it was fifty years ago today, mayor daley sent his troops to play

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

MY SEVENTEENTH YEAR of this life-cycle opened with the Viet Cong launching the Tet Of­fen­sive, in which they put the lie to every­thing our gov­ern­ment, our mil­i­tary, and our media had been telling us about the war “over there.” This sup­pos­edly causes Pres­i­dent Lyndon Johnson to an­nounce that he will not seek re-election.

In April, Martin Luther King Jr, prob­ably the most in­flu­en­tial man of color in the United States, was assassinated. 

In June, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, prob­ably the next Pres­i­dent of the United States, was assassinated.

And then all hell broke loose.


Most white Amer­i­cans be­lieved that the po­lice would never act vi­o­lently without just cause. Hah!


On Au­gust 26, 1969, the De­mo­c­ratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion opened for four days in Chicago, Illi­nois, to anoint Vice Pres­i­dent Hu­bert Humphrey as the par­ty’s can­di­date for the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in November.

I was ten days shy of my 17th birthday and had be­come both “aware” and some­what rad­i­cal­ized in the pre­vious months. I fol­lowed the events in Chicago on the nightly news, in the morning pa­pers, on the radio.

I ar­gued with my fa­ther about it, who, like most white Amer­i­cans, be­lieved that the po­lice would never act vi­o­lently without just cause.

I also ar­gued with the nascent rightwingers in school, none of whose names I re­member fifty years on.

I have nothing of im­port to im­part here, but I do not want the 50th an­niver­sary of this mo­ment in our his­tory to go without posting some­thing about it.


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People like this . . .

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. . . were beaten by people like this.

Veering into chaos

So I am turning to an ar­ticle ti­tled “50 Years Ago: An­tiwar Pro­testers Bru­tally At­tacked in Po­lice Riots at 1968 De­mo­c­ratic Con­ven­tion.” It is a con­ver­sa­tion on Democ­racy Now! Be­tween Bill Ayers, Juan Gon­zalez, and Amy Goodman

Juan Gon­zalez was a member of Stu­dents for a De­mo­c­ratic So­ciety (SDS) and a founding member of the New York City branch of the Young Lords. In 1981, he was elected pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Con­gress for Puerto Rican Rights, con­cen­trating on reg­is­tering Latino voters.

Bill Ayers co-founded the Weather Un­der­ground in 1969, which con­ducted a cam­paign of bombing public build­ings during the ’60s and ’70s in re­sponse to US in­volve­ment in the Vietnam War. He is a re­tired pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago.

Amy Goodman is a broad­cast jour­nalist, syn­di­cated colum­nist, in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter, and au­thor, best known as the long-running host of Democ­racy Now!, an in­de­pen­dent news pro­gram broad­cast daily on radio, tele­vi­sion. and the In­ternet. The con­ver­sa­tion is in­dented below:

GONZÁLEZ: It was 50 years ago this week that the 1968 De­mo­c­ratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Chicago be­came a na­tional spec­tacle, as a major po­lit­ical event veered into chaos that cul­mi­nated with a po­lice riot, much of it un­folding on live na­tional tele­vi­sion. The 1968 DNC came in the middle of a year of mass protests against the Vietnam War.

De­moc­rats had to se­lect a nom­inee after Pres­i­dent Lyndon Johnson an­nounced he would not seek an­other term amid fallout over Vietnam. His vice pres­i­dent, Hu­bert Humphrey, was ul­ti­mately nom­i­nated for pres­i­dent without com­peting in the pri­maries after party bosses arranged for his sup­port from most delegates. 

De­spite months of or­ga­nizing that brought tens of thou­sands of people to the city during the De­mo­c­ratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, Chicago re­fused to issue per­mits for al­most any of the demon­stra­tors. In­stead, they met pro­testers with an es­ti­mated 24,000 po­lice of­fi­cers, Na­tional Guardsmen, and Army troops, who pa­trolled the streets with fixed bayonets.

[There] is a clip from a doc­u­men­tary by News­reel that cap­tures the ten­sion of the protests and how po­lice es­ca­lated the sit­u­a­tion on Au­gust 28th, after someone low­ered an Amer­ican flag in Grant Park. The po­lice, under ap­parent or­ders from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, re­sponded by tear-gassing and club­bing their way through a crowd of about 10,000 people.


Chicago re­fused to issue per­mits to the demon­stra­tors, in­stead sending 20,000 po­lice of­fi­cers and Army troops with fixed bay­o­nets to greet them.


AYERS: Well, we came to Chicago to op­pose a geno­cidal war, to op­pose im­pe­ri­alism. And many of us, my­self included—I wasn’t a leader of the demon­stra­tions, but I was an ac­tivist from Michigan. I had first been ar­rested in 1965. And I had been or­ga­nizing for this con­ven­tion ac­tion for many, many months.

And we came to Chicago with the in­tent of both showing a mas­sive op­po­si­tion to war and racism, but also to show the world what the es­tab­lish­ment was re­ally like. We wanted to show that it was a vi­o­lent, op­pres­sive, dan­gerous es­tab­lish­ment. And we felt that we had to do that on the largest stage we could imagine, and that was Chicago ’68.

GOODMAN: After four days and nights, ending Au­gust 29, 1968, more than 650 people were ar­rested, more than 1,100 in­jured. De­spite the po­lice at­tacks, thou­sands headed back to their com­mu­ni­ties as re-energized and rad­i­cal­ized activists.

The ex­cerpts above total 450 words; the com­plete con­ver­sa­tion is more than 2,000 words in length, so there’s good reason to click on over and read the con­ver­sa­tion in its en­tirety. When you’re done, keep scrolling down as more ar­ti­cles re­lated to the same topic follow . . .

De­spite the po­lice at­tacks in Chicago in 1968, thou­sands headed back to their com­mu­ni­ties as rad­i­cal­ized ac­tivists. Click To Tweet

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FEATURED IMAGE: A young lady prob­ably only known to family and friends who stumble across this on the In­ternet can be seen looking into the faces of the armed troops standing guard. While their size makes them look both in­tim­i­dating and older than her, they may be her age and more afraid than most of the protestors.


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