Welcome to this week’s History Thread!
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Days of Rage protest in Chicago. While other antiwar organizers prepared for the National Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, a radical splinter of the Students for a Democratic Society (soon to become the Weathermen) prepared a violent protest in Chicago. SDS had been increasingly rocked with dissent over their handling of the war, resulting in a raucous convention where a large faction of the movement (the so-called Revolutionary Youth Movement) walked out and declared their independence. Organized by Tom Hayden, Bernadette Dohrn, David Gilbert and Jeff Jones, the Days of Rage were designed to create a “mass action” to halt the war.
The result was more farce than revolution. Only about 800 supporters showed up for the initial gathering, and of that only 300 remained through the day. A massive police presence and the reluctance of other groups (the Black Panthers, the Yippies) to support the “Days of Rage” left them isolated and angry. Nonetheless they marched through the Gold Coast neighborhood, ostensibly planning to reach the Drake Hotel home of Judge Julius Hoffman, who was overseeing the trial of the Chicago Seven at the time, smashing windows, cars and property as they went. They made it a few blocks before they were swarmed by 1,000 Chicago police who quickly overwhelmed the rioters with teargas and billy clubs. A smaller group actually reached the Drake Hotel, only for police to open fire with revolvers and injure six of them.
Although the Days of Rage continued for four more days, they cancelled or scaled back many of their planned actions. The Chicago police, not exactly known for accommodating even peaceful radicals, prevented them from achieving much beyond smashing some cars and a peaceful march through a Spanish neighborhood. Compared to the millions who turned in support of the Moratorium a week later, it served to show the isolation of this radical fringe of the antiwar movement. Nonetheless, the hardest of the die hard Weathermen went underground and began a decade-long campaign of bombings targeting the US government and corporations.