Dementia in the Second City
(TIME, September 6, 1968) -- The assault from the left was furious, flunky and bizarre. Yet the Chicago police department responded in a way that could only be characterized as sanctioned mayhem. With billy clubs, tear gas and Mace, the blue-shirted, blue-helmeted cops violated the civil rights of countless innocent citizens and contravened every accepted code of professional police discipline.
No one could accuse the Chicago cops of discrimination. They savagely attacked hippies, yippies, New Leftists, revolutionaries, dissident Democrats, newsmen, photographers, passers-by, clergymen and at least one cripple. Winston Churchill's journalist grandson got roughed up. Playboy's Hugh Hefner took a whack on the backside. The police even victimized a member of the British Parliament, Mrs. Anne Kerr, a vacationing Laborite who was Maced outside the Conrad Hilton and hustled off to the lockup.
Creative Warlord. "The force used was the force that was necessary," insisted Police Superintendent James Conlisk Jr. He could point to the fortunate fact that no one was killed. He also pointed out -- almost with pride -- that the casualties included 152 cops. Yet the cops' excesses during the Democratic Convention were not basically Conlisk's doing. Chicago is Mayor Richard J. Daley's satrapy.
Daley takes a fierce, eccentric pride in Chicago. For 13 years, he has ruled his province like a Chinese warlord. The last of America's big-city bosses, the jowly, irascible mayor has on the whole been a creative autocrat, lacing his megalopolis with freeways, pulling in millions of federal spending.
Daley is also something of an original. In a city with as robust a tradition of political corruption as Boston or New York, he has maintained a pristine record of personal honesty. Yet, like any other expert monarch, he has always known where and how to tolerate corruption within his realm. The son of a sheet-metal worker, Daley grew up in the gritty district of Bridgeport, where he continues to live in a modest bungalow. After starting out as a secretary to the city council at 25, Daley scrambled upward through the party ranks. Hence his understanding of Chicago's muscles and nerves is deeply intuitive. But it is growing archaic, as the mayor's lines to the Negro community atrophy and he continues to rule in the personalistic style of a benevolent Irish despot of the wards.
Daley nonetheless retains formidable influence within the Democratic Party. Thanks to his control of the state government and delegation, King Richard is one of the most assiduously courted Democratic politicians in the country. As Robert Kennedy said last spring: "Dick Daley means the ball game."
It was through such clout that he secured the Democratic convention for Chicago. However, Lyndon Johnson and other party leaders are equally to blame. They wanted the convention in Chicago this year in large part because they felt that it was the one city where the authorities could deal successfully with the planned disruptions. Daley thought so as well.
Bristling Camp. Some Democratic officials sensed disaster. First an electrical workers' strike ruined prospects for adequate television coverage of the streets, which Daley might not have wanted anyway. The strike, called 14 weeks before the convention, also prevented the installation of telephones and seriously impeded the candidates' operations. Then, nine days before the convention opened, drivers for the city's two major cab companies struck. Racial violence, which mercifully never erupted, was a real prospect. So were angry demonstrations by the young.
But the mayor had his way with the party. "Law and order will be maintained," he repeated ritualistically. He put his 11,900-man police force on twelve hour shifts, called up more than 5,000 Illinois National Guard troops. In addition, some 6,500 federal troops were flown in. Daley turned Chicago into a bristling army camp, with a posse of more than 23,000 at the ready. The convention hall was protected by barbed wire and packed with cops and security agents. WELCOME TO PRAGUE said demonstrators' signs.
No Amenities. Daley refused the protesters permission to sleep on the grass of Chicago's Lincoln Park, a 1,185-acre expanse on the North Side. Critics of the cops pointed out that the site was ideal for the dissidents; it would also have been ideal for the police, who could have left the kids alone and stood guard on the fringes of the park until the soldiers of dissent got bored and left or until the convention was over. It might not have worked out that way, since many of the protesters were fiercely determined to find trouble, but at least the notion offered a better chance of avoiding violence. Had Daley been gifted with either humane imagination or a sense of humor, he would have arranged to welcome the demonstrators, cosset them with amenities like portable toilets, as the Government did during the Washington civil rights march of 1963. Instead, Daley virtually invited violence.
The police were not unhappy. Daley had prepared them last April, in the wake of the riots following Martin Luther King's assassination, when he ordered the cops to "shoot to kill" arsonists and to "shoot to maim or cripple" looters. Chicago police theoretically receive regular in-service riot training, but in fact the training consists largely of reading general departmental orders rather than intensive drilling.
Bloodletting. Fortunately, there was no shooting. The demonstrators constantly taunted the police and in some cases deliberately disobeyed reasonable orders. Most of the provocations were verbal -- screams of "Pig!" and fouler epithets. Many cops seemed unruffled by the insults. Policeman John Gruber joked: "We kind of like the word pig. Some of un answer our officers `Oink, oink, sir,' just to show it doesn't bother us." The police reacted more angrily when the demonstrators sang God Bless America or recited "I pledge allegiance to the flag."
In some of the wilder fighting, the demonstrators hurled bricks, bottles and nail-studded gold balls at the police lines. During the first three days, the cops generally reacted only with tear gas and occasional beatings. But on Wednesday night, as the convention gathered to nominate Hubert Humphrey, the police had a cathartic bloodletting. Outraged when the protesters lowered a U.S. flag during a rally in Grant Park beside Lake Michigan, the cops hurled tear gas into the crowd.
The demonstrators, bent upon parading to the convention hall (Daley had refused a permit), regrouped in front of the Hilton, where they were surrounded by phalanxes of cops. Police warned the demonstrators to clear the streets, waited for five minutes for several busloads of reinforcements to arrive. And then the order was given.
Violent Orgy. Chicago cops are built like beer trucks. They flailed blindly into the crowd of some 3,000, then ranged onto the sidewalks to attack onlookers. In a pincer movement, they trapped some 150 people against the wall of the hotel. A window of the Hilton's Haymarket lounge gave way, and about ten of the targets spilled into the lounge after the shards of glass. A squad of police pursued them inside and beat them. Two bunny-clad waitresses took one look and capsized in a dead faint. By now the breakdown of police discipline was complete. Bloodied men and women tried to make their way into the hotel lobby. Upstairs on the 15th floor, aides in the McCarthy headquarters set up a makeshift hospital.
The onslaught ended half an hour later, with about 200 arrested and hundreds injured. Elsewhere, the confrontation continued through the night. Then at 5 a.m. on Friday, with the convention ended, eleven policemen swarmed up to the McCarthy headquarters. They claimed that the volunteers had tossed smoked fish, ashtrays and beer cans at the helmeted cops below. With neither evidence nor search warrant, they clubbed McCarthy campaign workers. One cop actually broke his billy club on a volunteer's skull. Daley stood by his angry defense of his cops' conduct against the "terrorists," who, he snarled, "use the foulest of language that you wouldn't hear in a brothel house."
The demonstrators had chanted the night before: "The whole world is watching!" And it was. Newspapers and television commentators from Moscow to Tokyo reacted with revulsion to the orgy of violence in America's Second City. Thanks to Mayor Daley, not only Chicago but the rest of the U.S. as well was pictured as a police state. That impression may be unfair to a handsome and hospitable city, but it will linger long after Dick Daley's reign.
Who Were The Protesters?
They left Chicago more as victors than as victims. Long before the Democratic Convention assembled, the protest leaders who organized last week's marches and melees realized that they stood no chance of influencing the political outcome or reforming "the system." Thus their strategy became one of calculated provocation. The aim was to irritate the police and the party bosses so intensely that their reactions would look like those of mindless brutes and skull-busters. After all the blood, sweat and tear gas, the dissidents had pretty well succeeded in doing just that.
Tatterdemalion Innocents. The strategy had been six months in formulation. Three disparate detachments of the young made up last week's Army of the Night, There were self-styled "American revolutionaries" -- among them anarchists and Maoists, hard-core members of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, and Students for a Democratic Society -- many of them veterans of the October March on the Pentagon. There was the Youth International Party (yippies), minions of the absurd whose leaders failed last fall to levitate the Pentagon but whose antics at least leavened the grim seriousness of the New Leftists with much-needed humor. And then there were the young McCarthy workers, the "Clean for Gene" contingent who had shaved bears, lengthened miniskirts and turned on to political action in the mainstream, only to see the dreams of New Hampshire shattered in the stockyards of Chicago.
In all, about 10,000 demonstrators showed up, a fraction of the horde that had been predicted by their leaders. According to Chicago police records, 49% of the 650 arrested came from outside Illinois (most from New York and Michigan); the majority were in their teens and 20s and only 91 prisoners were 30 or above.
In the main, they were tatterdemalion innocents with long hair, granny glasses, and a sense of bewildered outrage at the war and the nation's political processes. Not so innocently, many were equipped with motorcycle crash helmets, gas masks (purchasable at $4.98 in North Side army-navy surplus stores), bail money and anti-Mace unguents. A handful of hard-liners in the "violence bag" also carried golf balls studded with spikes, javelins made of snow-fence slats, aerosol cans full of caustic oven-cleaning fluids, ice picks, bricks, bottles, and clay tiles sharpened to points that would have satisfied a Cro-Magnon bear hunter.
Ironic Fate. Most of the protest leaders stayed in the background. Mobilization Chairman David Tyre Dellinger, 53, the shy editor-publisher of Liberation, who led last fall's Pentagon March, studiously avoided the main confrontation before the Hilton. His chief aide, Tom Hayden, 28, a New Left author who visited Hanoi three years ago, was so closely tailed by plainclothesmen that he finally donned a yippie-style wig to escape their attentions. Nonetheless, he was arrested. Rennie Davis, 28, the clean-cut son of a Truman Administration economic adviser, took a more active part as one of the Chicago organizers: his aim, he said, was "to force the police state to become more and more visible, yet somehow survive in it." At Grant Park on Wednesday afternoon, he both succeeded and failed. The police action against the demonstrators triggered the Hilton march, but Rennie -- despite his short hair, scholarly spectacles and button-down collar -- was literally busted, and later took nine stitches in his split scalp. Yippie Guru Abbie Hoffman, 32, cadged dinner from his four police tails, yipped up a storm in Lincoln Park (where he passed out phone numbers of cops and city officials for telephonic harassment), and was ultimately arrested for wearing a four- letter word on his forehead.
The most ironic fate of all befell Brillo-bearded Jerry Rubin, 30, a former Berkeley free-speecher and now a yippie leader. To protect himself from police strong-arm tactics, Rubin hired a husky, sledge-fisted Chicagoan known as "Big Bob Lavin," whose beard and bellicosity were matched by his ability at bottle-throwing in confrontations with the cops. Big Bob was gassed by the police, fought them valiantly, but was finally clubbed into submission -- carrying with him into jail Rubin's tactical diary. Only then was it revealed that Big Bob was really an undercover cop, Robert Pierson, 35. Chicago police pointed ominously to such entries in Rubin's diary as a hand-drawn map of the Hilton Hotel area and a reflection that "we really should attend McCarthy rallies and recruit pro-McCarthys for our marches. This lends us the respectability of a pro-establishment group." Big Bob's duplicity did not faze Rubin, who said, when released on $2,500 bail: "Well, at least he was a good bodyguard."
Wider Division? Chicago was not the end of the road for the militants. Scott Lash, 22, a psychology dropout from the University of Michigan and a McCarthy worker, observed that the Chicago scene left most of the marchers more frustrated and embittered. Scuffing his hiking boots and twiddling his granny glasses, Lash lamented at week's end: "There's going to be a wider division in the country than ever. There's going to be more violence, both by whites and blacks, and I'm willing to be part of it. I wouldn't have thought this before the convention."
Mayor Daley asserted that he had evidence of a Communist conspiracy to disrupt the convention. Actually, the "terrorists," as he called them, made no bones about conspiring to make trouble. But their visible leaders, at least, were disaffected young Americans who professed as much scorn for Communism as for capitalism. Foolhardy and arrogant as their tactics often were, the main goal of the protesters was to express their rejection of both the war and party bossism, and they undeniably made it register in the minds of Democratic leaders. Ironically -- and perhaps significantly -- the demonstrators' most effective allies were the police, without whose brutal aid the protest would not have been so striking.
The Government In Exile
From his bedroom window on the 23rd floor of the Conrad Hilton, Eugene McCarthy viewed the carnage on Michigan Avenue, turning now and again to the TV screen to watch the dissolution of his own hopes at the convention hall. Only once, when California's Jesse Unruh, a holdout supporter of Teddy Kennedy, appeared on the screen, did he show anger. And even that was relatively subdued. "That doublecrossing son of a bitch," he growled.
His main concern was with the young people below. "Oh, Dad," pleaded his daughter Mary, "help them!" That evening he went down to his staff headquarters on the 15th floor, where his doctor, William Davidson, had opened a makeshift hospital. McCarthy comforted the bruised and bleeding. A girl who had been injured wept hysterically, and photographers crowded around her. Only then did McCarthy show the emotion reporters had looked for during nine long months of arduous campaigning. "Get out of the way, fellows. You don't have to see anything. Get the hell out of the way!"
Keeping Cool. Shaken, he returned to his suite. In one final gesture, which even he probably knew would be useless, he sought to end the violence, telephoning his campaign manager at the International Amphitheatre to tell him to withdraw the name Eugene McCarthy from the balloting. "It looked," he remarked later, "like the convention might break up in chaos. I thought this might stabilize it." By then it was too late. The balloting in the convention hall had already started, and the count -- and the violence below -- went on.
Next day, a few hours before Humphrey's acceptance speech, McCarthy crossed the street -- still lined with troops and cops -- to speak to a rally of the disaffected in Grant Park. "I am happy," he said, "to be here to address the government in exile." When he said farewell to a group of cheering campaign workers, he added: "I may be visibly moved. I have been very careful not to be visibly moved throughout my campaign. If you people keep on this way, I may, as we say, lose my cool." Already, some of his followers were wearing black arm bands and a new campaign button. It was blank.
In the end, as at the beginning, the Senator from Minnesota was a mystery -- a nearly unfathomable blend of intellect, humor, humility and arrogance. Always he was his own man. When he was asked whether he would make a good President, he answered: "I am willing to be President. I think I would be an adequate resident. I really don't want to let you believe that I'm carrying the whole burden for the country. I'm kind of an accidental instrument, really."
Pride and Persuasion. Yet sometimes this understatement became a form of intellectual pride. Persuasion was somehow beneath him. Talking to delegates uncertain about his position on Vietnam, he would say: "I've written three books on my positions" or "I put out a position paper on that last week." Though he needed Negro support, he refused to make any special pleas, noting airily that "when the negroes know my record, they'll come along." They never did. He yearned for the support of Cesar Chavez, a Bobby Kennedy supporter and leader of California migrant workers who has become a virtual messiah to thousands of Mexican Americans. The Senator did in fact have long talks with Chavez. But he could not bring himself to ask for the labor leader's help. He only observed mildly that "we hope you will be with us." Chavez sat on the sidelines.
At times, McCarthy could be petty and vindictive. Robert Kennedy could never understand the apparent hatred McCarthy felt for him -- an emotion that seemed to have deeper origins than Bobby's political sin of joining the race after New Hampshire. The better-educated, McCarthy told an audience in Oregon, preferred him to Kennedy. "Kennedy plays softball." His flair for the malicious aside showed again when he talked about Speechwriter Richard Goodwin, an early supporter who left him for Bobby, then returned after the assassination, staying on until the last ballot. "Dick Goodwin," said McCarthy, "has been a good and faithful servant -- on and off." McCarthy was nevertheless deeply disturbed by the murder in Los Angeles. As for its political repercussions, he noted last week: "If Senator Kennedy had not died, we would have this party under control on Vietnam."
Whatever McCarthy's feelings may have been about Robert Kennedy as a rival, he was willing to give up nine months of effort for Ted last week. Sounded out by Stephen Smith, Kennedy's brother-in-law, at the height of the Teddy boomlet, McCarthy offered to throw all his weight to the last surviving brother. "Smith said Teddy wouldn't go for it if he had to fight with me," McCarthy recounted. "I told him he wouldn't have to fight with me. I told him I was willing to give all the strength I had to Kennedy on the first ballot -- or any ballot." McCarthy's gesture was unexpected, and tears came to Steve Smith's eyes.
Looking to 1972. In defeat, McCarthy stuck to his guns. The traditional show of party unity was beyond him -- particularly after what he had seen on Michigan Avenue -- and he refused to appear on the convention platform with the winner. He would not, he said, endorse either Humphrey or Nixon. "We've forgotten the convention," he told his supporters. "We've forgotten the Vice President. We've forgotten the platform." For the next two months, he said, he would work for senatorial candidates who supported his view on the war. In the future, he would work to remold the party.
Indeed, the idea of remaking the party seemed to excite him more than the chance of gaining the presidency. "We have tested the process and found its weaknesses," he said. "We'll make this party in 1972 -- perhaps 1970 -- quite different from what we found it in Chicago!" McCarthy was not boasting idly, and his insurgents were already planning for 1972, many of them hoping for a Nixon victory this fall to "purify" the Democratic Party by defeat. Even while they were losing in Chicago, the McCathyites won concessions, such as abolition of the unit rule, that will make future conventions more democratic. The party, in any event, cannot ignore the talented young people who have stormed its fortress. "People know we have power now," said Tom Saltonshall, one of the Senator's downy-faced staffers from Massachusetts. "And we're going to keep using it. We'd be negating everything we've done for the past nine months if we drop out now."
The New Party. Not everyone, however, believes the Democratic party can be either reformed or purified. Anticipating Humphrey's convention victory, organizers of an entirely new party -- called, unsurprisingly "the New Party" -- have already put their organization on the ballot in five states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oregon. They claim enough signatures to win places in New York and Tennessee, and are trying as well to go before the voters in 18 more, including such electoral prizes as California, Ohio and Illinois. (The filing date has already passed in most other states.)
All that is lacking is a candidate. McCarthy would be the perfect choice, and New Party leaders, mostly disillusioned Democrats, still have faint hopes of persuading him to bolt the Democrats entirely. He has given them little encouragement. In any event, his candidacy would be only symbolic. Even if it won all of its fights and court suits, the New Party would still be on the ballot in only 25 states with a combined total of 290 electoral votes (270 are needed for election).
Yet even without McCarthy, the New Party might hurt Humphrey. In a tight election, it might pull enough liberal Democrats and peace votes away from the Democratic candidate to give the election to Nixon. Even a few thousand votes could be decisive in California and New York, the centers of the peace movement. No Democrat in modern times has won election without one of the two most populous states. Actually, however, the New Party men are looking to future elections, when they hope to displace the Democratic party. "I think the Democratic Party is lost," says Marcus Raskin, a former disarmament aide to President Kennedy who is one of the New Party's chief proponents and organizers. "What happened here this week shows that it now represents only the party bosses, the police and the military."
Losers' Gains. Though they never came close to Humphrey in the delegate count, neither McCarthy nor South Dakota's George McGovern, the third candidate, could in fact be called a loser at Chicago. By standing in the national spotlight, Senator McGovern, who entered the race only 18 days before the nomination, has probably improved his chances for re-election to a second term this fall. Not only will his restrained performance as a presidential candidate enhance his reputation in the upper house (assuming that he is reelected), it will probably also gain him consideration for a spot on some future national ticket.
For his part, McCarthy has forced the retirement of the President, precipitated the de-escalation of the war, and brought about a re-examination of the American political structure. That may eventually prove more important than anything he could have done during four years as President. As leader of the government in exile, he will remain the conscience for millions of Americans and a formidable figure that the President, whoever he is, cannot ignore. Who knows? In 1972, Eugene McCarthy may even begin again his lonely, quixotic quest for the White House. "I am prepared to stay with the issues," he said, "so long as I have a constituency -- and I still have a constituency." Neither Hubert Humphrey nor Richard Nixon is likely to dispute him.
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