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Forty Years Ago in August

Back in the days when we old fogeys were still young, energetic and idealistic, there was a Democratic Convention in Chicago. I can hardly believe that that it took place nearly 40 years ago, from August 26 to August 30, 1968. It had been a bitter, tumultuous primary campaign, and the convention was to be even more bitter and tumultuous.

In September, 1967, Allard Lowenstein and Curtis Gans, leaders of the National Student Association, had begun a formal movement to dump President Lyndon Johnson from the Democratic ticket. In September, Lowenstein approached Senator Robert Kennedy of NY, and asked him to run against President Johnson for the nomination. When Kennedy refused, Lowenstein turned to Senator Eugene McCarthy of MN, who agreed to run.

On March 12, 1968, McCarthy nearly upset Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, winning 40% of the vote. A few days later, Bobby Kennedy changed his mind and announced his intention to seek the nomination. On March 31, President Johnson announced that he would no longer seek nor accept his party’s nomination to run for a second term.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, TN. In Indianapolis, Bobby Kennedy made the announcement of King’s death in an extemporaneous speech to a group made up mostly of African Americans at a scheduled campaign rally. Kennedy said:

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in….

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man….

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black….the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Just two months later, Bobby Kennedy would also be cut down by an assassin’s bullet.

In reaction to the murder of Rev. King, there was rioting in more than 100 American cities. In Chicago, nine African Americans were killed and twenty city blocks burned. On the third day of rioting, Mayor Richard Daley held a press conference to announce:

“I have conferred with the superintendent of police this morning and gave him the following instructions: I said to him very emphatically and very definitely that an order be issued by him immediately and under his signature to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand because they are potential murderers, and issue a police order to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city. Above all, the crime of arson is to me the most hideous and worst crime of any and should be dealt with in this fashion.”

“What about children?” one reporter asked.

“You wouldn’t want to shoot them,” Daley said, “but with Mace you could detain youngsters.”

On April 11, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Act contained a new federal law against crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot. This law was later used to prosecute the “Chicago 7,” leaders of organizations who protested during the Democratic Convention in August, 1968. A year later, a group of prominent anti-war activists, including Noam Chomsky and Judy Collins, wrote in the New York Review of Books:

“The effect of this ‘anti-riot’ act is to subvert the first Amendment guarantee of free assembly by equating organized political protest with organized violence. Potentially, this law is the foundation for a police state in America.

“In this decade, countless Americans have contributed to the revitalization of politics through freedom rides, peace marches and other demonstrations of protest against impacted political institutions. Yet, from Bull Connor’s Birmingham to Richard Daley’s Chicago, civil authorities have employed police violence to suppress ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble,’ repeatedly invoking the spectres of conspiracy, incitement and riot. The Justice Department has now joined the assault on free political action.

On April 27, Vice President Hubert Humphrey announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, even though it was too late to get his name on the primary ballots in most states.

On May 14, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover created COINTELPRO, a domestic counterintelligence operation designed to infiltrate and disrupt new left organizations. In a memo announcing the new program, Hoover wrote:

The purpose of this program is to expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various new left organizations, their leadership, and their adherents. It is imperative that activities of those groups be followed on a continuous basis so that we may take advantage of all opportunities for counter intelligence and also inspire action where circumstance warrant. The devious maneuver, the duplicity of these activists must be exposed to public scrutiny through cooperation of reliable news media sources, both locally and at the seat of government. We must frustrate every effort of these groups and individuals to consolidate their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents. In every instance, consideration should be given to disrupting organized activity of these groups and no opportunity should be missed to capitalize on organizational or personal conflicts of their leadership.

On June 5, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated while celebrating his California primary win.

On June 23 a group of McCarthy supporters in CT, who felt they were not fairly represented in the state party delegation, formed “a Commission on the Selection of Presidential Nominees.” to petition the Rules Committee to end the winner take all system of counting delegates to the convention. A Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection was appointed by the convention. This Commission was chaired by Senator George McGovern and its proposals were adopted by the DNC in 1971. These changes greatly reduced the control of Democratic Party leaders over the selection of presidential candidates.

On August 8 in Miami, the Republican Convention nominated Richard Nixon as their candidate for President. Nixon promised that his first foreign policy goal would be to end the war in Vietnam and bring “peace with honor.” That night in Miami’s African American neighborhoods four people were killed in rioting and hundreds were arrested.

During Democratic Convention week in Chicago, the nation witnessed unprecedented scenes of violence and turmoil in the streets and parks surrounding the International Ampitheater, where the Convention was held. For months, various groups had been planning demonstrations in Chicago, not only to protest the Vietnam war, but to try to prevent the Party insiders from nominating Hubert Humphrey, who had the nomination virtually sewn up, since he controlled well over one hundred more delegates than needed. Nevertheless, Humphrey was worried that his close connection to President Johnson could still torpedo his plans.

Several days before the Convention opened on August 26, 1968, nearly 6,000 National Guard Troops were called up and began practicing riot control techniques. Special police riot troops were also being trained. Simultaneously MOBE (Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam) organizers were running training sessions for demonstrators.

Norman Mailer described the general mood on the night of Tuesday, August 27, in an article in Harper’s Magazine, “Miami and the Siege of Chicago”:

Demonstrators mass outside Convention hall

Demonstrators mass outside Convention hall

en masse, a thousand of them, two thousand of them, there were conceivably as many as five thousand boys and girls massed in Grant Park at three in the morning, listening to speakers, cheering, chanting, calling across Michigan Avenue to the huge brooding façade of the Hilton, a block wide, over twenty-five stories high, with huge wings and deep courts (the better to multiply the number of windows with a view of the street and a view of Grant Park). The lights were on in hundreds of bedrooms in the Hilton, indeed people were sleeping and dreaming all over the hotel with the sound of young orators declaiming in the night below, voices rising twenty, twenty-five stories high, the voices clear in the spell of sound which hung over the Hilton. The Humphrey headquarters were here, and the McCarthy headquarters. Half the Press was quartered here…[T]wo-thirds of the principals at the convention must have had a view early this morning, two and three and four A.M. of this Tuesday night, no this Wednesday morning, of Grant Park filled across the street with a revolutionary army of dissenters and demonstrators and college children and McCarthy workers and tourists ready to take a crack on the head, all night they could hear the demonstrators chanting, “Join us, join us,” and the college bellow of utter contempt, “Dump the Hump! Dump the Hump,” all the fury of the beatings and the teargassings, all the bitter disappointments of that recently elapsed bright spring when the only critical problem was who would make a better President, Kennedy or McCarthy (now all the dread of a future with Humphrey or Nixon). There was also the sense that police had now entered their lives, become an element pervasive as drugs and books and sex and music and family. So they shouted up to the windows of the Hilton, to the delegates and the campaign workers who were sleeping, or shuddering by the side of their bed, or cheering by their open window; they called up through the night on a stage as vast and towering as one of Wagner’s visions and the screams of police cars joined them, pulling up, gliding away, blue lights revolving, lines of police hundreds long in their sky-blue shirts and sky-blue crash helmets, penning the demonstrators back of barriers across Michigan Avenue from the Hilton, and other lines of police and police fences on the Hilton’s side of the street.

On Wednesday, August 28, the “peace plank” to the party platform was to be debated. The debate was scheduled for late at night to avoid prime-time television coverage. The debate itself was limited to only one hour for each side and was “structured to avoid hostile exchanges” Ultimately the plank used language approved by the Humphrey Campaign. On “Face the Nation” the previous week, Humphrey had affirmed his support for Johnson’s conduct of the war.

Outside the convention hall, the worst night of violence, later called ” the Battle of Michigan Avenue” was taking place. Protestors attempting to march to the Convention hall were stopped by police and

a melee broke out near the Conrad Hilton Hotel across from Grant Park, and police began beating bystanders as well as protesters, using clubs, fists, knees and Mace. Some militants fought back with their own caustic sprays, bottles and concrete chunks, enraging police all the more. Officers pushed people through a plate-glass window and then, according to witnesses, attacked the dazed victims as they lay amid broken glass. A group of police cheered a soldier as he bashed a demonstrator and attacked a photographer who filmed the scene.

TV audiences heard protesters chanting “the whole world is watching” as Chicago police, empowered by Mayor Daley, engaged in what would later be called a “police riot.”

the media recorded graphic violence on the part of the Chicago police. Many innocent bystanders, reporters and doctors offering medical help were severely beaten by the police. Many hotels where the delegates were staying were affected by the riots. Fumes from the tear gas used by the police and “stink bombs” thrown by the protesters drifted into the buildings…[including] the Conrad Hilton, the headquarters for the Democratic party and the press.

Approximately an hour after these events, scenes of the violence taking place on the streets outside were shown on the big screen in the convention hall. Senator Abraham Ribicoff in a nomination speech for George McGovern, who had announced his candidacy on August 10, referred to the police conduct as “Gestapo tactics.”

Mayor Daley erupted in anger and shook his fist at Ribicoff. Most reports of the event also say Daley yelled an off-color epithet beginning with an “F,” but accoriding to CNN executive producer Jack Smith, others close to Daley inist he shouted “Faker,” meaning Ribicoff was not a man of his word, the lowest name one can be called in Chicago’s Irish politics.

Humphrey’s worst fears did not materialize. Despite numerous challenges during the course of the week, the Humphrey/Johnson forces maintained control of the party machinery, and Humphrey was easily nominated. He chose Edmund Muskie of ME as his running mate.

The arrest count for Convention Week disturbances stands at 668. An undetermined number of demonstrators sustained injuries, with hospitals reporting that they treated 111 demonstrators. The on-the-street medical teams from the Medical Committee for Human Rights estimated that their medics treated over 1,000 demonstrators at the scene. The police department reported that 192 officers were injured, with 49 officers seeking hospital treatment.

I see so many parallels between 1968 and 2008. In about a month, the Democratic Party will hold a Convention to nominate a candidate whom at least half of Democratic voters do not support. We are in the midst of another endless, futile war that Democrats in Congress pretend to oppose but have supported with their votes. As in the late ’60s, our government is treating us as the enemy and we are subject to out-of-control, government spying. But today, the government’s spying ability and the weapons they have at hand for crowd control are far beyond anything we could have imagined forty years ago.

In 1968, the hopes of my generation were pinned on either Eugene McCarthy, an intellectual Senator who opposed the Vietnam war or Bobby Kennedy, whose brother John had been assassinated in 1963. Bobby was seen by many as a ruthless insider, but during the campaign, he had shown himself to be a compassionate man who was able to connected with poor and working class voters, especially in Appalachia. In 2008, we have been through a campaign in which generational, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, and class divisions have been exploited in favor of a candidate playing the outsider, but supported by the powers that be faced a purported “insider” who was seen as calculating and ruthless, but who revealed her vulnerability and compassion and connected with the poor and working class people of Appalachia in much the same way that Bobby Kennedy did forty years ago. In much the same way that Johnson still controlled the Party apparatus and the Convention in 1968, Democratic leaders have manipulated the process in favor of their chosen candidate and against the preferred candidate of the majority of Democratic voters.

I also see some frightening contrasts with 1968. Today the media pretty much ignores anti-war demonstrations and helps the government cover up dissent. Far more than in 1968, the press acts as an arm of the government rather than in its Constitutional role as “the fourth estate,” charged with informing the people and acting as a counteracting force to government power. Democrats in congress have supported unconstitutional domestic spying by the government. We don’t really have a national structure to mobilize group actions, and our constitutional rights right to assemble and to dissent have been shockingly curbed by forcing demonstrators into ironically named “free speech zones.” Finally, this year, young people are supporting the candidate who represents the DC insiders and is supported by the major investment banks, oil companies, and the nuclear industry–a candidate who supports changes to if not full privatization of social security, has closed the door on national health care, and supports unconstitutional domestic spying by our government. Most stunning of all, the presumptive nominee’s young supporters are opposed to an open convention in Denver. Meanwhile we old fogeys are holding out for counting all of the votes and an open convention with an honest rollcall vote.

What other parallels and contrasts do you see? What can we expect in Denver? I think these are things that we PUMAs need to discuss.

General Sources:

Dean Blobaum, Timeline of events surrounding Chicago 1968


Chicago Tribune

56 Responses

  1. Wow, Bostonboomer, what a flash back that was! I was 18 at the time and remember much of this – we experienced riots in Newark, NJ where I was working at my first full time job, after rebelling and dropping out of college in 4/68. The Chicago convention was horrifying to watch. At least, then, the broadcast news actually showed footage of that and Viet Nam for all of us to see – unlike what we have today – Brian Williams is no Walter Cronkite.

    I did chuckle though when reading Hoover’s statement and thought, substitute Obama’s name for Hoover and instead of the “new left organizations” substitute PUMA.

    Wonderfully written article, so informative and really just took me back to that time….thanks!

  2. Brilliantly written piece, BB. My parents were avid political watchers back in the summer of ’68. I was only 4, but have had those same stories told over and over, amongst others from that same period. Nice to be able to read these pieces again–some vile creature over on the DNC site apparently sent me a lovely trojan horse that wiped out my brand-new PC. Oh well, the price of dissension and all, you know. There’s one lunatic over there threatening to report us all to the Secret Service for “threatening to assassinate BO”, because we’re commenting on HIS comparisons to MLK, JFK, RFK, and any other high-profile civil rights icon of the era. That these men happened to be all struck down was tragic; however, WE are certainly not seeing the similarities between this particular candidate and those mentioned. I talked somewhat facetiously about going to Denver with my 90-year-old grandma in her wheelchair, but at this point I wouldn’t subject her to what obviously waits for those of us who have the “audacity of hope” that our Democratic principles will be upheld.

  3. Bostonboomer – AMAZING post! Thank you.

    Here’s what I see: I think that if we do not protest peacefully and creatively in Denver, we will be turned into a caricature by the corporate media. We need to manage the perception of the protest very carefully.

    We are the base of the Democratic Party and we should act as such, with pride and with a clear message: Keep the Democratic Party Democratic.

  4. I think it’s interesting (and frightening) to see the progression in government and party attempts to crush dissent. Did the anti-riot law lead to “free speech zones?” I need to do some more research to find out if it is still on the books. And it appears that the party leadership has found a way to wrest control of the nominating process back from the rank and file voters: set up a candidate to intimidate voters in caucus states and make use of the internet to intimidate and exclude supporters of other candidates. I only hope we can find away to fight back successfully.

    madamab–most of the protesters in ’68 had every intention of being nonviolent. It was the government forces who precipitated the violence by working to frustrate every effort of the protesters to be seen and heard by convention goers. This year protesters will not be seen, because they will be locked in cages and there will be even more sophisticated weapons to keep them there. I’m not sure protests outside the convention hall are the way to go. I think we are going to need help from Hillary delegates inside, and without support from Hillary herself, we won’t be able to block Obama’s nomination.

  5. Kudos BostonBoomer!

    I hope that this post gets lots of link-love – it’s a definite history lesson for those too little to remember or not even born at th time.

    Another parallel is the Corrupt Chicago Machine in control of squashing dissent.

    I’m frightened by O-borg – worse than ever now after reading your post.

    The new battleground is the Internet, but what will happen in Denver when both sides are face to face?

  6. Sweetie Software Alert!

    We have a “concern & prayer” troll polluting the waters!

  7. Hey SM,

    Mayor Daley’s son is now in charge of the Chicago Machine. In ’68, Mayor Daley supported Bobby Kennedy, and he wanted to Ted to run in his place. This year BO has the official seal of approval from the Chicago gang. Luckily they aren’t in control of the convention and law enforcement.

  8. Bostonboomer – Great points. Thanks!

    PJ – I adore you. Thank you!

    Gotta go…:-)

  9. Oh, I wish Clinton would run as an Independant.

  10. Pat,

    I can definitely see the potential in that article. I hope madamab has gone off to “create.” Better get your Nancy duds ready.

  11. There is really god video of Hill’s statement today on Talk Left.

  12. Oops, “good” video. Not “god”. Lol

  13. bostonboomer, on July 21st, 2008 at 5:30 pm Said:
    Hey SM,

    Mayor Daley’s son is now in charge of the Chicago Machine. In ‘68, Mayor Daley supported Bobby Kennedy, and he wanted to Ted to run in his place. This year BO has the official seal of approval from the Chicago gang. Luckily they aren’t in control of the convention and law enforcement.

    Boston, this is what scares me, like father like son. DALEYS control Obama, Axelfraud and the whole upper echelon of the O-borg.

    I think the Chicago machine will be 10000% involved in counter-protesting and intimidation.

    Daley was in control in 1968 – now another Daley controls the “presumptuous candidate” – it’s a given they are involved.

  14. masslib,

    I rushed over there to see if Hillary was going to run as an independent or had announced she wouldn’t support BO. I read it as “There really is a god.”


  15. BB,

    Excellent post. We are so lucky here at the Confluence to have so many gifted writers. A great slice of history that presents breathtaking parallels to our current situation. Thank you, thank you.

  16. masslib,

    Thanks for posting the video of Hillary. I miss her so much. God forbid BO should speak out about the Bush administration’s efforts to ban birth control.

  17. This isn’t so much a parallel but a fear I have. Back then it seemed to be an “us vs. them” mentality that was the establishment “them” and the underclass/ordinary citizens “us” made up from various backgrounds, fighting the good fight.

    But because of the candidate who’s being propped up by the establishment this time, I see the us. vs. them becoming a black vs. white fight.

    It’s like this party, who a lot of us feel regularly takes the black vote it is assured of getting for granted, has chosen to use us this year in a way like no other. And it scares me.

    They are using us, and our long history of inequality in this country to say anyone opposing the side that the majority of blacks are on (or at least appear to be), is automatically the WRONG side. And therefore whatever happens to us, we deserve.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen at that convention, but I think it could potentially make 1968 look like a church festival.

  18. trist,

    I’m worried about the consequences of Obama’s nomination for the AA community and for race relations in general. First, I agree that Obama is using the AA community and I don’t think he plans to give anything much in return. He is just taking their votes for granted. The white, elitist “liberals” who support Obama are going to use his nomination as an excuse to claim that protection for minority groups are no longer needed. And if Obama is elected President, his inexperience is likely to lead to failure and a one term presidency. If that happens, many people will use his failure as a reason not to vote for better qualified AA candidates in the future. Not to mention what Obama has done to hurt the causes of gender and LGBT equality.

  19. Elixir,

    I’ve been thinking that this year’s election will parallel 1972, because Obama, like McGovern is being forced on the party by young people and elite “liberals.” But there really are a lot of of parallels to 1968, and I see the potential for a serious spit in the party–which might actually be a good thing in the long run.

    Can Dean, Pelosi, and Brazile really intimidate Clinton delegates into getting with the fake program? I wonder. Many Clinton Delegates and donors have started up websites to network, just like we pumas are doing. I think there may be a real effort to stage a walkout of delegates, and I hope it happens. The party “leadership” needs a serious wake-up call.

  20. Fantastic history lesson, thanks so much!
    This is one moment I congratulate myself for being out of this party as of May 31, 2008
    All I can add is this video – which in its last third has the ending of that election and some upcoming ones (except Clinton’s)

  21. Delphyne and Irlandese,

    It was really interesting for me to go back over these events and try to understand how it all happened. I was 20 in 1968, and I remember watching the TV reports in horror. It was every bit as disturbing and shocking as watching the reporting on Katrina. It seems to me looking back that 1967, ’68, and ’69 felt like one terrible shock after another. It was hard to believe it was happening. But these years under Bush are in many ways far worse, because no one in politics seems to be standing up for the rights of ordinary Americans.

  22. This piece is fantastic Bostonboomer! I remember watching the Battle of Michigan Avenue (I think) on one of the 3 channels (back then), not really understanding what was going on, but amazed that my Dad had jumped up off of his seat and was watching, clearly horrified, the police violence on the kids in a standing position 3 feet from the TV.

    “I’m not sure protests outside the convention hall are the way to go. I think we are going to need help from Hillary delegates inside, and without support from Hillary herself, we won’t be able to block Obama’s nomination.”

    I completely agree with you. I think insuring that our vulnerability is not taken advantage of by anyone who feels entitled to thuggish behavior is imperative and can be done by figuring out safer and more effective ways to get our point across and to be sure that when exercising our constitutional right to peaceful assembly we are protected from those entitled thugs and from ridicule by being offered to show dissent from within cages.

  23. bostonboomer,
    I pretty much agree with everything you said. I feel like we’re in an impossible situation right now. And I see no way out of it that won’t leave either us out in the cold having been thrown overboard by this unfair process and a party that looks at us as irrelevant now, or the majority of the black community crying foul, because if Hillary gets the nom. they will claim THEY were robbed. **sigh**

    I truly HATE those in charge of the DNC who have done this to all of us! More than Obama and his culties, more than the bias media. And 100 times more than how I felt about what the republcans did in the last 2 elections.
    Whatever the outcome is of this, I want them gone.

  24. BostonBoomer! This is a wonderful post. I was just 14 in the summer of ’68 but I was riveted to the TV watching as the story unfolded.

    And what happened that summer is one of the reasons I’m reluctant to go to Denver this summer. As you say, the demonstrators didn’t plan violent protests — the violence was a result of the police riot.

    So it seems from your post that this year is a reflection of the worst from 1968 and 1972…. Which makes it about as bad as it’s seemed.

    (shaking my head) You’ve given us all a lot to think about. (and I love the footnotes!)

  25. edgeofforever,

    Thanks for posting that video link. I love that video, and I had forgotten all about it. It brightened up my day to watch it again.

  26. Thanks for reading, Katiebird. I’m probably going to have to go to Indiana at the end of Aug. to help out my parents anyway, but I wouldn’t want to be in Denver. I will do everything I can to support the pumas who do go, and I’ll continue to hope that Hillary comes through for us by putting her name in nomination.

  27. Hi KarolinaNYC!

    How is your mom doing? I read your comments on the other thread. It’s good to see you. I’ve been so busy for the past two weeks that it’s been hard to find time to blog.

  28. BB said -The party “leadership” needs a serious wake-up call.

    They as well as the media/Wall Street gang are so besotted with their plans for power/money they do not hear us. That is why the internet is great for organizing what action we need to take – physical presence.

    In January I, as well as many many others saw the ramifications of forcing an unqualified black into office just to have a pocket president. This whole candidacy is unfortunate at best and creepy scary to say the least.

    The American public will not elect BO. We have suffered from 8 years of Bush – we have issues that need to be addressed and BO shows no interest and has no knowledge to initiate policies – he is all talk. Everyday my indignation grows and there is no way back to the present Democratic Party. No way to support anyone who is an active participate in this farce.

    As a person who has written hundreds of emails to various elected officials since March, I think they need to see how many of us there really are. Hillary was gaining in support by leaps and bounds – now that the DNC has shown their behind, many more are appalled and are now giving it their full attention. The D Party has no idea what they have stirred up.

    PUMA/The Denver Group

  29. CNN Lou Dobbs poll…. is the media biased towards Obama? duh.

    Go vote.

  30. Read it and Weep!


    It is probably a lie so that he can pretend all of the money came from his people.

    What a slime ball!

    I feel dirty everytime I see him or hear his voice. Needless to say, I am quite dirty frequently.

  31. Bostonboomer, great post.
    I was a young teenager in Chicago during that convention and as a black woman, I have a slightly different take on one aspect of those events.
    Because of all the unrest attendant to the Civil Rights Movement, the sit-ins, protests, rallies, riots, and all their attendant violence, plus the growing anti-war unrest, the riots in Grant Park were almost commonplace by then.
    Maybe not in that location for those particular reasons, but what with the climate of discontent, the assassinations of heroes, including Malcolm X, who was considered heroic in my neighborhood even if you weren’t a Muslim, whether you agreed with him or not.
    I remember being downtown for some reason and walking past the park, noticing the growing crowds, sensing their mood and calmly deciding with my friends to just move on.
    We knew what that kind of vibe was likely to lead to and it was no longer compelling enough to make us want to hang around.
    That’s probably the saddest assessment I’ve ever made of my own teen years, violence and disenchantment were so prevalent that the emotional scarring was permanent, but not exactly painful at the time.

  32. Bostonboomer, thanks for asking —Mom’s doing okay. At the moment she’s going through her post-PT & OT bitch and complain-about-the-pain session, which does not let me hear myself think very clearly, but the long-term results are well worth the inconvenience.

    Thanks for reading my comments and let me know if you’ll be in Indiana anywhere near where I am!

  33. While television in 1968 was willing to show Mayor Daley”s police beating up the demonstrators. It was so much worse than the television showed. I lived in the Chicago area and worked at 22 West Madison St. From the windows of our office we could see the action going on below on State St. It was literally war in the streets. My job required that I leave work at 9:20 in the evening and, since I had to race to the IC train to get home, I had to go down State St. over to Randolph to catch the train. I was yelled at by the police to, “get off the street.” I was not a demonstrator, nor by my business attire did I look like one, albeit I was in sympathy with their cause. What struck me at the time and still does in retrospect was that the police were spoiling for a fight with anyone they saw. I get the same feeling now from the Obama thugs and I fear that it may not be the Denver police as much as the Obama folks who will visit violence on the demonstrators at this convention. I hope this time that the police will protect the demonstrators against the belecose Obama mobs, who have already shown their propensity for violence. I also hope that the media will do its job and not ignore the chance to show the demonstrators and how many there are, who will not follow the party line.

  34. I remember all of it. I was a teeenager at the time. Eugene McCarthy was one of my youthful heroes. I was upset that Bobby Kennedy decided to enter the race after the fact. I still believe that if he had not, McCarthy would easily have won all the primaries, the entire antiwar movement would have coalesced around him, and the party bosses would have been forced to support him, or risk an unbelievable figurative if not literal insurrection. When Kennedy entered, the forces were diluted enough so that no one could win all the primaries. It is possible that Bobby could have won the nomination had he lived, since Daley and the Kennedys had a connection. When Bobby was killed, with the McCarthy aura having diminished because he had lost the close California primary, there was no adequate force to contest the party bosses, solidly behind Humphrey.

    I will never, ever forget the horror of the Chicago Convention. When Humphrey praised Daley’s handling of it, and his police force’s actions, I knew I did not care if Humphrey won, even though my parents had rightfully taught me to fear and hate Nixon. Hubert Humphrey, the one-time idealistic darling of the Left, remains a tragic political figure, because he sold his ideals for a chance to be on the LBJ side of power. I still do not regret that Humphrey lost, even though we saw how awful Nixon was. Sometimes ideals can even trump political pragmatism.

    Forty years later, we are seeing another candidate forced down our throats. It is obvious that the voters and the country want Hillary Clinton; and that she is being denied because of the political machinations and thuggery of party bosses, just as happened in 1968. Once again, as Peter, Paul and Mary once sang, we take our place on the great mandela, as it moves through our brief moment of time, and we take a stand for what is right.

  35. That was a great piece! Everything that happened then shaped the activism of the 70’s when we marched to end the war in Vietnam as kids. Funny, 40 years after all that — take a look at Brazile.

    I wonder? Who would riot now? Maybe it’s time to leave, is what I think of late. Go find some tropical isle removed from the world and live in relative peace. In our lifetimes, we never expected anything like this, did we? That times would be like this…

  36. William,

    Thank you for your elequent comments. Humphrey’s story was truly tragic. He was a strong fighter for liberal clauses until he sold his soul in an attempt to finally win the presidency. My family comes from North Dakota and Minnesota originally, and I always heard good things about Humphrey from them. Humphrey was one of the founders of the Farmer-Labor Party in MN and he was instrumental in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    I also supported McCarthy and resented Kennedy jumping in after it seemed clear LBJ could be defeated. But I came to admire Kennedy’s connection with ordinary people, and I think he might have had a better chance of beating Humphrey at the convention than McCarthy. He also might have been able to beat Nixon. It was still a long shot for him to get the nomination though.

  37. vbonnaire,

    I highly recommend Dean Blobaum’s website on Chicago ’68. I got a lot of the information from his excellent timeline of events. The timeline continues in to the 1970s and covers the trial of the Chicago 7 and the many other events that followed.

  38. I never imagined I’d see days like this.

    Obama has unleashed so much anarchy and hatred that I fear there will have to be riots and violence. Why? For no other reason that so much chaos cannot be contained.

    There is too much potential energy in play here. None of it is being channelled in a useful way.

  39. bostonboomer: Thank you as well; not only for such a well-written, evocative piece, but for remembering the role of Eugene McCarthy. There is a lot of understandable RFK nostalgia, but many forget or never knew that it was McCarthy who was the only one who said “yes” to Allard Lowenstein, when he was begging some legitimate political figure to stand up the the LBJ war machine. And people scorned McCarthy and his “children’s crusade,” until he almost did the impossible in New Hampshire. McCarthy may have become too sardonic and somewhat embittered in his later life, but he was a truly brilliant person, and one of the great liberal political theorists of any time.

  40. Bostonboomer-I loved your synopsis. I think part of “girding up your loins” has to be knowledge of what can happen. I also agree with the need for strategy.


  41. William,

    Thank you. One thing I left out because the piece was getting way too long–McCarthy went out of the hotel and spoke to protesters in Grant Park Aug. 29. Early the next morning police raided McCarthy’s hospitality suite and beat up some of his campaign staff, claiming that things had been thrown out the windows onto the street.

  42. Although Hillary was idiotically accused by the BO camp of hinting that BO might be assassinanted like RFK, I think that VERY CREARLY SHE is the one much more comparable to RFK and JFK and MLK and Malcolm X; heroic spirit, strongly connected to the people, being an advocate for the people, amazing strength, brilliance, intelligence and … so very feared by the elite.

  43. I did not know much about McCarthy, though I remember his name. I was very young at the time, so thank you for the enlightenment William and BB.

  44. From a post over at PumaPac

    PDOP To Submit 100,000th Just Say No Deal Email Today!

    100,000 Emails in less than a week isn’t that bad, right?

    Well, we’re not quite there yet, but we are getting close. As of 2:30 CST today, our readers have submitted over 96,000 emails to Superdelegates via the email submission initiative at our site. Read the full article, just posted:


  45. Let us also remember that we lost in 1968 and probably as a result to the chaos in the streets of Chicago. However, the chaos was caused by opposition to the Vietnam War. This time it may be predicated on one candidate. There is a vast difference between ideological values and those of a cult figure.

    What worries me is that the poplulace may somehow not be able to see the difference.

  46. Is Lou Dobbs the only voice in the MSM who can clearly see the hypocrisy of the Obama campaign and is willing to say so? Other than Hannity, who would be expected to rail against any of the opposition, the swooning over this guy is downright nauseating.

    I just hope the fact that the NYT refused to publish McCain’s view has some serious blowback. To be that tightly wound into the Obama crusade is dangerous to say the least.

  47. BostonBoomer: Excellent post. I was a young’un at the time (9).

  48. Pat: I think something happened over at the NY Times. They endorsed Hillary, but the day after the PA primary, they called her out big time. See this.

  49. SophieL: But they are withholding a presidential candidate’s essay from publication and then only with terms they lay out for him. We may agree or disagree with McCain. That is not the point. His views as a contender have been stifled and replaced with adulation for another who waffles all over the place. Strange.

  50. 1968…1972…I’ve been thinking of both all year but especially of ’68, so thanks, Boston.

    And this week I’ve been noting to friends on and off the blogs the overwhelming irony I see:

    “The irony is beginning to pile up. My favorite cognitive dissonance is observing the peacepeople supporters of Obama evidently OK with moving the DNC to Daley’s Chicago for takeover by the very people (and their children) who put the ‘peacepeople’ (their parents, mostly) in the hospital in ’68. (I see a movie script developing out of this one and it won’t be a comedy).

    Oh, well. Perhaps irony is dead after all. But corruption and machine politics are not. Disgusting.”

  51. I think this is why BO voted for FISA. If elected, he can find and squash dissent to his heart’s content, under the guise of ‘national security’. We are seeing his supporters do that NOW, and the guy hasn’t even been confirmed! Was that the trade-off between BO and all the corporate media donors and Republicans who funneled money into his coffers? Sure looks like it. None of the recent events over at the NYT makes sense–unless you smell a buy-off.

  52. Irlandese,

    To me, Obama appears to be the quintessential authoritarian personality. Unfortunately, he is also incredibly narcissistic. IMHO, he is even more likely than Bush to try to claim dictatorial powers. He thinks he knows what’s best for us and he will try to make us accept the bad tasting medicine.

  53. So I just turned on CNN and they’re all **Breaking News** Obama says the Iraqis agree on his plan for a timeline? Meanwhile commentators are saying there’s a line you don’t cross as a candidate and Obama has stepped over it..
    Wow, that was fast.

  54. Yes. I’m watching CNN, too, dg….

    David Gergen knows this stuff backwards and forwards and he is credible in saying that Obama has made his first big mistake of this trip…talking about what foreign leaders said in their conversations with him…not done. Not. He’s not the president and not the negotiator…Gloria agreed…a misstep.

    Naive. Inexperienced. In over his head. Wonder who prepped him for this trip…evidently they skipped the basics. Or hubris allows Obama to ignore the rules…again.

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