Days of Rage

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For the 1995 Greek film, see Days of Rage (film). For the "day of rage" protests held in Arab countries in 2010-2011, see Arab Spring.
"Bring the War Home" poster

The Days of Rage demonstrations were a series of direct actions taken over a course of three days in October 1969 in Chicago, and organized by the Weatherman faction of the counterculture-era group Students for a Democratic Society.

The group planned the October 8–11 event as a "National Action" built around John Jacobs' slogan, "bring the war home".[1] The National Action grew out of a resolution drafted by Jacobs and introduced at the October 1968 SDS National Council meeting in Boulder, Colorado. The resolution, which read "The Elections Don't Mean Shit—Vote Where the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street", was adopted by the council; it had been prompted by the success of the Democratic National Convention protests in August 1968 and reflected Jacobs' strong advocacy of direct action as political strategy.[2] Such direct actions included vandalizing homes, businesses, and automobiles as well as assaulting police officers. Dozens were injured, and more than 280 members of the Weather Underground were arrested.

Sociopolitical background[edit]

In 1969 tensions ran high among the factions of SDS. Weatherman was still part of the organization but differences were coming to the surface. “Look at it: America 1969” put forth SDS’s bottom line regarding the National Action. By the end of August, the differences between Weatherman and RYM II had emerged, leading to the resignation of RYM II leader and member of SDS Mike Klonsky from the Weatherman-controlled National office leadership.[3][4] He accused Weatherman of going back on the convention’s mandate. Weatherman members Mark Rudd and Terry Robbins responded, saying that priority must be given to building an anti-imperialist youth movement.[5]

In the months before the Days of Rage, despite the tensions within SDS, many members of Weather/SDS worked non-stop in promoting the demonstration. Lyndon Comstock was sent, along with three other members, to Lansing, Michigan to organize and promote the event. Leaflets were printed and distributed to high school and community college students during the day, while at night members would spray paint anti-war graffiti on local school campuses.[6]

On October 6, 1969, the statue commemorating the policemen killed in the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago was blown up; the blast broke nearly 100 windows and scattered pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway below;[7] no one was ever arrested for the bombing.[8] Weatherman found itself isolated from SDS, but maintained hopes that thousands would attend the mass demonstration in Chicago.[9]

Events of Days of Rage[edit]

October 8, 1969[edit]

Despite efforts to recruit youth and promote involvement, participation in the "Days of Rage" demonstrations was not as broadly based as advertised, or as participants had hoped. About 800 Weatherman members showed up prior to October 8 and faced 2000 police officers. No more than 300 were left willing to face the enormous gathering of police a second time around [10] on the evening of Wednesday, October 8, 1969, in Chicago's Lincoln Park, and perhaps half of them were members of Weatherman collectives from around the country.[1] The crowd milled about for several hours, cold and uncertain. Tom Hayden gave a short speech, telling the protesters not to believe press reports that the Chicago 7 disagreed with their action.[11] Abbie Hoffman and John Froines, other members of the Chicago 8, also came but decided not to speak and quickly left.[11] Late in the evening, Jacobs stood on the pedestal of the bombed Haymarket policemen's statue and declared: "We'll probably lose people today... We don't really have to win here ... just the fact that we are willing to fight the police is a political victory."[12] Jacobs' speech compared the coming protest to the fight against fascism in World War II. By this time there were around 350 protesters.[11] Jeff Jones announced "I am Marion Delgado" an adopted folk hero of Weatherman (Delgado was a five-year-old Chicano boy who had derailed a passenger train in 1947 by putting a slab of concrete on the track) and for the first time told the crowd the target of the march: the Drake Hotel, home of Julius Hoffman, the judge in the Chicago 8 trial.

Finally, at 10:25 p.m., Jones gave the pre-arranged signal over a bullhorn, and the Weatherman action began. John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, David Gilbert and others led a charge south through the city toward the Drake Hotel and the exceptionally affluent Gold Coast neighborhood, smashing windows in automobiles and buildings as they went. The protesters attacked "ordinary cars, a barber shop...and the windows of lower-middle-class homes" as well as police cars and luxury businesses.[11] The mass of the crowd ran about four blocks before encountering police barricades. The protesters charged the police breaking into small groups, and more than 1,000 police counter-attacked. The Washington DC contingent successfully reached the hotel's front drive. Before any attempt to gain entrance to the hotel could be made, an unmarked car pulled up to the curb and began firing revolvers into the group of about fifteen unarmed protesters. Although many protesters had motorcycle or football helmets on, the police were better trained and armed; nightsticks were aimed at necks, legs and groins, shots ripped flesh. Large amounts of tear gas were used, and at least twice police ran squad cars full speed into crowds. After only a half-hour or so, the riot was over: 28 policemen were injured (none seriously), six Weathermen were shot and an unknown number injured, and 68 protesters were arrested.[1][13][14][15] Jacobs was arrested almost immediately.[16]

October 9, 1969[edit]

The next day a "Women's Militia" of around seventy female Weatherman members met at Grant Park, where Bernardine Dohrn addressed them.[17] The plan was to raid a draft board office, but they were overpowered by police when they tried to leave the park.[17] Later that day Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie announced that he had called in over 2,500 National Guardsmen to "protect Chicago".[17] Weatherman cancelled protests that had been planned for that evening.[17]

Supporters of the Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II), led by Klonsky and Noel Ignatin, held peaceful rallies of several hundred people in front of the federal courthouse, an International Harvester factory, and Cook County Hospital. The largest event of the Days of Rage occurred on Friday, October 10, when RYM II led an interracial march of 2,000 people through a Spanish-speaking part of Chicago.[13][14][15] At the October 9 RYM II rally at the federal courthouse Black Panther leader Fred Hampton disassociated his group from Weatherman, saying, "We do not support people who are anarchistic, opportunistic, adventuristic, and Custeristic." That night Weatherman uncovered a police informant, who was then severely beaten by one member of the group. The assailant, who immediately appeared on wanted posters, became the first member of Weatherman to go underground.[17]

October 11, 1969[edit]

On Saturday, October 11, Weatherman attempted to regroup and reignite the revolution. About 300 protesters marched swiftly through The Loop, Chicago's main business district, watched over by a double-line of heavily armed police. Led by Jacobs and other Weatherman members, the protesters suddenly broke through the police lines and rampaged through the Loop, smashing windows of cars and stores. But the police were ready, and quickly sealed off the protesters. Within 15 minutes, more than half the crowd had been arrested—one of the first, again, being Jacobs.[13][14][15][18]

Richard Elrod, a city attorney, was paralyzed after he attempted to tackle Weatherman member Brian Flanagan. Elrod accused Flanagan of attacking him, while Flanagan maintained that Elrod simply hit a concrete wall. Flanagan was charged with attempted murder and other crimes but was acquitted on all counts.[19] The Weathermen later produced a song mocking Elrod, a parody of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," including the lines Lay, Elrod, lay || Lay in the street for a while || Stay, Elrod, stay || Stay in your bed for a while ."

Aftermath[edit]

The Days of Rage cost Chicago and the state of Illinois about $183,000 ($100,000 for National Guard payroll, $35,000 in damages, and $20,000 for one injured citizen's medical expenses). 287 members of Weather were arrested during the Days of Rage and most of Weatherman and SDS' leaders were jailed.[20] The organization paid out more than $243,000 to cover bail.[1]

Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who had a mostly friendly relationship with the Weatherman, denounced the group's action, fearing that it would alienate potential allies and invite an escalation of police oppression.[13] "We believe that the Weather [Underground Organization's] action was anarchistic, opportunistic, individualistic, chauvinistic, [and] Custeristic… It's nothing but child's play - it's folly." [21]

Jones and other Weathermen failed to appear for their March 1970 court date to face charges of "crossing state lines to foment a riot and conspiring to do so." "Unlawful flight to avoid prosecution" charges were added when they failed to appear in court.[15]

The Days of Rage demonstrations did not turn out as Weatherman members had anticipated. The combination of low turnout and enormous numbers of police made for an even more violent demonstration than originally intended. The reaction to the Days of Rage demonstrations permanently damaged the relationship between Weatherman, SDS and the Black Panther Party while paving the way to more militant actions by Weatherman and eventually leading to the organization moving underground.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sale, Kirkpatrick, SDS, Vintage Books, 1974, ISBN 0-394-71965-4
  2. ^ Wilkerson, C. (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1-58322-771-7. 
  3. ^ pg 84 Harold Jacobs. Weatherman published 1970
  4. ^ pg 21 Ron Jacobs. The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. Published 1997
  5. ^ pg 84 Harold Jacobs. Weatherman. Published 1970
  6. ^ Berger, Dan. Outlaws of America: Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity. Paperback ed. Oakland, Calif.: AK Press 2006. ISBN 1-904859-41-0
  7. ^ Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy, 1984, p. 431; Ayers, Fugitive Days: A Memoir, 2001; Shepard, "Antiwar Movements, Then and Now," Monthly Review, February 2002; "Statue Honoring Police Is Blown Up in Chicago," New York Times, October 8, 1969; "Haymarket Statue Bombed," Chicago Tribune, October 7, 1969.
  8. ^ Adelman, William J. (1986) [1976]. Haymarket Revisited (2nd ed.). Chicago: Illinois Labor History Society. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-916884-03-1
  9. ^ p. 85 Harold Jacobs. Weatherman. Published 1970
  10. ^ pg 86 Harold Jacobs. Weatherman. Published 1970
  11. ^ a b c d Varon 80
  12. ^ Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy, 1984; Ayers, Fugitive Days: A Memoir, 2001; Shepard, "Antiwar Movements, Then and Now," Monthly Review, February 2002; "Statue Honoring Police Is Blown Up in Chicago," New York Times, October 8, 1969; "Haymarket Statue Bombed," Chicago Tribune, October 7, 1969.
  13. ^ a b c d Berger, Dan Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground And the Politics of Solidarity, AK Press, 2005, ISBN 1-904859-41-0
  14. ^ a b c Jacobs, The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground, 1997.
  15. ^ a b c d Jones, A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience, 2004.
  16. ^ Gillies, "The Last Radical," Vancouver Magazine, November 1998.
  17. ^ a b c d e Varon 81
  18. ^ Mestrovic, "For Eastern Europe: PR or Policy?", Commonweal, October 1969.
  19. ^ http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/December-2006/Sudden-Impact/index.php?cp=2&si=1#artanc
  20. ^ FBI documents on the WUO, Part 1a, Chicago Field Office, 1976, http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/weather.htm
  21. ^ Lozano, C. (Producer), Siegel, B. & Green S. (2003) The weather underground (Motion Picture) USA: New Video Group.

References[edit]

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  • Good, Thomas. "Brian Flanagan Speaks." Next Left Notes. 2005.
  • "Haymarket Statue Bombed." Chicago Tribune. October 7, 1969.
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