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.
People like this . . .
. . . 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
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.