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Home / US / Memory of 1968: Chicago's bloody Democratic convention

Memory of 1968: Chicago's bloody Democratic convention



We look back to 1968 this morning and remember the political earthquake that was the National Assembly of Democrats. Chicago-born Scott Simon of NPR is our guide:

The 1968 Congress of Democrats in Chicago collided with worlds: young and old, war and peace, law and order.

"The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching …"

"You can not spend this week in isolation," said Bill Daley. "& # 68; one of the most dramatic and traumatic years in the country's history, and it somehow came to Chicago and you could feel it."

Daley, who was to become President of Obama's Chief of Staff, was a sophomore in 1

968 and spent the session alongside his father, Mayor of Chicago Richard J. Daley.

  chicago-dnc-1968-mayor-daley-ap-680826010.jpg

Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago, tells delegates that he is glad to have the Democratic National Convention in his city at the opening session on August 26, 1968.

AP Photo

"We knew there would be a tremendous challenge on the roads, it was a kind of challenge for the system," Daley said. "And my father believed that he was the defender of the city."

With thousands of expected protesters, 12,000 Chicago police officers were deployed along with the National Guard.

On August 25, Walter Cronkite noted on the air: "The Democratic Convention begins in a police state, and there just seems to be no other way to say so."

Shortly before she joined CBS News, Bob Schieffer was a young reporter in 1968, at his first national congress, "The country was torn by the Vietnam War," he said. "There were demonstrations all over the country every day, and then the Democratic Convention in Chicago came in. It was supposed to be a place where the Democrats would get their business together, but everyone knew that it would be difficult

  anti-war demonstrators [19659014] On August 25, 1968, demonstrators gathered in Lincoln Park, Chicago, to protest the war while Democratic National Convention delegates poured into the city. </p>
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<p>  The primaries had been explosive; President Johnson was forced by the success of Senator Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire. Robert Kennedy was murdered during the night when he won the California area code. Vice President Hubert Humphrey did not enter </em> any primaries </em> but was favored to win the nomination. </p>
<p>  "Hubert Humphrey was the establishment," said Schieffer, "and he represented the big bosses and the traditional Democrats. The party, the politicians, the mayors of the big city, they certainly were not satisfied with Gene McCarthy, his only campaign was: "I will end the war in Vietnam." </p>
<p>  The city said in a year of assassinations and riots, it could not allow demonstrators to march on convention or sleep in city parks. </p>
<figure class=  NATO summit Chicago Police [19659020] Chicago police officers confront a demonstrator on the ground at Grant Park in Chicago during the city's hosting of the Democratic National Assembly, August 26, 1968. </p>
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<p>  Bill Jaconetti was a rookie police officer in 1968, who was invited to protest in Grant Park: "We knew the convention would come to the city, and we knew there were likely to be some problems," he said , </p><div><script async src=

"I came home from Korea, I was stationed at the DMZ, and the next trip, all my friends went to Vietnam."

Wednesday night, August 28: The confrontation that had been building up all week, probably every year, burst on the road between Grant Park and the convention hotel.

Jaconetti recalled: "The first MP said:" Clear the streets. "After about, I do not know, maybe five or six warnings, and then the last warning, he said," If you do not move off the road, my officers will clear the road. "And that's what we had to do that night. "

  chicago-dnc-1968-bloody-ap-6808280918.jpg" srcset = "https://cbsnews3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2018/ 08/25 / b1a89457-3254-4fbb-8ebe -78f8dc28824e / resize / 220x / 6555e48051666fd1d693db3af622dbb1 / chicago-dnc-1968-bloody-ap-6808280918.jpg 1x "/> </span><figcaption>
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An Unknown Man Gets First Aid at Grant Park in Chicago During a Confrontation Between Police and Anti-War Demonstrators, 28. August 1968.

AP Photo

A connected witness described what happened next: "They were just brandishing their clubs like a bunch of idiots."

Jaconetti recalled: "The problem was not the normal people, the problem was the agitators and there were many of them.My partner next to me, he caught a house bricks in the chest, they had to take him to the hospital.

Marilyn Katz was the 23-year-old head of Student Security for a Democratic Society. "The idea that someone came up with the idea of ​​a big fight is wrong," she said. "I understand that they felt that they should retain control of their city and that the Democratic Party and the mayor said: & # 39; We count on you to keep things in order. & # 39; There was no excuse for beating us. "

Simon asked Katz," Have you ever seen anyone throw anything at police? "

" Yes, yes, I did, "she replied. "And if I had something, I would have thrown it back because we had done nothing."

The violence at Grant Park was seen around the world, and at the convention where the anti-war delegate erupted. Abe Ribicoff said on the podium: "With George McGovern as President of the United States, we would not have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago."

Despite the uproar, Humphrey won the Democratic nomination by more than a thousand votes.

  chicago-dnc-1968-candidate-620-ap-6808290966.jpg

An Aug. 29, 1968 photo shows Vice President Hubert Humphrey, right, and his vice-nominee, Senator Edmund S. Muskie, went with their Wives at the Democratic Convention in Chicago after their nomination for the president and vice president.

AP Photo

But Schieffer said, "When all this trouble broke out and all these difficulties had happened in Chicago, the nomination was not worth the paper on which it was written."

Richard Nixon ran a "law" and order "platform, and won the presidency in a narrow election." And at the end of 1968, a special commission called what was happening on the streets of Chicago a "police uprising" that night.

Bill Jaconetti – who was decorated in 1979 for taking two bullets to free 13 hostages – said, "Well, it was not the police riot.

And Marilyn Katz, now a well-connected PR executive, agrees, "I think it's too much to blame for each policeman. I think Daley made a mistake. He really wanted to keep control of his city and demonstrate it.

Richard J. Daley would be re-elected twice after 1968. But his actions at the Democratic Congress he brought home this year would tarnish his image in the story the party and the city he loved. [19659005] Simon asked Bill Daley, "Does your father ever have a second opinion about his actions or something he should have done otherwise?"

"He probably regretted the convention!" He laughed. "He was defensive at the Police action because he thought they were provoked, challenged. Yes, he wished it had not happened. But he was not someone who went back and was afraid of decisions.

"And in those times of energy, things were black and white. There was good, there was bad, cops are bad, you know, protesters are good life is grayer. "


For more information:


History of Mark Hudspeth.

More from our series "Remembering 1968": [19659051]
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