Established in 2011 and named after a series of Weatherman-inspired anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago in 1969, USDayOfRage (USDOR) consists of thousands of activists who use the Internet’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to organize demonstrations against what they describe as “a system or ideology that runs counter to the aims of life.” In particular, USDOR rejects the notion that corporations should be permitted to give financial support to the political causes of their choice. Such spending by “special interests,” says USDOR, amounts to a corruptive “farce” that has “silenced and demoralized” America’s “individual citizens, the legitimate voters.”
To rectify this situation, USDOR demands that the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision of 2010 – which nullified a provision of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns – be overturned. By USDOR’s reckoning, “only citizens” – and not corporations – “should make campaign contributions,” and those contributions “should not exceed $1 to any political candidate or party.”
To advance this agenda along with a variety of anti-capitalist themes, USDOR at its founding scheduled public demonstrations to be held in more than 60 U.S. cities. The first of these – centered on Wall Street, the hub of New York’s financial district – was held on Saturday, September 17, 2011. Smaller “satellite” demonstrations were held that same day in Los Angeles, Seattle, Barcelona (Spain), and elsewhere – all under the “Day of Rage” banner. Subsequent events promoting the same agendas were scheduled for early October and beyond.
The original call for the September 17 rally in New York was put out in July 2011 by the Adbusters Media Foundation. The most notable groups to then step forward and help organize the event were Anonymous, NYC General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street, Take the Square, and USDOR.
According to journalist Aaron Klein, the September 17 protests apparently represented “the culmination” of a campaign by Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN and president of an SEIU local in New Orleans, who in March 2011 had issued a call for “days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase.” Rathke’s efforts were supported by Stephen Lerner, an SEIU board member and radical-left organizer whose declared aims are to “destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement”; “bring down the stock market”; “bring down [the] bonuses” of executives in the financial sector; and “interfere with their ability to … be rich.”
In an effort to maximize the effectiveness of those people who planned to participate in the September 17 demonstrations, USDOR collaborated with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) to produce literature enumerating a host of practical guidelines and suggestions. For additional details about this literature, click here.
Though USDOR and its fellow organizers were hoping that at least 20,000 people would take part in the September 17 rally in New York, the actual number of participants was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000. Throughout the afternoon, they gathered in parks and plazas across Lower Manhattan, holding teach-ins and displaying signs that bore messages like “Democracy Not Corporatization” and “Revoke Corporate Personhood.”
Many of the demonstrators said they were determined to continue their protest at least through the weekend, so they could confront Wall Street workers the following Monday morning. Some vowed to stay for weeks or months and likened their aims to those of the protesters who had flooded the streets of Egypt and Spain earlier in the year. On October 1, 2011, a horde of these Wall Street demonstrators shut down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for two-and-a-half hours, a move that resulted in some 700 arrests. Among the high-profile personalities who had already made personal appearances in support of the demonstrators were Charles Barron, Frances Fox Piven, filmmaker Michael Moore (who spoke at the September 17 New York rally), Charles Rangel, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, and Cornel West.
Professing to be staunchly nonviolent and to be composed exclusively of volunteers with no desire to profit financially from their activist ventures, USDOR describes itself as “an idea, not a political party,” and pledges that it “will never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any candidate or party.”