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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone January 19, 2022

Woman indicted in 1983 Capitol bombing is not a Black Lives Matter administrator

If Your Time is short

  • A left-wing group set off a bomb near the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol in 1983 and caused extensive damage.

  • Susan Rosenberg was indicted in the bomb attack in 1988 while serving a prison sentence for possession of explosives, but charges were dropped in 1990 before trial.

  • Rosenberg served on the board of directors for a nonprofit that did administrative work for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, but that arrangement ended in 2020.

The one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol reminded one social media user of an attack decades earlier: a late-night bomb blast near the Senate chambers.

A Facebook post reads: "Did you know that on November 7, 1983 the May 19th Communist Organization detonated a bomb in the senate in an attempt to kill Republicans? Susan Rosenberg was arrested for this. She was pardoned by Clinton. She is now an administrator for Black Lives Matters and now does fundraising and administrative work for BLM."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

On Nov. 7, 1983, a late-night bomb blast set off by a left-wing group caused extensive damange to a conference room near the Senate chambers. No one was injured in the attack, which caused about $1 million in damage, according to some reports.

The May 19th Communist Organization is described by the FBI as "a Marxist-Leninist organization which advocated the armed revolution and violent overthrow of the United States Government." 

It used several aliases, including the "Armed Resistance Unit." That was the name the group gave when it called the Capitol switchboard and the Washington Post shortly before the bombing. The group said its goal was to oppose U.S. military involvement in Grenada and Lebanon.

Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate at the time, but the group stated in a letter to NPR taking credit for the attack that it was not attempting to kill anyone. It did suggest the possibility of deadly violence in the future.

"We purposely aimed our attack at the institutions of imperialist rule rather than at individual members of the ruling class and government. We did not choose to kill any of them this time. But their lives are not sacred …, " the group wrote, according to the Washington Post.

Rosenberg was one of the group’s earliest members, according to Smithsonian Magazine. She was one of seven members of the group indicted in 1988 in the Capitol bombing, as well as other building attacks around that time.

Charges were dropped against Rosenberg and two others in a 1990 deal in which three others pleaded guilty, so she was never tried or convicted in the Capitol attack. Rosenberg at the time of the 1988 indictment was serving a 58-year sentence after she was caught bringing guns and more than 600 pounds of explosives to a New Jersey storage facility in 1984.

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After Rosenberg served 16 years in prison, President Bill Clinton commuted her sentence on his last day in office on Jan. 20, 2001.

Rosenberg does not work for Black Lives Matter, but sat on the board of directors of an organization called Thousand Currents. PolitiFact has previously reported that Thousand Currents, a nonprofit that partners with grassroots groups and movements, partnered with the Black Lives Matter Global Network in a fiscal-sponsorship agreement. 

The group provided "administrative and back-office support, including finance, accounting, grants management, insurance, human resources, legal and compliance," a spokesperson for Thousand Currents told us in 2020.

An archived web page from February 2021 said that the fiscal-sponsorship agreement with Black Lives Matter was in effect from 2016 to 2020. It said the group’s fiscal-sponsorships have sunset so that the organization can "​​focus on its core grantmaking to grassroots groups and movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America." 

An archived web page for Thousand Currents from June 16, 2020 lists Rosenberg as vice chair of its board of directors and describes her as a human and prisoner rights advocate. The board of directors page is no longer available and redirects to the group’s homepage. 

That appears to be in response to what the group in a blog post on July 6, 2020 called "hateful disinformation campaigns," that forced it to protect the privacy of staff that became "targets of harassment." The topic of Rosenberg and the charity’s connection to Black Lives Matter was the subject of numerous articles in conservative media that summer.

It’s not clear how involved, if at all, Rosenberg was in the group’s work for Black Lives Matter. According to Thousand Currents most recent tax return filed in March of 2021, Rosenberg was listed as its vice chair of the board. The return shows Rosenberg did not receive any compensation from Thousand Currents and that she averaged about two hours of work per week. 

We reached out by email to Thousand Currents to ask if Rosenberg is still affiliated with the group and whether her work directly involved the Black Lives Matter sponsorship, but have not heard back.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims that Susan Rosenberg is a Black Lives Matter administrator who was arrested in a 1983 bombing at the U.S. Capitol.

Rosenberg is not an administrator for Black Lives Matter. She did serve on the board of directors for a nonprofit called Thousand Currents, which helped manage grants for the Black Lives Matter Global Network in a fiscal-sponsorship agreement. That partnership ended in 2020, and it’s not clear if Rosenberg’s work directly involved Black Lives Matter.

Rosenberg was indicted in 1988 in the Capitol bombing, but the charges were dropped in 1990 while she was serving a lengthy prison sentence on separate charges of illegal possession of weapons and explosives. 

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), Jan. 8, 2022

Snopes: "Did a ‘Convicted Terrorist’ Sit on the Board of a BLM Funding Body?" July 14, 2020

Thousand Currents, "Board of directors," archived page via Wayback Machine

Thousand Currents, "Black Lives Matter," archived page via Wayback Machine

Thousand Currents, "#BlackLivesMatter – We Will Not Be Intimidated Into Silence," July 6, 2020

Tides, "Tides Welcomes Black Lives Matter As A New Partner," July 2, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist organization," July 30, 2020

PolitiFact, "How the Black Lives Matter Global Network is set up," June 17, 2020

ProPublica, "Thousand Currents: Full text of "Full Filing" for fiscal year ending June 2020"

Smithsonian Magazine, "In the 1980s, a Far-Left, Female-Led Domestic Terrorism Group Bombed the U.S. Capitol," Jan. 6, 2020

U.S. Senate, "Bomb Explodes in Capitol"

Politico, "The Dark History of America’s First Female Terrorist Group," May 3, 2020

The New York Times, "U.S. Charges 7 In the Bombing At U.S. Capitol," May 12, 1988

The New York Times, "3 Radicals Agree to Plead Guilty in Bombing Case," Sept. 6, 1990

The Washington Post, "7 indicted in  1983 Capitol bombing," May 12, 1988

U.S. Department of Justice, "Commutations, remissions, and reprieves granted by President William J. Clinton(1993-2001)"

Newsweek, "Fact Check: Did a Black Lives Matter Leader Bomb the U.S. Capitol in 1983?" Feb. 10, 2021

Influence Watch, "Black Lives Matter-Thousand Currents," June 4, 2020

The Associated Press, "AP Exclusive: Black Lives Matter opens up about its finances," Feb. 23, 2021

FBI, "Most wanted: Donna Joan Burop"

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Woman indicted in 1983 Capitol bombing is not a Black Lives Matter administrator

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