William Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground and currently a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke last night at Brandeis University. As I flipped channels last night I saw Fox 25 News report that there were protesters outside the venue.
The reporter then said something about the connection between Ayers and the 1970 bank robbery in Brighton that left Boston Police officer Walter Schroeder dead. This often-repeated tale is just not true, and either the Fox 25 reporter didn't bother to confirm his facts before reporting them or he knew anyway and repeated the accusation to add more controversy to the story.
Such inaccuracy by a major news organization is unacceptable and it leads to people getting angry about matters they've been misled on. I'm guessing that most of the protesters thought that Ayers was connected to Shroeder's death -- or even that he was part of the robbery. In the Globe story one of the demonstrators was quoted as saying of Ayers that "his actions were instrumental in the bombing and killing of an untold number of people." Huh? What bombing? What people? Do you even know what "untold people" means?
Those who committed the Brighton robbery -- Susan Saxe, Katherine Ann Power, William Gilday, Robert Valeri and Stanley Ray Bond -- all eventually served time, and Gilday, who pulled the trigger, is still behind bars.
The group, angry at America's involvement in Vietnam, was trying to raise money to arm the Black Panthers and overthrow the US government. Ayers and the other Weatherman were also willing to go to extremes to protest the war, and they set off several bombs in the early 1970s. Their activities resulted in two deaths -- a pair of the group's members accidentally blew themselves up while making bombs in New York City.
Charges against Ayers were eventually dropped, and last year the lead federal prosecutor against the group wrote, "Although I dearly wanted to obtain convictions against all the Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, I am very pleased to learn that he has become a responsible citizen." This doesn't mean that people shouldn't protest against Ayers if they are so inclined, only that responsible organs of the news media must always have their facts straight before reporting them.