Public attention in Chicago shifts from the debut of the Vampire Bureau to the arrival of militant radicals and the “Days of Rage” in chapter 23 of Martha’s Children, “Therefore be o’ good cheer, for truly I think you are damned.” Not that that will stop Detective Sherlock Kammen. And in an unusual chain of events, the Days of Rage give him a solid lead on the vampire Martha Fokker and her sorceress sidekick.
The “Days of Rage” were an actual event, a protest that ran from October 8 to October 11, 1969. The “Days” were organized by the Revolutionary Youth Movement, a faction of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) that had split into the Weathermen and RYM II during the summer of 1969. These radical militants had been amazed by the attention the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago had received. They decided to “redo” the event, this time to protest the continuing war in Vietnam and to promote social revolution at home. They timed the event to coincide with the trial of the “Chicago 8,” eight people charged with conspiring to cause the riots during the 1968 protests, to show support for the defendants.
The City of Chicago and Mayor Daley had already received bad press for their handling of protests and riots in 1967 and 1968. They were determined to shut down the Days of Rage. Daley mobilized the city police and called out the National Guard. In the event, the police and Guard greatly outnumbered the demonstrators, who amounted to only a few hundred.
The march on October 8 that Kammen describes was led by the Weathermen and intended to reach the Dalton Hotel, where the judge presiding over the Chicago 8 trial lived. They managed to cover about four blocks, smashing windows along the way, before they ran into a police barricade. The police threw them back, using their batons and tear gas, shooting six protesters and arresting sixty-eight.
That was the most violent confrontation during the “Days.” RYM II led a peaceful protest on the 9th, the Weathermen’s “Women’s Militia” rallied in Grant Park, and there was another Weatherman-led march on the 11th, but overall rage had failed to carry the day.
Far from igniting a social revolution, the Days of Rage marked the end of an era of SDS leadership in political protests. The organization was splintering and losing membership. The Weathermen had taken control of the national office of the SDS that summer, but they essentially abandoned and destroyed it when they decided to go underground and begin their bombing campaign in December. And with the shootings at Kent State on May 4, 1970, public perception began shifting from seeing campus protesters as subversive agitators to seeing them as “innocent” kids who might be your neighbor’s.