Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 28, 1968:

The Democratic National Convention, Chicago

Nearly 40 years later, the events surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968 still inspire hyperbole, such as this by one Dean Blobaum, who has (according to his web site) a "quasi-academic research interest in the history of radical movements in the 1960s":

"Heads were cracked, tear gas billowed, police lines advanced through demonstrators—and television cameras captured some of the graphic scenes. The eyes of the nation focused on Chicago and we decided who we were, what side we were on, and what we would fight for. Chicago changed minds, Chicago changed politics, Chicago changed the Left, Chicago changed the media, Chicago changed those who were here and those who watched from far away, and Chicago changed Chicago."

On August 28, 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated for president, but that was overshadowed by events outside the convention hall. For a more sober assessment, we turn to the Chicago Public Library: "Some of the country's most publicized anti-war demonstrations took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention... Police, national guardsmen, and federal troops prepared for the arrival of a hundred thousand protesters. The number of persons at any of the protest sites never exceeded six or seven thousand, including a thousand undercover agents and a number of spectators. As the following passage from the city's official report illustrates, animosity was high on both sides:

" 'Large amounts of hair spray were sold in the Old Town area stores during the time of the Convention. The expulsion of hair spray from a can when set fire to works as a home-made flame thrower. Royal Blue Food Store at 744 W. Fullerton Avenue reported large groups of Yippies purchasing large quantities of hair spray. It is common knowledge that Yippies have no use for hair spray or other cosmetics for personal use.'

"Most clashes between the police and demonstrators happened in and about the Grant Park-Michigan Avenue and Lincoln Park areas. Compared to anti-war protests elsewhere in the country, and other riots in Chicago, damage and injuries were minor. However, many of the brief clashes were televised live or played later. Six hundred forty-one persons were arrested and numerous protesters, as well as 198 police officers, reported injuries. The events continued to receive wide public attention, due to the federal government using a new law to charge eight persons with conspiring to cross state lines to cause riots. The Chicago Conspiracy Trial also made good theater and continued to draw attention to the convention for many years."

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