Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence

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Penguin Publishing Group, 2016 - Radicalism - 585 pages
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From the bestselling author of "Public Enemies" and "The Big Rich," an explosive account of the decade-long battle between the FBI and the homegrown revolutionary terrorists of the 1970s. The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a stretch of time in America, roughly between 1968 and 1975, when there was on average more than one significant terrorist act in this country every week, and the FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government. The FBI's response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and it is true that in hindsight many of its efforts seem almost comically ineffectual, if not criminal in themselves. But part of the extraordinary accomplishment of Bryan Burrough's groundbreaking book is to temper those easy judgments with an understanding of just how deranged these times were, how charged with menace. Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them "nice middle-class kids," smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a courthouse in Boston, at a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. Radicals who robbed dozens of banks and assassinated policemen, in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta. The FBI's fevered response included the formation of a secret task force called Squad 47, dedicated to hunting the groups down and rolling them up. But Squad 47 itself was not overly squeamish about legal niceties, and its efforts ultimately ended in fiasco. Benefiting from the extraordinary number of people from the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, "Days of Rage" is filled with important revelations and fresh details about the major revolutionaries and their connections and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop. The result is mesmerizing and completely new--a book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s. -- Publisher description.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dickmanikowski - LibraryThing

My memory has faded over the years. Somehow, I'd forgotten just how many revolutionary leftist groups were not only publicly protesting in the America of the late 1960s and 1970s but actually bombing ... Read full review

DAYS OF RAGE: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence

User Review  - Kirkus

A stirring history of that bad time, 45-odd years ago, when we didn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing, though we knew it was loud.The 1970s, writes Vanity Fair special ... Read full review

Contents

win EGROES WITH GUNS
26
v0U SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION
55
AS TO KILLING PEOPLE WE WERE PREPARED TODO THAT
87
THE TOWNHOUSE
101
THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY
152
THE BLACKLIBERATION ARMY
173
WE GOT PRETTY SMALL
218
BLOOD IN THE STREETS OF BABYLON
236
HARD TIMES
361
WELCOME TO FEAR CITY
380
ARMED REVOLUTIONARY LOVE
407
BOMBS AND DIAPERS
425
THE FAMILY
447
JAILBREAKS AND CAPTURES
471
THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
492
THE LAST REVOLUTIONARIES
513

THE DRAGON UNLEASHED
259
PATTY HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED
284
WHAT PATTY HEARST WROUGHT
304
THE BELFAST OF NORTH AMERICA
333
EPILOGUE 537
537
A NOTE ON SOURCES 553
553
INDEX 569
569
Copyright

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About the author (2016)

01


"THE REVOLUTION AIN'T TOMORROW. IT'S NOW. YOU DIG?"

Sam Melville and the Birth of the American Underground

NEW YORK CITY | AUGUST 1969

On a drizzly Friday afternoon they drove north out of the city in a battered station wagon, six more shaggy radicals, a baby, and two dogs, heading toward a moment unlike any they had seen. Jimi. Janis. The Who. The Dead. They were like hundreds of thousands of young Americans that season, one part aimless, druggy, and hedonistic, two parts angry, idealistic, and determined to right all the wrongs they saw in 1969 America: racism, repression, police brutality, the war.

Traffic on the New York State Thruway was slow, but a pipeful of hashish and a few beers left everyone feeling fine. Ten miles from their destination, the car sagged into a traffic jam. One couple got out to walk. The girl, who was twenty-two that day, was Jane Alpert, a petite, bookish honors graduate of Swarthmore College with brunette bangs. She wrote for the Rat Subterranean News, the kind of East Village radical newspaper that published recipes for Molotov cocktails. Later, friends would describe her as "sweet" and "gentle." As she stepped from the car Alpert lifted a copy of Rat to ward off the raindrops.

Beside her trudged her thirty-five-year-old lover, Sam Melville, a rangy, broad-chested activist who wore his thinning hair dangling around his shoulders. Melville was a troubled soul, a brooder with a dash of charisma, a man determined to make his mark. Only Jane and a handful of their friends knew how he intended to do it. Only they knew about the dynamite in the refrigerator.

Slogging through the rain, they didn't reach the Woodstock festival until almost midnight. Ducking into a large tent, Jane curled up beside a stranger's air mattress and managed an hour of sleep. She found Melville the next morning wandering through the movement booths, manned by Yippies and Crazies and Black Panthers and many more. After a long day listening to music, she glimpsed him deep in conversation with one of the Crazies, a thirty-something character named George Demmerle, who could usually be found at New York demonstrations in a crash helmet and purple cape. "That George," Melville said as they left. "He really is crazy. I offered to spell him at the booth, but he said only bona fide Crazies ought to work the official booth."

"That's because he's old," Jane said. "He wants to be a twenty-year-old freak." When Melville dropped his head, Jane realized she had offended him. He and Demmerle were almost the same age.

The echoes of Jimi Hendrix's last solo could still be heard at Woodstock on Monday morning when Jane left the East Village apartment she shared with Melville and walked to work. They had been squabbling all summer and had decided to see other people. That night, though, she canceled a date and returned to the apartment to find him glumly sitting on the bed. "I thought you had a date," he said.

"I changed my mind."

"Why?"

"Because I'd rather be with you."


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