Laura Whitehorn was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, in April 1945. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1966, and later earned a master’s degree from Brandeis University. She also was an open lesbian.
In October 1969, Whitehorn, who has described herself as a “revolutionary anti-imperialist,” took part in the infamous “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago, where the demonstrators’ explicit objective was to “Bring the [Vietnam] War Home” by causing chaos in the streets — smashing store windows, vandalizing cars, and attacking police officers — and to thereby promote anti-war sentiment among the American public. Arrested for her participation in the riots, Whitehorn was later tried and convicted on charges of mob action and aggravated assault.
In the late 1960s as well, Whitehorn joined the Students for a Democratic Society‘s Weatherman faction, which subsequently evolved into the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), a revolutionary terrorist group that advocated the violent overthrow of the American government.
In 1971 Whitehorn organized 400 women to protest the Vietnam War by occupying Harvard University’s administration buildings. Also in the ’70s, she joined the WUO; was affiliated with the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, WUO’s publishing arm; and helped found the Madame Binh Graphics Collective, a radical art group.
After the WUO’s disintegration in the late 1970s, Whitehorn joined yet another domestic terror outfit — the May 19th Communist Organization (M19CO), which served as a support group for the Black Liberation Army, an ultra-violent splinter faction of the Black Panther Party. M19CO also worked in conjunction with the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a Marxist terror group responsible for approximately 120 bombings in Chicago, Washington, and the New York City area. M19CO also went by such names as the Revolutionary Fighting Group, the Armed Resistance Unit, and the Red Guerrilla Resistance.
In 1985 Whitehorn and several fellow revolutionaries — including Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg — were arrested for having conspired to detonate explosives inside a number of government buildings between 1982-85. Most notable was their November 7, 1983 bombing of the U.S. Capitol, which was carried out as an act of protest against the Reagan administration’s recent invasion of Grenada. They also had bombed three additional sites in Washington: the National War College at Fort. McNair, the Computer Center at the Washington Navy Yard, and the Navy Yard’s Officer’s Club. Additionally, Whitehorn and her accomplices had bombed four sites in New York City: the Staten Island Federal Building, the Israeli Aircraft Industries Building, the South African consulate, and the offices of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. In May 1988, Whitehorn, who had been incarcerated ever since her arrest, was formally indicted for her participation in the aforementioned bombings. She subsequently pled guilty in a September 1990 federal trial and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On August 6, 1999, Whitehorn was released on parole.
Upon regaining her freedom, Whitehorn, casting herself as a former “political prisoner,” became popular as a guest lecturer on college campuses across the United States. Regarding her complicity in the 1980s bombings, she said, “I’m unrepentant. I’m proud of my motives.” “I don’t really even care that much whether people think I’m a terrorist or not,” added Whitehorn. “These labels have everything to do with your own politics and not much with what the people do.” By contrast, Whitehorn characterized America’s historical involvement in foreign wars as blatant acts of “terrorism.”
When former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers came under substantial media scrutiny in 2008 because of his longstanding ties to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, Whitehorn was one of many college professors, students, and academic staffers who signed a statement condemning “the demonization” of Ayers.
Whitehorn wrote the introduction for a 2010 book about the black radical Safiya Bukhari, titled The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther. Therein, Whitehorn praised the Panthers for having given “hope” to many “oppressed peoples”; for having tried to “make a revolution” aimed at “bringing down the empire”; and for having been “the catalyst of liberation, not only for Black people but for all progressive activists.”
A harsh critic of Israeli policies, Whitehorn has been a vocal supporter of Palestinians whom Israeli authorities have incarcerated for terrorist activities. By Whitehorn’s telling, such inmates are “political prisoners.” When she was invited in 2014 to speak at an event hosted by the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, Whitehorn said, “I would like to change the name to ‘Open Condemnation of Zionism’.”
Whitehorn is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. In 2016 she was part of a delegation that traveled to the Palestinian territories “to pressure the United States to stop funding Israeli crimes against humanity,” and to draw attention to “the struggle for a free Palestine as a central struggle in the worldwide movement against U.S. imperialism.”
Whitehorn maintains that under the American criminal-justice system, many people are “just locked up because they’re black or because they were poor and they got involved in low-level crimes.” “Rather than slaughtering Black people outright,” she said in 2016, “the prison system carries out genocide through political repression.” Building upon this theme in 2017, Whitehorn stated: “I think of the ways in which the prison system as a tool of repression for the capitalist system enables capitalism and imperialism to continue by preventing resistance, not only now of the black population but also of other resistant populations, especially Latinos, Native Americans, and radicals.”
Whitehorn has described the United States as a “most violent country” whose “armed forces and … technological forces kill millions of people all the time and create havoc in societies around the world.” In light of those very large American transgressions, Whitehorn deems it absurd to brand someone as “a violent terrorist” simply for “throw[ing] a little Molotov cocktail through the window of a bank [that] doesn’t hurt a fly.” Because of the nuances inherent in “this whole question of who gets to decide what violence is legitimate,” Whitehorn has exhorted her ideological comrades to vigorously “defend our [political] prisoners.”
When Congress in 2018 passed legislation that increased the legal penalty for anyone targeting law-enforcement officers with violence, Whitehorn mocked the bill as nothing more than “another police attack on black lives.”