In the 1970s, Rita "Bo" Brown, activist turned terrorist, helped form the George Jackson Brigade, a disjointed group of politically motivated radicals who robbed banks and terrorized varied institutions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Brown and her Brigade held armed robbery "fundraisers" to obtain and funnel cash to themselves, and to various other anti-war and civil rights action groups (Black Panthers, etc). Their activities placed them almost immediately on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Believing the time was ripe for urban militant tactics during the social turmoil of the era, Brigade members armed themselves and began bombing prominent institutional buildings. They robbed banks in Portland and Seattle, in order to "hasten the revolution," which members believed was imminent. Unfortunately for the George Jackson Brigade, not only wasn't the revolution televised, it never happened.

Brown, a Klamath, Oregon native who often did her dirty work in drag, was dubbed "The Gentleman Bankrobber" for creatively blending her butch cross-dressing style with polite gun-pointing prattle, and was praised by bank tellers for her congeniality while committing her outlaw activities.

The Brigade's list of terrorist activities included firebombing a Seattle contractor's office who refused to hire black workers, Safeway stores to show solidarity with the United Farm Workers, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Tacoma office of the FBI for their aggressive stance toward the American Indian Movement. They also blew up a Seattle power station.

Of her experiences with the Brigade, Brown has said, "we were at war."

Most of their bombings destroyed buildings and cut off power to area neighborhoods, causing widespread panic in some cases. However a Safeway (guess it wasn't safe after all!) bombing injured several innocent people.

Eventually, the Brigade were caught and imprisoned. One served 18 years before being released in 1998, while another, the only African American member of the George Jackson Brigade, is still in the pokey.

Although Brown successfully eluded capture for some time (authorities were searching for a well-dressed man), she was eventually caught and convicted of robbing a Portland bank. She served 8 years in federal prison. Today, Brown works as a tow truck driver in Oakland, California, but is still involved as a political activist.

After her release in 1987, Brown formed Out of Control: Lesbian Committee to Support Women Political Prisoners, which remains active today. She is a surefire draw to political action fundraisers, though appears to limit her activities to those of a less violent nature these days. Her lectures still draw impressive crowds.

"Struggle is good and change is good," Brown has said in interviews. "They are not easy, but isn't that what life is? Is life really about making it easy so you can sit on your ass all the time and not do a motherfucking thing? I don't think so--I think life is living. I want to be struggling the day I die, cause then I will know I'm alive." JOHN DOOLEY