Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn reflect on their radical activism as members of the Weathermen, a militant anti-war movement active throughout the 1970s, and talk about their current efforts for reform in Chicago.
0:00Copy video clip URL After showing footage of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn cooking and tending their garden at home, Elizabeth Brackett explains in voice over that they were once called “the most dangerous radicals in America”. Ayers and Dohrn were two important leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, the militant arm of the anti-war movement, and the Weathermen, an even more militant break-away group. Dohrn seems at peace with the clash between her radical roots and her life as a suburban wife. Dohrn and Ayers each wish they had done some things differently, but are unapologetic about their militant activism against war and racism.
3:40Copy video clip URL In fall of 1969, the Weathermen held “The Days of Rage,” four days of violent demonstrations in Chicago. Dohrn defends those demonstrations, saying that their violence was merely a response to the violence around them. Ayers says they were operating outside the law because “the law was acting outside the law”, and does not think their actions were uncalled for.
5:13Copy video clip URL Two Weathermen were killed while attempting to assemble a bomb in Greenwich Village, which Ayers says caused a permanent scar on the movement. After the bombings, Ayers, Dohrn, and others went underground. Over the next decade, they took credit for 25 bombings, but eventually the movement broke apart, and Dohrn and Ayers began a life together while in hiding. They turned themselves in ten years later, but federal charges were dropped because of improper FBI surveillance. Ayers doubts he would do anything differently if conditions were the same.
7:18Copy video clip URL Ayers is now a professor at UIC, and is deeply involved in school reform in Chicago, which he believes is a continuation of the “unfinished business of the 60s”. Dohrn is involved in reforming Chicago’s juvenile court system, heading the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University. Her work is highly praised by Chief Judge Donald O’Connell, who was initially skeptical of Dohrn because of her past, but her work has won him over.
10:29Copy video clip URL End of tape.