The Brinks Truck Robbery
January 24, 2007 12:40 PM   Subscribe

As radicals of the 60s tried to find their place in the aftermath of Vietnam, former members of the Weather Underground, and former Black Panthers who were still dedicated to militant action were, in part due to COINTELPRO, increasingly marginal. Some joined the Black Liberation Army or other radical cells. In New York, a few activists who had recently spearheaded the use of accupuncture to treat drug addiction set out to fund an independent nation of New Afrika (although the money may have been feeding the leaderships' growing drug addictions). The Brinks truck robbery ended terribly. 3 men were killed. A number of the actors are still in prison (including Tupac's step-father). Some are gone. The child of two of the players was left without his parents to raise him. In retrospect, their tactics were questionable at best. But those who are concerned with making real change in the world can at least try to learn from the past.
posted by serazin (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In related news one of the men convicted in the robbery is now a suspect in the 30+ year old killing of a San Francisco police officer.
posted by serazin at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2007

Also, sorry, I forgot to spellcheck.
posted by serazin at 12:53 PM on January 24, 2007

The Weathermen were a rich-kid assholes. If you were there, you'd know. "Those who are concerned with making real change in the world," might want to consider joining the world. Have a kid. That's a huge change. Get a job and do it well. 'Nother big change. Start and life and family... that's the biggest and most important change anyone is likely to make in the world. That's what I've learned from a past that is very like some of the pasts that are described here. Weathermen... give me a break.
posted by Faze at 1:15 PM on January 24, 2007

Whoo, lots of neat links here, thanks. I find all this stuff very fascinating.

Also, sort of related - the story of Joseph Pannell, who was arrested at gunpoint outside the Toronto Reference Library a few years ago, accused of being a former Black Panther responsible for the 1969 shooting of a Chicago police officer.

Anybody know whatever became of Mr. Pannell BTW? Google News gets no hits.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2007

I find "learn from the past" an ironic text for the last link, which seems to be a pathetic attempt to justify the violent tactics of the WU. The last paragraph is:
But that doesn’t mean those tactics will never again be part of the way movements express themselves. They emerged in the ’60s and ’70s not just from a sense of frustration, but from a palpable feeling that another world was really being created and that these tactics could hasten its existence. The frustration is readily apparent today, but the sense that those tactics are necessary to help create change is not there.
In other words, "Fuck learning from the past! Let's blow shit up!" (I may be misinterpreting; it's not the most clearly written thing I've ever read.)

Also, no need to apologize for spelling when the link itself talks about the WU having "solidarity, not violence, in their harts."
posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2007

Yeah, that's one way to look at it Faze. And, as a father with a young family, I'm walking that walk myself. But just imagine if, instead of a dozen or so people, the Weathermen had been hundreds? Or thousands?

Things would undoubtedly be very different now.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:26 PM on January 24, 2007

I watched a very interesting documentary on the Weather Underground a few years ago. In it, I learned that Mark Rudd was teaching at a local college here in New Mexico. I thought that was pretty neat.
Cool post, thanks!
posted by eparchos at 1:44 PM on January 24, 2007


Speaking as a Marxist, that's a fantasy, and an unproductive and harmful fantasy at that. Real change, even revolutionary change, isn't accomplished by people blowing stuff up. You have to build a real movement, not look for shortcuts and get-rich-quick schemes, that is the largest, deepest and most democratic movement ever seen in this country. And then you can think about directly confronting the authorities. But you can't build a mass movement by blowing up buildings and monuments.
posted by graymouser at 1:44 PM on January 24, 2007

So... surely you have this critical mass now regarding Iraq, graymouser.

The next step in "confronting the authorities" would be...

A letter writing campaign? Pressure on Congress? I ask because most people apparently did not get the memo.

I think groups like the WU get far too wrapped up in the whole "shaking people out of their apathy" schtick. Which I can completely empathize with, given the times we're living in right now. The thing they forget, however, is that moderates always gravitate away from extreme action. You might wake them up, just enough to denounce your cause or at the very least your methods.
posted by dreamsign at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2007

Speaking as a Marxist, that's a fantasy, and an unproductive and harmful fantasy at that.

Well, also speaking as a Marxist here, I'm not sure about that. I personally don't believe that violent change is the best form of change, but it certainly can bring attention to issues. The only problem with that is that you run the risk of having your issue marginalized if you are considered an extremist.
I think the best method is a combination of a massive public sympathy to your cause and a few radical extremists basically willing to martyr themselves in order to bring the issue to a head. Otherwise, the public sympathy can be waited out or the radicals can be weeded out. I don't think either method would work by itself.
Look at the civil rights movement in the US. There were a few radical, violent folks involved in that movement, and they helped bring it to a head, along with the massive public sympathy behind the movement to begin with.
posted by eparchos at 2:04 PM on January 24, 2007

Personally I think suicide bombing is a worthwhile approach, if only because the bomber won't have listen to the bitching afterward.

The unrepentant and still unbought "radicals" are the only boomers I want to hear from. Even a Charlie Manson is better than a busload of Big Children [<- pun alert].
posted by davy at 2:29 PM on January 24, 2007

"Real change, even revolutionary change, isn't accomplished by people blowing stuff up. "

posted by docgonzo at 3:42 PM on January 24, 2007

Oh, and this post was worth it for the Balagoon info; I'd never heard of the fellow, and it was quite interesting. Thanks.
posted by docgonzo at 3:43 PM on January 24, 2007

"Real change, even revolutionary change, isn't accomplished by people blowing stuff up. "


Really. Look under R for Revolution and Reaction. Especially reaction. It's the historic argument of marxists against isolated acts of terrorism. Those who want reaction are those who carry out such attacks.
posted by vbfg at 5:01 AM on January 25, 2007

Perhaps another look at right wing violence in the 50's, 60's, and 70's...and ? would be intructive.
posted by aiq at 6:40 AM on January 25, 2007

Interesting debate about the appropriate use of violence, although in this particular case, no one planned to kill anyone, they were simply trying to 'expropriate' money to further the cause of building a New Afrika. Part of building New Afrika would have, theoretically, involved creating a large, grassroots support base.

As so often happens, things did not go as planned, and 3 men were killed. One of the expropriators/robbers was killed shortly after by police. And now most of the players are sitting in prison.
posted by serazin at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2007

It makes me sad that we can use "rich kid" with invective equal to "kid assholes."
posted by avriette at 5:53 PM on January 25, 2007

It makes me sad that we can use "rich kid" with invective equal to "kid assholes."

Why? On top of all the other advantages they enjoy, they should also be immune from prejudice? Obviously there are plenty of rich kids who are perfectly good human beings, and I deplore prejudice against any class of human beings (no, "murderers" is not the kind of class I mean, obviously), but really, you can't expect people to view with equanimity the presence of people in their midst who will never know the kinds of fears and problems that non-rich people deal with every day. Yes, yes, they have problems too, and all humans are of equal intrinsic value (as I just said in another thread), but surely having "rich kid" said in a nasty way is way down the list of those problems, and (I would have thought) way down on the list of things that could possibly make anyone sad.
posted by languagehat at 5:38 AM on January 26, 2007

vbfg: I have a feeling ObL et al. are quite satisfied with the real and revolutionary -- to them -- change they've brought about.
posted by docgonzo at 6:41 PM on January 27, 2007

I dare say they are, given that it has produced the REACTION that they want and all actors in the drama are now fulfilling THEIR party line according to THEIR propoganda. It will make their opportunities for REVOLUTION easier as greater numbers of people are subjected to that REACTION.

Show me the revolution that has thus far happened though. I see none at all.
posted by vbfg at 3:50 AM on January 28, 2007

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