Just a few years later, though, America’s political culture had changed dramatically. Despite the movement’s historic achievements. —and the success of liberals in securing scores of other major reforms — young radicals grew impatient with the pace of change, especially in Vietnam. Peaceful protests continued, but growing numbers of militants now styled themselves revolutionaries and adopted tactics to match. Groups like Weatherman preached and carried out violence, including lethal violence, which was deemed “as American as cherry pie” by H. Rap Brown, rendering ironic the name of the group he’d come to lead, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. (Brown, who now goes by Jamil Al-Amin, is currently serving a life sentence for murder.)
Most activists stopped short of planting bombs and shooting police officers. But many still blew past the boundaries of what nearly everyone considered legitimate protest. Demonstrators not only directed chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” at President Lyndon Johnson; they also accosted officials of his administration when they set out in public. In 1967, when Secretary of State Dean Rusk tried to attend a banquet of the Foreign Policy Association in New York, a radical group called Up Against the Wall, Motherfuckers (often called “the Motherfuckers” for short) threw eggs, rocks and bags of cows’ blood, though Rusk slipped into the hotel unscathed. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was spat upon in an airport and called a baby killer; on a visit to Harvard, a hostile mob encircled his car and rocked it back and forth until police spirited him to safety via a tunnel. Antiwar radicals even tried to set fire to McNamara’s Colorado vacation home — twice. A few years later, after he’d left government, someone tried to throw him off the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.