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

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.

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

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.

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:

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

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.

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.