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Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Little Background on the Riots in Chicago

As soon as I started reading up on hippies, between the ages of about 14 and 19, I heard about the Chicago Riots at the Democratic National Convention in August of 1968. I heard about the protests, I heard about the way that Mayor Dailey and the cops tried everything, including turning a protest into a riot, to try to keep the hippies from doing their thing, I heard all the behind the scenes stuff about Abbie and his pals, but it was harder to find the motive behind the protest in the first place. I mean, obviously the goal wasn't to elect Nixon because what hippie in their right fucking mind would EVER want to do a thing like why did the peaceniks and the yippies descend upon the city of Chicago to fight against the convention that would announce the democratic nominee for the 1968 election? I got my answer, in a way, from a biography that I read about Abbie Hoffman and from what was said about it in that book (the name of which I have written down but I can't remember it off the top off my head right now) I came up with this scene:

I got a phone call from Abbie Hoffman that evening telling me about a plan to protest the democratic national convention the following month. I was confused. “Why do we want to do that?” I asked.
     “With Kennedy dead and McCarthy trailing behind, you know damn well who is up for that nomination. The capital hill bastards are going to put Humphrey in and it’ll be the same shit for the next four years. We can’t afford that, man! You know that!”
       I understood his logic and the truth behind his words. No matter what way we went at that point we would not get a dove in The White House. No amount of protest on earth was going to accomplish that now. From the way things were looking, come November we would have to choose between Nixon and Humphrey. Neither one was much of a fucking choice in my book but even Humphrey had to be better than the alternative. “Abbie, I have never disagreed with you when it comes to shit like this but I’m telling you, you’re fucking up with this one. Our protests are not going to get McCarthy the nomination. If we accomplish anything with this it will mean the election of Richard fucking Nixon as our next president. Do you want that? Is this what we’ve come down to? Getting Tricky Dick in office?”
     Abbie sighed over the phone line. “Man, of course I don’t want Nixon in but I don’t want another four years of Johnson’s administration either. That’s what we’ll have, ya know? You do know that, right?”
    “Of course I know that but…what are we trying to accomplish with this? What are we going for?”
    Abbie laughed at this. “We’ll figure that out when we get there. So are you in? It’s going to be big, Lizzy. We might get more people together than we did at the Pentagon.” When I remained silent, thinking, he said softly, “Ya know what it’s for? We’re going to have a day or two to just tell these bastards that we’re through taking their shit! A good man is dead and, irony of ironies, his death cleared the way for Johnson’s bitch to claim the prize. We’re going to let them know that we are fucking fed up! That’s the way I see it. I’m tired of peaceful protests and singing songs and shit! We’ve got nothing left to lose because the bastards already took it all. Why not stand up and fucking tell ‘em!”
      Now this made sense to me. This was a purpose I understood. “I’m in. What’s the date?”
 Perhaps it wasn't spot on. I have long since tried to get more information to add with the little bit I found in that biography but of all the Chicago stories, the reason for it all seems to be the one that hasn't been rehashed over and over again. There was so much tension in the air by August of '68, so much bitter frustration, and I suppose both sides that ended up clashing on that "battlefield" was at their boiling point. The setting was just right for it all to spill over...and it did. Right there in the streets of Chicago while the whole world was watching...
 "You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists."-Abbie Hoffman

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