Thousands of academics sign on to support Bill Ayers
Published: Wednesday October 22, 2008

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More than 3,000 academics have shown their support for embattled University of Illinois professor William Ayers.

"I think he's doing a lot of positive, progressive, constructive work right now" in the field of education, said Brown University English professor and inaugural signatory William Keach to the Brown Daily Herald.

Ayers, a co-founder of the Weather Underground in 1969, has been connected repeatedly with Senator Obama by the McCain campaign, which paints Ayers as a "domestic terrorist" who "bombed the Pentagon." Governor Palin charged in a Colorado speech on October 4 that Senator Obama is "someone who sees so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

The Weather Underground's protests of the Vietnam War were part of a "Declaration of a State of War" against the United States government, which included marches, riots and bombings of banks and government buildings.

Senator Obama has distanced himself from Ayers' Weather Underground days, noting that he was eight years old when the group was formed. Obama and Ayers worked together in Chicago while living in the same neighborhood in the 1990s, with Ayers hosting a "coffee" for Obama's first run for office, which has prompted accusations of Obama launching his political career "from Mr. Ayers' living room." Obama and Ayers served together on the board of the anti-poverty Woods Fund of Chicago between 2000 and 2002. Both have worked in education reform.

"It's easy to paint someone with a broad brush," added signatory and lecturer Constance Crawford, who emphasized appreciation for Ayers' more recent accomplishments rather than focusing on the Vietnam era. "It's easy to vilify, but it's harder to consider."