It would be difficult to find a better example of the American Dream than Frank Connor. As his son Joe has said, Frank’s Irish-born mother worked nights as a cleaning lady at the prestigious financial firm J.P. Morgan.
Frank Connor grew up in Washington Heights, a once heavily-Irish enclave in upper Manhattan. He attended City College and eventually landed a job in the financial industry working for – you guessed it – J.P. Morgan.
Frank Connor himself married an Irish immigrant, and by the time 1975 rolled around, they were raising two boys and living in New Jersey.
On the 24th of January, 1975, Connor was killed when a bomb exploded in downtown Manhattan, at the landmark Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street. Connor had been having lunch at the restaurant, which has stood at that site since the days of the American Revolution. George Washington famously delivered his farewell address to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in 1783.
Perhaps that’s why members of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) targeted this building, seeing it as a symbol of American patriotism and history that the revolutionary group was looking to undermine.
The group’s name roughly translates into Armed Forces of National Liberation, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, FALN conducted operations across the U.S. that, by one estimate, included well over 100 bombings.
And though this all took place decades ago, FALN – and its victims – are very much back in the news.
First of all, a new book by journalist Bryan Burrough explores how the FALN fit into a broader pattern of revolutionary activity in post-1960s America. Entitled "Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence," Burrough explores the FALN and its bombings, as well as other groups such as the Black Liberation Army, the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army, famous for kidnapping media heiress Patty Hearst. An offshoot of the SLA had conducted so many bombings in San Francisco that one law enforcement official referred to the city as “the Belfast of North America.”
Meanwhile, just last month, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling upon President Obama to grant clemency to Oscar Lopez Rivera, who has been imprisoned for over 30 years as a result of his activities with FALN.
“This resolution calls upon President Obama to grant clemency to Lopez Rivera, so that he is immediately released from prison, considering that his continued incarceration is unjust and serves no legitimate purpose,” the resolution reads.
The New York Post, however, added that the resolution “fails to mention that authorities say Lopez Rivera conspired to transport explosives with intent to destroy federal government property and committed other related crimes – or that the FALN was deemed responsible for a reign of terror that killed six people and injured 130 others in at least 114 bombings.”
The Post added, “They include the 1975 bombing of historic Fraunces Tavern in the city’s Financial District, which left four people dead and wounded more than 50 others, and a New Year’s Eve 1982 bombing at Police Headquarters that maimed three NYPD cops who tried to defuse the explosives.”
The Connor family has already voiced its displeasure with a 1999 decision by the Clinton administration to commute the prison sentences of 16 FALN members. With Obama expected to make several clemency decisions in the near future, and with Hillary Clinton running for president (even though she ultimately opposed commuting FALN sentences), it could be that FALN’s activities – and its victims – will be featured even more prominently in the news.
Joe Connor’s feelings on this matter are quite clear.
“These people – the Weathermen, the FALN – they were deluded, self-motivated, egotistical…people who just think of themselves,” he says in Burrough’s book.
“You think of them as kids, and they were young for the most part, misguided youth. But they were murderers. Murderers first, revolutionaries second.”
* Contact Sidewalks@tdeignan.blogspot.com.