “explosive press releases” and were typically meant to focus the public eye on statements groups would release.

Nixon “all but sent in the National Guard” and protesters like BernadineDohrn were included on FBI Most Wanted Lists. Even so, most avoided jail time. Due to the short statute of limitations on bombings, many are still free today.

Guest: 

  • Bryan Burrough, author of Days of Rage