Back in the summer we had an idea to do a pamphlet for people that were visiting from out of town. It'd have the standard touristy stuff, standard punk rock stuff and a little bit extra. Together, Kevin and I concocted humorous histories of the largest riots to ever take place in Chicago. With the hustle, bustle and chaos that is my life in this company, the pamphlet idea fell by the wayside. But luckily enough for you, I have my contributions saved and READY TO PUBLISH.
Steve Dahl’s Disco Demolition Nightmare
Disco Sucks, Fuck Everything
By: Bill Molloy
No matter what shitty music is bugging you today, it’s probably not as ubiquitous as disco was back in the late 70s. Discerning rockers were bombarded from all sides by slick drumbeats, flared pantsuits and high pitched wails. The line in the sand needed to be drawn, and rock DJ Steve Dahl took care of it.
On July 12, 1979, Dahl, the management at WLUP 97.9 FM, and the Chicago White Sox teamed up for one of the most infamous promotional stunts in history. Anyone bringing a disco record to the game was able to get in for a mere 98¢. More than 50,000 people got into the stadium and thousands more were locked outside; the stage was set for total mayhem.
In between games of a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers, Dahl, dressed in military regalia as the leader of the anti-disco revolution, collected as many records as he could, placed them in a crate in center field, and blew the shit out of it. The crowd roared, and the promotion seemed to have worked, but obviously we wouldn’t still be talking about it more than 25 years on if the shit didn’t hit the fan.
The crate that Dahl blew up unfortunately wasn’t big enough to hold all the records that his minions brought to the game, so they were left hanging onto the music of the enemy. Despite their drunken haze, some of the fans realized that the LPs and 45s worked much in the same way as a Frisbee; they started to hurl the records at each other as well as onto the field. When those ran out, they moved on to throwing beer and even fireworks.
Pretty soon the night moved into its final phase when thousands of fans stormed the field; the scene slightly resembled a jock version of Woodstock with thousands of people milling about, bonfires raging, the dugouts being looted, and copious amounts of weed smoke filling the air. Pretty soon the CPD showed up on horseback to disperse the ever growing crowd. The second game of the doubleheader had to be forfeited to the Tigers but no major injuries were reported.
Days of Rage
The Weatherman Bust Out. Literally.
By: Bill Molloy
One offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society decided to take elevate anti-war protesting to a brand new level. For the first time these demonstrators turned outwardly violent, and appropriately enough, it happened in Chicago, where only one year earlier Mayor Richard J. Daley’s massive police riot at the Democratic National Convention garnered national attention.
Set up to coincide with the trial of the Chicago 8 (read up about it on Wikipedia when you get back home), The Days of Rage officially started with the bombing of a statue of a police officer erected in Haymarket Square. With shards of the statue falling onto the nearby Kennedy Expressway, they moved onto their next target; the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has long been a bastion of commerce and upper class housing in the city. Naturally The Weathermen chose this neighborhood as their first target. On October 8, 1969 more than 200 protesters took to the streets wielding billy clubs and baseball bats. The activists indiscriminately began smashing up cars, storefronts, and bank windows for several blocks before more than 1,000 riot cops approached the scene, clubs and tear gas at the ready. Even though the Weathermen anticipated the conflict and wore protective gear, the cops aimed for their necks and ankles, taking down the protesters one by one. This protest left 28 cops injured, six protesters shot, 68 arrested and an unknown amount injured.
The next day and a half the remaining Weathermen fell silent and let other groups peacefully protest the Chicago 8’s trial outside the courthouse. On October 10th a group of 300 Weathermen reassembled in The Loop to restart their cause. With a large battalion of policemen watching, they spontaneously began smashing up cars and business storefronts again. This one wouldn’t last very long, as more than half the protesters were arrested within 15 minutes.
All told the damages ended up costing the state of Illinois over $183,000. Following the Days of Rage, the Weathermen Organization continued to stage increasingly more violent protests before dissolving in the early 1970s.
The Haymarket Affair
By: Bill Molloy
I’m guessing that it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that most people would prefer an eight hour work day in decent conditions to say, a thirteen hour shift in a blazing hot factory; any objections? Yeah, I didn’t think there would be on that one. Ever wonder how an eight hour day became the norm in this country? You’ll have to bone up on your history books if you want the full story, but the Haymarket Affair of 1886 played an important role in it.
Labor unrest in Chicago was nothing new, but the Spring of 1886 held a new promise in the air that had been absent before. Emboldened by an unprecedented sense of unity, numerous labor unions set May 1, 1886 as a deadline date; if the eight hour work day wasn’t instituted by then, to quote Joey Shithead and D.O.A., it was high time to stand up, to stand and unite; it was time for a general strike. 40,000 workers walked out of their factories that day and more than 80,000 marched down Michigan Avenue. An estimated 500,000 workers across the nation joined the picket line.
The next couple days led to more demonstrations and the inevitable clash with the police. May 3rd’s rally outside of the McCormick Harvesting Machine plant turned violent when a few dozen scabs tried to exit work; the skirmish ended with six workers dead and thousands outraged. Workers all around the city awoke on the 4th to news of the confrontation and a leaflet urging “Workingmen arm yourselves and appear in full force!” Obviously something interesting was about to happen.
For the first several hours the rally at Haymarket Square was peaceful and effective. Numerous speakers passionately delivered speeches to the growing crowd, which included then Mayor Carter Harrison, who soon left the rally because he deemed it non-threatening, which it was at the time. Around 10:30 the police broke up the rally before the final speaker finished up. An unknown person chucked a bomb at the police line, instantly killing one officer. Soon the square erupted in a hail of gun fire and random violence that left several more dead and countless injured.
Within several days eight men with connections to anarchist and labor groups were rounded up and put on trial for the bomb. No physical evidence connected these men to the bomb throwing yet they were all convicted and seven were sentenced to death; four met their fate at the gallows, one committed suicide, two had their sentence commuted to life in prison. In later years all the defendants were officially pardoned and the police chief who ordered the dispersal was convicted of corruption. To this day no one knows who threw the initial bomb.
The event temporarily demoralized the labor movement but later became a source of pride, with May 1st becoming synonymous with labor unions and political protest. So next time you clock out at five, take a second to think about the cheerful, mustached anarchists who helped make that possible.