AP Was There: Protesters fight Chicago police, guardsmen

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Aug. 28, 1968, the delegates to the Democratic National Convention voted down a peace plank by a tally of 1,500 to 1,000. It put the match to the Chicago powder keg.

Hours after the afternoon vote, hundreds of demonstrators waged war with police on the streets of Chicago. “The whole world is watching,” the protesters chanted. Presidential campaign watcher Theodore H. White, surveying the carnage, wrote simply: “The Democrats are finished.”

An investigatory commission later described the scene as a “police riot.” The young demonstrators taunted the police, “Oink, oink,” and the police responded with swinging nightsticks and flying wedges.

Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was nominated for the presidential race, but it was the hollowest of victories. The polls showed Republican Richard Nixon with a commanding lead. Humphrey himself observed: “I have pursued impossible dreams before, and maybe I am now.”

Fifty years after the bloody confrontation, The Associated Press is making its story written that day by James R. Peipert available with photos.

A National Guardsman stands beside a machine gun as others form a barrier against demonstrators in Chicago’s Grant Park on August 28, 1968. (AP Photo)

Some 3,000 anti-war demonstrators fought a bloody, open battle with an equal contingent of police and Illinois National Guardsmen Wednesday night in an assault on the downtown headquarters of the Democratic National Convention.

There were mass arrests and some 300 injuries as police clubbed at the demonstrators, who have massed in Chicago by the thousands to protest against administration war policies.

 Chicago police lead a demonstrator from Grant Park during demonstrations that disrupted the Democratic National Convention in August 1968. The convention became the focal point of bitter confrontations between police and anti-war demonstrators. (AP Photo)

Chicago police lead a demonstrator from Grant Park during demonstrations that disrupted the Democratic National Convention in August 1968. The convention became the focal point of bitter confrontations between police and anti-war demonstrators. (AP Photo)

Rocks and bottles were thrown, car windows broken, trash cans overturned and set afire, and heads were beaten in a five-block stretch along fashionable South Michigan Avenue, main street of Chicago’s showcase front yard.

Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was in his 25th-floor suite of the Conrad Hilton, which fronts on Michigan Avenue, awaiting an appearance before the convention at the International Amphitheatre, five miles south. A Humphrey aide said tear gas could be smelled in his room as police battled demonstrators in the hotel ground floor lobby.

Illinois National Guardsmen are stationed at the end of a bridge in Chicago’s Grant Park on August 28, 1968, as police try to cope with an estimated 9,000 anti-war demonstrators. They were under orders to help police prevent the demonstrators from marching on the International Amphitheater where Democrats were holding their presidential nominating session tonight. (AP Photo)

Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, candidate for the presidential nomination, also was in the hotel. His wife, ready to leave for the amphitheater, was detained by the Secret Service for security reasons.

The whereabouts of Sen. George S. McGovern, another candidate, was unknown.

Later Wednesday night, two miles north of the downtown area, some 30 youths were taken into custody in Lincoln Park after they threw rocks at passing police cars. Police fired two or three shots in the air, and the youth stopped the rock fusillade.

Deputy Superintendent James M. Rochford told the antiwar leaders that the group could stay in Grant Park as long as they wanted if they remained peaceful.

An estimated 9000 anti-war demonstrators gather in Chicago’s Grant Park on August 28, 1968, with the announced intention of marching on the site of the Democratic National Convention, the International Amphitheater. Police, who had warned the march would not be permitted, moved into the middle of the crowd swinging clubs and were showered with rocks, bottles and trash in return. (AP Photo)

The youths – some bearded and sandaled, others clean- cut – have been in Chicago since last weekend to demonstrate their displeasure over Johnson administration policies concerning the Vietnam War.

They chose Wednesday – the day the Democratic presidential candidate was to be selected – for their major movement. More than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators had been promised by the administration opponents. About 10,000 showed up.

Club-wielding Chicago police move against anti-war demonstrators massed in the city's Grant Park August 28, 1968. The clash began when officers rescued several policemen who were surrounded by the crowd while arresting a protestor. The police used clubs and tear gas and were showered with rocks, bottles and trash in return. (AP Photo).

The rush on the Hilton came after guardsmen, using tear gas, foiled an anti-war march on the amphitheater, where a dovish Vietnam plank was rejected by delegates.

The demonstrators broke through police and military lines in Grant Park across from the Hilton, and stormed the hotel, where they were beaten back and went rampaging through the streets.

Police met any rush head-on, clubbed the demonstrators and threw them in vans headed for the central detention lockup.

Central Police Headquarters said it could give no estimate of those arrested. The staff was too busy, a spokesman said.

Long haired and bearded hippies and yippies use park benches at Grant Park’s Band Shell to construct a barricade against Chicago police and National Guardsmen in Chicago on August 28, 1968. (AP Photo)

Several spectators were also seen beaten as police moved into a crowd and dispersed them. The spectators joined the demonstrators in jeering police.

Many of the injured suffered hand, arm and head fractures. One policeman was bitten on the neck.

An unidentified man receives first aid in Chicago's Grant Park during a confrontation between police and antiwar demonstrators, August 28, 1968. (AP Photo)

Chicago police during a disturbance in Chicago on August 28, 1968. (AP Photo

An Aug. 28, 1968 photo shows National Guardsmen lining the street as they are confronted by protesters in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, headquarters for the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo)

A demonstrator jeers at National Guardsmen in front of the Hilton Hotel in Chicago on Aug. 28, 1968. About 800 troops armed with rifles surrounded the hotel as 2,500 hippies and anti-war protesters gathered to demonstrate. (AP Photo)

Jeers greet Chicago Police Aug. 29, 1968 as they attempt to disperse demonstrators outside the Conrad Hilton, Democratic National Convention headquarters in Chicago. Some police struggle with several demonstrators on the sidewalk. (AP Photo/Michael Boyer)

A group of hippies raise their arms in the air and taunt bayonet-armed National Guardsmen near Michigan Avenue in Chicago on August 28, 1968. Police and National Guardsmen battled the demonstrators during the evening. (AP Photo)

A demonstrator with his hands on his head is led by Chicago Police down Michigan Avenue the night of Aug. 28, 1968 during a confrontation with police and National Guardsmen who battled demonstrators near Conrad Hilton Hotel, headquarters for the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo)

Jeers greet Chicago police officers as they attempt to disperse demonstrators outside the Conrad Hilton, Democratic Convention headquarters hotel Wednesday, August 29, 1968.  (AP Photo/RHS)