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From Peace to Rage

In the fall of 1969, the leader of the Weather Underground came through Bloomington to recruit students for a street protest in Chicago--and failed to do so.

The summer of 1969 had flown the nation to the moon, revealed the dark side of “Family” life in California, and culminated in three days of peace and music in a muddy pasture in upstate New York.

By fall, the culture on college campuses from the coasts to the heartland was undoubtedly informed not only by these historic events but the deadly and controversial war in Viet Nam.

The spirit of protest mounted among student groups, which became increasingly organized, and in turn, factionalized.

Having achieved the media-grabbing shut-down of the Columbia University campus in the spring of 1968, the radical campus organization known as Students for a Democratic Society bore an offshoot calling itself the Revolutionary Youth Movement. Taking shape in the spring of 1969, this wing became infamous in its later incarnation, the Weathermen.

Before the bungled bombing that drove the Weathermen underground the following spring, the group’s leader came through Indiana in an attempt to recruit participants for an intentionally violent street demonstration in Chicago in October 1969.

Mark Rudd failed to get much support for his so-called Days of Rage when he spoke on the IU-Bloomington campus in the context of a debate with Harvard’s Les Coleman, a proponent of non-violent anti-war protest.

“If the revolutionary movement is to be maintained,” wrote one unimpressed undergrad, with a particularly Hoosier brand of aplomb, “self-appointed leaders had better curb their romantic souls.”

Extrapolating from Rudd’s example to the local level, writer Mike King of Hammond, Indiana went on to assert, “It is important, then, for Bloomington radicals who have previously subsisted on mass meetings and collected speeches to begin to know each other and work together consistently, that we might build a new community that means more than common dope and common music.”

This essay is drawn from the following source: Wynkoop, Mary Ann. Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 2002.

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