September 5, 1975: Manson family member fails at assassination attempt on US President Ford

On this day in 1975, a member of the Manson family tried to assassinate US President Gerald Ford for his failure to protect the environment.

Terrorism sometimes comes from the strangest places.

One of the, hmm, oddest, ‘families’ in world history has to be that of the Mansons. Except that they were not a family in the traditional sense. They were a ragtag bunch of misfits all inspired by psychopath Charles Manson who was behind the desire to launch a race war in the 1960s.

On his order, members of the Manson family murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate (who was married to director Roman Polanski at the time) and four others, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent in California in 1969. The massacre was allegedly inspired by the Beatles’ song Helter Skelter, which Manson was convinced was a call for a violent race war.

So, does that make these murders terrorist acts? Good question. I believe that a strong case could be made to argue that they were indeed. Still, those killings are not the focus of today’s act of terrorism.

On this day in 1975, Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, a Manson family member, tried to assassinate US President Gerald Ford as he walked towards the state capitol in Sacramento, California. The gun failed to go off and Fromme was disarmed by a police officer.

It didn’t go off. Can you believe it? It didn’t go off.

‘Squeaky’ Fromme

So why did she try to kill the president? Some say she did it to ‘impress’ Manson, who was in prison. Others say it was because President Ford failed to protect ATWA (air, water, trees, animals), a Manson concept. In any event, she was convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to life in prison in West Virginia. She escaped in 1979 but was caught within 25 miles of the prison: she was released in 2009.

This is a DEFINITELY an act of terrorism in my book. It may have been carried out by a groupie of a madman but it had political overtones. That is often what terrorism is about after all.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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