1983 United States Senate bombing

1983 United States Senate bombing
Part of the New Communist movement
United States Capitol - west front.jpg
LocationWashington, D.C.
DateNovember 7, 1983
10:58 pm (UTC-5)
TargetUnited States Senate
Attack type
bombing
Deaths0
Non-fatal injuries
0
PerpetratorsResistance Conspiracy of the May 19th Communist Organization
MotiveUnited States military involvement in Grenada and Lebanon

The 1983 U.S. Senate bombing was a bomb explosion at the United States Senate on November 7, 1983, motivated by United States military involvement in Lebanon and Grenada. The effect of the attack led to heightened security in the DC metroplex, and the inaccessibility of certain parts of the Senate Building. Six members of the radical left-wing "Resistance Conspiracy" were arrested in May 1988 and charged with the bombing, as well as related bombings of Fort McNair and the Washington Navy Yard which occurred April 25, 1983, and April 20, 1984 respectively.

Bombing

In October 1983, the United States military invaded the socialist island nation of Grenada, and replaced the socialist government with the previous government under Governor-General Paul Scoon and Chairman of the Interim Advisory Council Nicholas Brathwaite, the country having been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. At the time, the invasion was supported by 64% of the US population. However, members of the left wing militant group, the Resistance Conspiracy, were perturbed. The invasion of Grenada, coupled with the October 1983 bombing of a United States Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, prompted the beginnings of a plan for the left-wing militants to take action. Members of the group felt the United States, led by President Ronald Reagan, had no business meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern nations or small socialist island states. Thus it was decided to bring awareness to their ideals by bombing the US Senate on November 7, 1983.[1]

On that day, the Senate adjourned at 7:02 p.m. A crowded reception, held near the Senate Chamber, broke up two hours later. At 10:58 p.m., an explosion tore through the second floor of the Capitol's north wing; the adjacent halls were virtually deserted.[2]

Minutes before the blast, a caller claiming to represent the "Armed Resistance Unit" had warned the Capitol switchboard that a bomb had been placed near the Chamber in retaliation for recent U.S. military involvement in Grenada[2] and Lebanon, in which the U.S. had placed Marines.[3]

The force of the device, hidden under a bench at the eastern end of the corridor outside the Chamber, blew off the door to the office of Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd. Senator Byrd was an active supporter of involvement in Grenada, and had recently made attempts to garner support for retaliating against recent attacks against US marines stationed in Lebanon. His recent actions may have drawn attention from the terrorist group, and led to his targeting. Furthermore, the blast also punched a hole in a wall partition, sending a shower of pulverized brick, plaster, and glass into the Republican cloakroom. The explosion caused no structural damage to the Capitol. The force shattered mirrors, chandeliers, and furniture. Officials calculated damages of $250,000 (equivalent to $620,000 in 2017).[2]

A portrait of Daniel Webster, across from the concealed bomb, received the explosion's full force. The blast tore away Webster's face and left it scattered across the Minton tiles in one-inch canvas shards. The Senate recovered the fragments from debris-filled trash bins. Over the coming months, a conservator painstakingly restored the painting to a credible, if somewhat diminished, version of the original.[2]

This bombing seemed to replicate an earlier attack on the capitol which occurred in 1971. Committed by the Weather Underground, a left wing terror group related to the Resistance Conspiracy, this attack caused damages in excess of $300,000. The reason for this attack, as provided by the group, was for American aggression and "Nixon involvement in Laos." In this earlier attack, the superseding terror group placed a dynamite explosive in a south wing ballroom. The explosion caused windows to shatter and interior walls to crumble and be destroyed.[4] This attack was universally condemned by both sides of the political spectrum, as well as the general public. Not since the war of 1812, when the British burned out entire interior of the capitol, had the building suffered so much damage.

The November 1983 bombing also occurred just three weeks after an earlier bombing attempt on the House Gallery. A young Israeli man by the name Israel Robinovitch, threatened to detonate a bomb on his person upon entering the building. He was quickly apprehended, however, police stated that the bomb carried by the man would have detonated, had it not been improperly wired. The reason for Robinovitch's bombing attack was to bring awareness to world hunger.[5]

Earlier in that year on April 25, 1983 the group, Resistance Conspiracy detonated a small bomb at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. The reason behind the terrorist act was to end "US imperialism". The War College, where American military officials get high-level training, was immediately sealed off. Col. Jamie Walton of the Army said the explosion was caused by a device that ''appeared to be 5 to 10 pounds of unknown explosives detonated by some sort of timing device.'' Colonel Walton said there were no injuries. He cited superficial damage to the outside of the building, ''windows blown out, things of that nature.''[6]

A year later, on April 24, 1984, the same group bombed the Officer's Club at the Washington Navy Yard. Their reasons for the bombing were opposition to US policy in Central America and independence for Puerto Rico. The explosion at the officers club occurred at 1:50 A.M. An F.B.I. spokesman said it appeared to have been caused by a powerful bomb that was placed under a couch in an entryway to the club. The explosion blew out windows, knocked down part of a false ceiling and damaged the interior of the three-story, red-brick club building. There was nobody in the building at the time of the bombing and no one was injured. The effect of this bombing led to heightened focus on anti terrorism operations in the United States, and eventually led to the group's takedown four years later in 1988.[7]

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