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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Text from AP News story, AP Was There: Protestors fight Chicago police, guardsmen, by James R. Peipert.