Fifty years ago, extremists bombed the seat of American democracy to end a war and start a revolution. It did neither, but it may have helped bring down a president.
By Lawrence Roberts, Politico
In the winter of 1971, you could still find vestiges of an age of innocence in Washington. The previous decade had been one of the most unstable in the country’s history, rocked by political assassinations, racial violence and explosions at public buildings. But at the U.S. Capitol, it was still easy to stroll through without having to empty your pockets or show a driver’s license. No metal detectors or security cameras. You didn’t need to join a tour. Which is why two young people who melted into the crowd of sightseers were free to scour the building for a safe spot to set their bomb.
They were members of the Weather Underground. Since 1969, the radical left group had already bombed several police targets, banks and courthouses around the country, acts they hoped would instigate an uprising against the government. Now two of these self-described revolutionaries wandered the halls with sticks of dynamite strapped under their clothing. They slipped into an unmarked marble-lined men’s bathroom one floor below the Senate chamber. They hooked up a fuse attached to a stopwatch and stuffed the device behind a 5-foot-high wall.