1968: Art and Politics in Chicago

“In the weeks leading up to the convention, the city prepared for battle, even surrounding the site of the convention, the International Amphitheater, with barbed wire. It appeared Daley intended to make good on his promise: ‘[a]s long as I am mayor of this city, there will be law and order on the streets.’ Conversely, the dissenters were disparate in both ideology and strategy. They represented various anti­war organizations, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (Mobe), and the Youth Interna­tional Party (Yippies), known for their highly theatrical, antiestablishment actions (fig. 2). Though early pre­dictions estimated over 100,000 demonstrators would descend on Chicago, in reality, due to fears about the potential violence and growing alienation among political activists, only about 10,000 people showed up. Despite such reduced numbers, the DNC quickly devolved into chaos, both on the convention floor and in the streets. These events demonstrate the deep social anxieties and divides permeating this historical moment, and they were mediated not just in relation to direct political engagement, but also on the cultural front.The clash between Daley’s forces and the pro­testers began immediately, with the violence intensify­ing as the convention wore on: on Sunday, August 25, the eve of the convention, police began nightly raids on Lincoln Park to prohibit protesters from camping out; the next day activists were repeatedly dispersed by police as they marched from Lincoln Park through Old Town on their way downtown; and on Tuesday additional National Guard troops were brought into the city to quell the escalating hostility and augment the Chicago police (fig. 3). One of the worst confrontations took place the following evening in front of the head­quarters of the Democratic Party, the Conrad Hilton Hotel at the corner of Michigan and Balbo Avenues (fig. 4). As protesters hurled rocks, bottles, and exple­tives, the police fought back with Mace, clubs, and even motorcycles, used by some patrolmen to run down people in the street. As Don Sullivan, a reporter for Chicago’s American who was reporting live back to the news desk, described it, ‘The cops are clubbing everything in sight. God…they don’t care who they slug. Girls. Kids…anything that moves. There are 250 sitting in the intersection of Michigan and Balbo. Police are wading in.  I can hear screams’ (fig. 5). …”
[PDF] 1968: Art and Politics in Chicago
Steal This Newspaper
Daniela Markova Soukup

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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