BABY BOOMER BABBLE
THE 1968 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
My best friend was going to Elmhurst College in 1968. I was attending Northern Illinois University, in Dekalb. At least, I was suppose to be attending NIU. I was gone most of the time, campaigning for Robert Kennedy and protesting the Vietnam War in Chicago. My NIU career was rather short-lived. I flunked out after a year. Severe absenteeism. IÕve always rationalized it as there being more important things to do.
Anyway, my friend was a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who were one of the major protesting groups at the convention. I kind of tagged along, not knowing quite what we were getting into.
Emotions were boiling over as the convention approached. President Johnson was continuing to escalate the war, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated on April 4, and Robert Kennedy was killed in California after winning the Democratic primary on June 5. Everything seemed to be coming apart at the seams. Frustrations were running high. To add to the tension, President Johnson decided not to seek the nomination. ThatÕs what we were gearing up to protest. Ends up he didnÕt even show up at the convention. But Hubert Humphrey did. Right or wrong, he was seen as a supporter of the Presidents war policy, so the show went on.
My friend and I spent most of our time in the office of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About The War, who I would later, (1971-72) do some work for. We were given the job of trying to keep up with what was happening at the convention. We had an insider who would call us periodically. We were also planning a march for clergy and laymen on August 27, to Lincoln Park.
The organizing groups in the protest included Students for a Democratic Society, the Youth International Party (YIPPIES), the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the Black Panthers, and behind the scene, Clergy and Laymen Concerned. From where we were at, I had the opportunity to see and/or meet Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, George McGovern, and Eugene McCarthy. I also saw Allen Ginsberg, which was the highlight for me.
When the convention voted down a peace platform, and nominated Humphrey over McGovern and McCarthy, the situation got pretty well out of hand. It wasnÕt a good idea to ruin Mayor DaleyÕs party. The various demonstrations were broken up by 11,900 Chicago police, 7500 Illinois National Guardsmen, 7500 Army troops, and 1000 secret service agents. There never was a firm count, but there must have been between 20-30,000 protesters. As the situation worsened, there were many people seriously hurt. Vietnam didnÕt have anything on Chicago those five days.
I escaped injury and arrest. The experience was interesting and somewhat scary, to say the least. What the government will do to maintain the status quo became for me a frightening realization. The experience helped concretize my belief that those in power are not going to change or give up their positions very easily. In the face of a disastrous defeat in Vietnam, none of them were about to change course and admit it.
As it turns out, IÕm having deja vu all over again. WeÕre right back in the same predicament. Seems weÕll never learn. IÕm gearing up for 2008. Hello Denver.
Statue in Grant Park, Chicago, August