Taking it to the Streets of Chicago1968

& to the Streets of Seattle 1999

The Streets of Chicago1968

Nowhere else during the decade was dissent so dramatically opposed as in the “Streets of Chicago” during the turbulent democratic convention in August 1968. The barbed wire Jeeps in front of the Hilton Plaza evoked images of  Russian tanks  in the streets of  Prague.

By the time the country had reached its boiling point. Two American icons, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F.Kennedy´s brother Bobby, had just been assassinated.

 Riots had errupted in many American Cities, the Black Panther Party was at war against police and FBI, two Jesuit priests had burned hundreds of draft cards  at a selective service center in Maryland, while everyday, young American boys were being slaughtered in Vietnam, in a war that for many had already lost its meaning. All over the country university campuses were closed for the whole semester because of the student rebellions

Social, cultural, and political conflicts were taken to the streets.

Minds of America,  a new generation of young man and women, who participated in politics, became ideolgical in their focus or just counter culture activists devoted to a politics of ecstasy (whatever that may be), curious about the world, furious against the war and the established war-mongers, doubting and questioning everything and sometimes nothing…


War protesters, most of them descendents of the white middle class, by the majority members or sympathizers of  MOBE (Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam) or  YIP (Youth International Party-the Yippies), decided to “take it” to Chicago and send a message to the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and his party, that had lead America into a meaningless war in Vietnam. It was Chicago were this party, they called it Death Party, would gather  for its 1968 National Convention.

Another candidate, Eugene McCarthy, who promised an immediate end of the war in Vietnam, had been defeated at the primaries and now was  without chance to gain the nomination. Eugene McCarty and his supporters were more with the protesters, than with their own party. Finaly some democratic delegates joined the demonstrations.

Protesters also were accompanied by the authors William Bourroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer and French playwright Jean Genet.

In addition to these organisations and public figures, the Black Panthers, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights movements planned to have their representatives in Chicago to press their complaints concerning racism in American policies and politics.  


Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was unsympathetic. He called up 12.000 police officers, 7.500 Army troopers and 6000 National Guardsman to shut off the protesters dissent.Television cameras recorded a bloody riot as police arrested over 500 people in clashes that injured more than 100 police and an uncounted number of demonstrators.

There had already been clashes between demonstrators and the police from the first day of the Convention.It was Wednesday August 28th,  the 5th  day of the convention, and the protests, at night, when the peace plank proposed for the democratic party had been voted down in the Chicago Amphitheatre.

By now even the National Guard had been brought into the streets of Chicago.

It was then that around 6000 protesters decided to march out of Grant Park towards the Amphitheater but since they didn´t have permit the police stopped the marchers. After one hour of negotiations the marchlines began to break up. Protesters tried to escape.

Grant Park is, separated by the Chicago main roads, only connected by small bridges. Though most of the bridges were guarded by the police, the crowd found an unguarded bridge and moved out.

Coincidently the Southern Christian Leadership which was permited to march to the Amphitheater was passing by. The crowd joined in. Just in front of the Hilton protesters were separated by the police from the SCLC. This attack happened right in front of the delegates, journalists and byestanders.

The Hilton Hotel (yellow 1)   Riot  

In this context a quotation by Jack Newfield in The Village Voice September 5th 1968 in Norman Mailer Miami and the Siege of Chicago“:

At the southwest entrance a skinny, longhaired kid skidded down the sidewalk, and four overweight cops leaped on him, chopping strokes on his head. His hair flew from the force of the blows. A dozen small rivulets of blood began to cascade down the kid´s temple and onto the sidewalk. He was not crying or screaming, but crawling in a stupor toward the gutter. When he saw a photographer take a picture, he made a V sign with his fingers.

A doctor in a white uniform and Red Cross arm band began to run toward the kid, but two other cops caught him from behind and knocked him down. One of them jammed his knee into the doctors throat and begun clubbing his rib cage. The doctor squirmed away, but the cops followed him, swinging hard, sometimes missing.

A few feet away a phalanax of police charged into a group of women, reporters, and young McCarthy activists standing idly against the window of the Hilton Hotel´s Haymarket Inn. The terrified people tumbled backward through the glass. The police then climbed through the open window and began to beat people, some of whom had been drinking quietly in the hotel bar.

At the side entrance of the Hilton four cops were chasing one frightened kid of about seventeen. Suddenly, Fred Dutton, a former aide to Robert Kennedy, moved out from under the marquee and interposed his body between the kid and the police. “He is my guest in this hot“, Dutton told the cops. The police started to club the kid.

Dutton screamed for the first cops name and badge number. The cop grabbed Dutton and began to arrest him, until a Washington Post reporter identified Dutton as a former RFK aide.

Demonstrators, reporters, McCarthy workers, doctors, all begun to stagger into the Hilton lobby, blood streaming from their face and head wounds. The lobby smelled from teargas, and stink bombs dropped by the Yippies. A few people begun to direct the wounded to a makeshift hospital on the fifteenth floor, the McCarthy stuff headquaters. Fred Dutton was screaming at the police, and at the journalists to report all the “sadism and brutality(…)”

Meanwhile presidential nomination was on the underway. Senator Abraham Ribicoff accused Mayor Daley of “Gestapo tactics “ in the streets of Chicago. The Mayor´s  furious response was recorded by TV but off mike. Lipreaders later decoded that he had bellowed obcenities at Ribicoff.

Hubert Humphrey won the party´s nomination on the first ballot.

Around 500 Anti War delegates then marched from the Amphitheater to the Hilton.The battles were already finished and protesters got a permit to stay in Grant Park for the night.On Thursday August 29th several attempts were made to march to the Amphitheater. A march led by a group of delegates was turned back with tear gas. Dick Gregory a local democratic polititian invited all the protesters to his house wich happened to be in direction of the Amphitheater.

People who tried to march there were stopped at 18th Street.

John Shultz, Chairman of a writing programm at Columbia University supposes:

The reason the march was allowed as far as 18th Street on Thursday was not because Dailey feared what the demonstrators would do at the Amphihteater, which was well protected and ten exhausting miles away, but because beyond 18th Street is deep ghetto and God and Daley knew what might happen (…).

August 29th was  the last day of the Convention

The war in Vietnam continued for the next seven years and outlasted even Richard Nixon, Republican candidate of 1968, who finally won the US. ballot against Hubert Humphrey.


                            Taking it to the Streets of Seattle 1999

November 30th  – December 3rd  The World Trade Organisation met in Seattle to attempt to broaden the rules for free trade and the flow of capital. But tens of thousands of protesters came as well, taking it to the Streets, their goal was to stop an organization that they say wants to govern their lives under a veil of secrecy and promote property rights at the expense of democracy, human rights, labor rights and the environment.

An eyewitness report:

The riot police were in full force dressed in robocop uniforms, armed with tanks, automatic rifles and Billy clubs. County sheriffs and state troopers joined them on patrol. I was standing in a crowd of thousands of non violent demonstrators when the police fired CS gas canisters into the air(…). It was a scene right from the anti–Vietnam War areas, one that repeated itself throughout the week. Police kicked protesters who were in civil disobedience, shot them with rubber bullets and in some cases sprayed pepper spray into their eyes. The police used so much tear gas that they had to order an emergancy shipment from the manufacturer in Wyoming(…)

In what some have called a police riot, (even the English trade minister “had been tear gassed” as he exused himself, after his delay to one of the WTO ministerial meetings), violence errupted in the streets of  Seattle in a way that was similar to Chicago 1968 and does not show any change in how the U.S. Police or their superiors act against dissension.


Chicago and Seattle

As in 1968 there had been race riots all over the country during the last years, as in the Chicago Parks a curfew approached during the WTO  ministerial conference in the center of Seattle, as  in Chicago National Guard and a huge police contingent  was brought into the streets.

Massive show of force was used to keep the demonstraters off the streets. John Shulz, in a comment about Chicago, is giving his point of view concerning Chicago police tactics:

(…)and their tactics came out of the heads of our most prominent sociologists, who are piggish in their believe that they believe that any problem will yield to a prescribed or acceptable solution if we just apply sufficient brain-power, manpower, machine-power, money- power, or just plain force(…).

(…)The main idea in the contribution of this sociologists is that instead of shooting and killing there should be a massive show of force, of manpower, and quick stamping out before  the instant trouble starts.

Rage and fury were in the air. Chicago and Seattle Demonstrators were expressing dissension in a way that must have been a great threat to the police and their superiors. An example given by an FBI document:  http/www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/1553/fbi51468.html

In Chicago MOBE was holding karate classes in Lincoln park, stink bombs were thrown in the Hilton lobby by the Yippies while the real bombs were  thrown in Vietnam.

In Seattle kids sprayed Slogans on shopwindows some even destroyed private property in Nike Town as protest against how this property was made while Nike workers were suffering under their working conditions in the countries of the South.

Chicago and Seattle cops took it serious and began stamping out before it started.

Mayor Daley made a famous slip of tongue when he said:

“The policeman isn`t here to create disorder he is here to preserve disorder”.

Bibliography:                                Chicago Mayor Richard Daley


Norman Mailer „Miami and the Siege of Chicago“, Primus New York 1968









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