Excerpt from WIN
Women's International Net Magazine
Issue 42 (Part B), April 2001
THE UNREPENTANT RADICAL
By Ed Rampell, United States
Linda Evans served 16 years in a U.S. prison for being a violent
revolutionary. Recently pardoned by Bill Clinton, she still holds the same
"Oppressed people around the world have the right to fight for
liberation by any means...to use armed struggle in their own defense to win
self-determination," she says. "Certainly it's the U.S. and other
governments which are inflicting violence on the Earth."
Evans was a former member of the Weather Underground and comrade of the
Black Liberation Army -- two terrorist organizations. She was
eventually convicted of arms trafficking and the 1983 bombing of the U.S.
Senate's cloakroom, near the office of Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, in
Evans' release from her 40-year sentence was among the 177 pardons,
many of them controversial, granted by former President Bill Clinton
before he left office in early January. Two other female revolutionaries
were also pardoned: Patty Hearst, a California heiress kidnapped by the
terrorist Symbionese Liberation Army [SLA] in the 1970s, who participated
in criminal actions such as a bank robbery, and Evans' comrade Susan
Rosenberg, charged with conspiracy in the 1981 robbery of a Brink's armored
truck in New York during which two police officers and a security guard
But Evans is unimpressed by these pardons since she believes that
Clinton overlooked many political prisoners whom richly deserve freedom.
This includes former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal, American Indian
activist Leonard Peltier, convicted in connection to a 1970s shoot-out that
left FBI agents dead on an Indian reservation, longtime black militant H.
Rap Brown, convicted, many believe unfairly, of killing a sheriff's deputy
in Atlanta, and SLA activist Sara Jane Olsen.
"My own personal feeling is that the FBI has something against Clinton
or Hillary that they used as a threat against him," she maintains.
"That caused him to ignore the tremendous upsurge of support for Leonard's
pardon. . . . . There are almost 100 political prisoners inside U.S. state
and federal prisons. All of them deserve release, most were community
activists framed on various charges. Almost all have done more than two
decades in prison. Even under plain human rights standards they should be
released. It's unconscionable that they haven't been. Lots are ex-[Black]
Panthers. It's time for them to come home."
Evans adds, "I am definitely going to continue to be a political
activist. I intend to work very hard for the release of political
WIN interviewed Evans following a Los Angeles media event in support of
another convicted female activist -- American Lori Berenson who is
serving a life sentence in Peru on charges that she was an upper-echelon
member of a violent Marxist group. [For an article on Berenson see
"Terrorist or Do-Gooder?" WIN 16
<http://winmagazine.org/issues/issue16/win16e.htm>]. Although the
conditions of Evan's parole hold that she is not supposed to leave Northern
California, she was given permission to finish her masters in global
economics at a Southern California university having finished her BA in
To some, this 54-year-old is a mad bomber. To others, she is a new left
stalwart, who kept the sixties spirit alive and paid an inordinately
high price for doing so. She calls the terrorist attacks in which she was
involved "symbolic" gestures, not really designed to hurt people. They
included the bombing of the FBI building in New York to protest grand jury
abuses by the government, two bombings at the Washington Navy Yard in
support of Puerto Rican independence and the bombing of the U.S. War
College, to protest U.S. intervention in other countries' internal
The incident that led to her conviction -- the bombing of the Capitol
Building to protest both the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the bombing of
Lebanon by U.S. warships -- ended up only damaging a painting.
"I want to make clear that, in terms of these actions, and the reason
that I call them `symbolic,' is that they were designed to be propaganda
actions, to draw attention to U.S. policies. They took place late at
night. There were warning calls sent and received in every single case,
and no one was injured in any of the actions," Evans said.
So how did a nice, midwestern girl become an armed and dangerous
revolutionary? She was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Her father, who died in
1995, was a general contractor and her mother a teacher and homemaker.
"I'm a corn-fed girl," Evans says with a laugh. "From being in prison
16 years I really witnessed the damage that abusive childhoods bring to
people, women in particular. So I consider myself very, very lucky to
have had a loving family. My parents were never divorced. They both
visited me the entire time I was in prison....They were both Republicans --
which I think is kind of interesting. But I actually attribute my own
political morality to some of the values with which I was raised, in terms
of compassion, a really fierce belief to the right of equality of all
people, and a desire for justice."
Like many of her "Flower Power" generation, the civil rights and
anti-war movements politicized -- and radicalized -- Evans. She attended
Michigan State University as a prestigious merit scholar. In 1967,
African-American students took over the university's administration
building demanding a black studies program, more black professors, and open
admissions. This made an indelible impression on the white Midwesterner, as
did a field trip to Detroit's inner city.
"I was appalled, really overwhelmed, by the conditions in which black
people had to live in the ghetto... It really changed my life in some
very basic ways. I couldn't accept, or reconcile, the gap between the
life I was being directed into as a privileged white person in our
society, with the poverty and suffering I witnessed," Evans remembers.
Her "second seminal experience" was the war in Vietnam. She says her
university's involvement in training the secret police for Diem's Saigon
regime led to the resignation of Michigan State's president, further
spurring her radicalization.
Evans joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a national,
leftist university-based group, and traveled throughout Ohio and Michigan
trying to build activism against the war and racism. As part of the
national SDS organization she traveled to Vietnam in 1969 with a delegation
from the peace movement that also included renowned women's activist and
author Grace Paley. The trip's purpose was to receive P.O.Ws [prisoners of
war] being released by the Vietnamese as a gesture of friendship to the
The delegation stayed in northern Vietnam for 21 days. They traveled as
far as the border with the south.
"I'd say that trip really changed my life," Evans muses. "Because I
witnessed what the U.S. had done to Vietnam, in terms of 24-hour carpet
bombing, and the incredible resistance of the Vietnamese people, and
their determination to win independence and self-determination, and how a
people could be involved in war and yet remain incredibly gentle and
affirmative in terms of their vision of the future, and their desire for a
cooperative economy and society."
Returning to America, Evans joined the Weathermen, also known as the
Weather Underground, a terrorist offshoot of SDS named after a Bob Dylan
lyric. She was first indicted in the 1969's "Days of Rage" action in
Chicago -- a Weathermen-led militant action to protest the war in
Indochina and challenge hard-line Chicago Mayor Daley -- for crossing state
lines to incite a riot. She defended herself in court from 1970-1972 for
this and then again in Detroit where she was charged with transporting
firearms across state lines. Both charges were eventually dropped due to
illegal wiretapping orders signed by then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, she
says. However, Evans did serve three months behind bars for her involvement
in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania anti-war demonstration.
As the political ferment of the late sixties and early seventies ebbed,
Evans moved to Austin, Texas, where she continued her activism against
apartheid in South Africa and the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, and
for the Latino Brown Berets and Central American liberation struggles.
She also opposed a law proposed in the Texan legislature for forced
sterilization of women on welfare, and did pro-choice work, defending
"So, I was very much an activist in the women's liberation and the
lesbian movements," Evans points out.
In 1982, Evan was subpoenaed by the Grand Jury in connection to the
Brinks robbery in New York. So she went underground in order "to build a
clandestine capability to resist the U.S. government through armed
struggle," Evans asserts. In addition to the Black Liberation Army, Evans
had ties to the Revolutionary Fighting Group and the Red Guerrilla
Resistance. -- underground militant terrorist groups. Two years after the
Capitol Hill bombing, she was arrested on May 11, 1985 -- her birthday.
At first, Evans was imprisoned in county jails in various states, where
she organized fellow female prisoners against what she regarded as
barbaric conditions. She was once put into solitary confinement for
allegedly inciting a riot in a New Orleans jail. Evans served the bulk of
her sentence at SCI-Dublin, near Oakland, California.
Although Evans didn't make any donations to the Democratic Party or the
Clinton Library -- unlike others Clinton pardoned - there was a
lobbying campaign for her release. Among those writing letters on her
behalf was the Louisiana judge who had sentenced her, one of her
prosecutors, more than 100 letters from members of the community and 12
Congressmen. She believes that the disproportionality of her sentence -
which Clinton stated was a standard for pardons -- also convinced the
outgoing chief executive to pardon her.
After such a long time behind bars, Evans is "disoriented" by being on
the outside. But other things haven't changed, she asserts. Regarding
President George W. Bush, Evans proclaims:
"I think we're in big trouble, and we have to resist his policies, and
build a really strong, broad resistance movement to oppose him in the
most effective ways we can by mobilizing people to do everything we can
think of to stop him. He's a dangerous man and a serial killer," the
former Texas resident states, referring to Bush's death penalty record
while Texas governor.
Expect this unrepentant radical to be part of that resistance.
Ed Rampell is a WIN Correspondent who lives in California.
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