[sixties-l] Graying Radicals Are Facing New Ire in America (fwd)

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    Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 15:54:43 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Graying Radicals Are Facing New Ire in America


    Graying Radicals Are Facing New Ire in America

    Recent arrests in the 27-year-old SLA robbery are raising concerns for
    other ex-activists.


    January 28 2002

    Their hair is thinner and their girth broader. Their lifestyles tend more
    to the minivan and gardening than to any utopian fantasies favoring the
    overthrow of what they used to call Amerika.

    Oh, and there's one more thing the graying lions of the radical left share
    in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the arrests of four former members of the
    bumbling, trigger-happy Symbionese Liberation Army: a growing disquiet that
    it could be open season on countercultural figures of the Vietnam era,
    whether they were involved in serious crimes or not.

    The long-buried divisions that tore at society 30 years ago, they fear, are
    resurfacing. "At what point do they say, 'We better start rounding up the
    old activists?'" worried John Buttny, 63, a onetime member of the
    Weathermen organization, who now lives outside Santa Barbara and works for
    a member of that county's Board of Supervisors. Since the terror attacks,
    Buttny's old FBI file has been circulated by political enemies to the local
    media. "I have often remarked to friends that the '60s were nowhere near
    this repressive," said Buttny. He now recalls almost fondly how, as a young
    radical in Boulder, Colo., he used to joke with FBI agents when they came
    to buy his left-wing literature.

    Karl Armstrong, who spent eight years behind bars for blowing up a U.S.
    Army research building in 1970 at the University of Wisconsin, killing a
    researcher, is now facing a boycott of his sandwich shop, Radical Rye, in
    Madison. "I thought it was unfair," he said of the boycott called by a
    conservative radio talk-show host. "But I figure it's all just part of the

    And then there's Weathermen stalwart Bill Ayers, who admits in his new
    book, "Fugitive Days," to playing a role in blowing up a restroom at the
    Pentagon in 1972. Ayers, who is married to former radical Bernardine Dohrn,
    canceled his book tour after Sept. 11 and issued a statement defending the
    work as "a condemnation of terrorism in all its forms."

    "It would be preposterous," said Ayers, an education professor at the
    University of Illinois at Chicago, "to use [the book] now to suggest that
    any of the Vietnam-era protesters would endorse acts of terrorism such as
    those we witnessed."

    Dohrn, once dubbed by J. Edgar Hoover "la pasionara of the lunatic left,"
    has been the focus of a protest by alumni at Northwestern University, where
    she teaches law. Some have threatened to withhold financial support if she
    isn't removed. Law school dean David Van Zandt has so far stood behind her,
    saying she has expressed an "abhorrence for violence."

    Some of the old radicals say they can't understand the arrest of the SLA
    members last week, all these years later, unless there is a political
    agenda attached.

    "I assume [authorities] didn't prosecute before because they didn't have a
    case," said Marshall Berzon, once part of a Weathermen collective in Boston
    that was arrested en masse and accused of shooting up the Cambridge, Mass.,
    police station three decades ago. "There is a significant segment of the
    population today that lumps people like William and Emily Harris in with
    John Walker [Lindh] and Osama bin Laden."

    Fellow activist Mark Rudd, accused by the FBI of leading the riots at
    Columbia University in 1968 and who spent seven years underground, said he
    is confused by the SLA arrests these many years later. "They were living
    openly, right?" said Rudd, who now teaches at a community college in New

    Prosecutors say there is nothing suspicious about the arrests now. They say
    the investigation of Sara Jane Olson in connection with a plot to blow up
    Los Angeles police cars provided new evidence on the 1975 Carmichael bank

    However it came about, Rudd is right. William and Emily Harris were not
    hiding in some bunker or donning sunglasses when they went to the market.
    Hoping their radical pasts had receded in the cultural rearview mirror,
    along with the mod shirt and white man's Afro that William Harris once
    sported, they had settled into numbingly normal lives.

    Emily Harris, now known as Emily Montague, lived on a quiet street in
    Altadena and worked as a computer analyst. Her former husband has worked as
    a private detective in San Francisco and at times as an investigator for
    the district attorney's office. He was driving his two sons to school when
    he was arrested for a robbery that netted $15,000 and took the life of
    Myrna Opsahl, who had been depositing church receipts during the 1975 robbery.

    Fellow defendant Michael Bortin has owned a hardwood flooring business in
    Portland, Ore., for 20 years. His sister-in-law, Olson, married a doctor
    and lived as a Midwestern housewife while on the lam for more than two
    decades. Olson, who was sentenced Jan. 18 to 20 years to life for her role
    in the police car bomb plot, will also face murder charges in connection
    with Opsahl's death.

    Even though Patricia Hearst wrote a book implicating the four defendants in
    the robbery, three Sacramento County district attorneys felt there was not
    enough evidence to file charges. But after Sept. 11, some say, things changed.

    "The difference is being attacked in your own country changes everything,"
    said Buttny, a founder of the Students for a Democratic Society chapter in
    Boulder. "I feel absolutely helpless," he said. "There is a huge fishing
    expedition going on."

    Buttny attended the 1969 Flint, Mich., "War Council" that led members of
    the Weathermen group to go into hiding. They later resurfaced as the
    bomb-making Weather Underground. Buttny said he dropped out of radical
    politics after being arrested 15 times during demonstrations. The next
    arrest, he felt, would bring a long prison sentence.

    "One of our slogans," he said, "was to bring the war home. By that we meant
    agitating to stop the Vietnam War. As soon as I saw [the attacks on the
    World Trade Center] that phrase popped into my mind."

    If Osama bin Laden brought war to America, Buttny thinks he is suffering
    the collateral damage. He is a deputy to Santa Barbara County Supervisor
    Gail Marshall, who is now embroiled in a recall movement launched by people
    questioning her--and Buttny's--patriotism. Critics accuse her of opposing a
    salute to the flag at a community meeting, which she denies.

    As the war of words escalated in Santa Barbara County, Buttny's old FBI
    file surfaced. It said Buttny trained in guerrilla warfare methods abroad
    with the goal of infiltrating government. He denies planning to overthrow
    the government, but he admits he once liked to joke that he'd accomplished
    his secret mission by going to work for the county. He's not laughing any
    more. "I find myself with e-mails and phone calls being careful" what he
    says. "I don't joke about something that might be taken the wrong way."

    Measured against the horror of Sept. 11, some of the violence in the late
    '60s and early '70s seems almost quaint, but at the time, the bombing of a
    restroom at the Pentagon shocked "Laugh In"-era America.

    Violence peaked with an explosion at a Weather Underground bomb factory in
    New York in 1970, which killed three members of the group. "I was in Cuba
    when the townhouse blew up," said Berzon, who now lives in the Berkeley
    Hills and has an 11-year-old son. "That changed everything. We realized
    this is real."

    Although the Weather Underground never killed anyone but its own members
    with its bombs, that wasn't true the same year in Madison, where the Army
    Mathematics Research Center was bombed. A man working inside was killed.

    "We felt really bad about someone dying and we were never able to reconcile
    it," said Armstrong, who was not affiliated with the more well-known
    radical groups. "It was the farthest thing from our minds. We knew even if
    anyone got hurt in the bombing it would be politically counterproductive."

    The SLA burst into prominence three years later, with the murder of Oakland
    school Supt. Marcus Foster and the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Hearst,
    who morphed into the gun-toting, beret-wearing Tania.

    In her 1982 book, "Every Secret Thing," Hearst described the Carmichael
    robbery, during which, she said, Olson, then Kathleen Soliah, emptied the
    tills while Emily Harris stood guard and William Harris waited outside.
    Opsahl was killed when, Hearst said, Emily Harris' shotgun went off
    accidentally. "She was a bourgeois pig anyway," Emily Harris reportedly said.

    Six members of the SLA, including its leader, Donald DeFreeze, died in a
    spectacular firefight in Los Angeles in 1974.

    After leaving prison, Armstrong reclaimed a semblance of a normal life in
    1980, and these days tends his shop, as well as a performance space above
    his Madison eatery. Called Che's Lounge, it is named for Che Guevara, the
    Argentine revolutionary, who is still among his cultural heroes, Armstrong

    "It's the last thing I thought I'd be doing," Armstrong, 55, said by phone
    from his shop, where customers and employees interrupted, and the sounds of
    soft reggae wafted in the background. "When you run a small business, you
    develop a storekeeper's mentality. You have a different set of concerns.
    Now, I have to fire people. In a restaurant, if I catch someone with drugs,
    they're out the door. I'm personally opposed to the whole war on drugs, but
    running a business is a whole different shtick."

    All the Madison bombers had lived as fugitives for several years, but only
    one, Leo Burt, remains at large. Sightings of him have become folklore.
    Friends of Burt from that era, including Armstrong, declined to talk about him.

    "First of all, I don't know where he is and I wouldn't want to know where
    he is," said Armstrong. "And if I did find out, I wouldn't tell."

    As for other notable extremists, two other SLA members, Russell Little and
    Joseph Remiro, were arrested in connection with the Foster slaying. Remiro
    remains in prison; Little was retried and acquitted. San Francisco attorney
    Stuart Hanlon said Little works as a teacher outside California and has "a
    wonderful life." Hanlon refused to say where he is.

    Berzon said it will be hard for a contemporary jury to understand the
    context of these decades-old crimes. "The legal system doesn't recognize
    political crimes. I think it should be recognized that however misguided
    [SLA members were], they were acting out of a deep sense of wanting to do
    something good. Although the same thing could be said for bin Laden,
    couldn't it?"

    After being cleared of the Cambridge shooting, which he called a police
    setup, and his return from Cuba, Berzon dropped out of the movement. Today,
    he's not politically active, which he considers a personal failure. "Family
    life is hard enough," he said.

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