When the Weather Underground Went After John Briggs
Did you nearly spit our your morning orange juice in amazement like me upon reading that the Weather Underground tried to bomb the Fullerton offices of legendarily homophobic state senator John Briggs? Probably not, since I'm a nerd and you're cool. But that brief mention in this week's cover got me scrolling through the ol' Los Angeles Times microfilm at UC Irvine to learn a bit more.
Here's the skinny: on November 20, 1977, the feds arrested five Weathermen in Houston and Los Angeles just hours before they were to plant explosives in Briggs' office. It was to be the grand debut of a campaign of assassinations against politicians. The terrorist organization targeted Briggs specifically because of his anti-gay views; he was already in the process of campaign for the ultimately disastrous Proposition 6, which sought to ban homosexuals from teaching in California schools. Two FBI agents spent seven months infiltrating the Southern California faction of the Weathermen to foil the plot, ultimately arresting their former pretend pals--but not before shaving their beards and cutting their hair.
Four of them ultimately plead guilty to multiple felonies involving the planned Briggs bombing and other such plans (a fifth went to trial and was found guilty). Incredibly, all received only three-year prison sentences, and were paroled after serving just nine months. Man, how permissive were the 1970s?
One final, funny postscript: Briggs would use the bomb threat as an excuse to justify him shooting at someone in 1983 who was trying to serve him a summons for failing to pay a plumbing bill. The jury bought it.
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