Thursday, December 11, 2008

"In a Land That's Known as Freedom How Can Such a Thing Be Fair?"

In 1968 two issues of TIME magazine covered the reactions of concerned citizens regarding the events during the convention. These are the sentiments they had to share:
Sir: I am young and concerned. I attended the rally at Grant Park in Chicago and witnessed demonstrations. When alongside people my age, my mind told me all their actions were right. I remember myself "yeahing" when my country's flag was torn down and I remember calling the law I've always respected "pigs." Now I ask: How could I?
My generation is one of concern, hope, courage, strength and vigor; also one of neglect, dejection, fear, weakness and impotence. Shall our enemy thrive by taking advantage of our youthful characteristics? I wonder. I wonder who really put the $10 and $20 bills in the hat at the rally in support of the demonstration. I wonder who printed all the propaganda I received those days. I wonder who paid for the transportation of those I met from New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. I wonder who supported the ex-G.I.s from Viet Nam who infiltrated my mind with horror and hate. Yes, I wonder.
Blue Island, Ill.
Sir: When individuals arrive in a city with bail money, anti-irritants and take riot training, then subsequently are struck in a police confrontation, there does not appear to be much cause for lamentation. All thinking people deplore overreaction to provocation that results in injury to bystanders, but historically, general assent to the rule of the mob has been followed by harsh repression when some semblance of order must be reinstituted.
Many of the crocodile tears being shed are a manifestation of the losers' syndrome that would brand Agnew as a racist and Humphrey as a rightist, both of which are blatant nonsense.

Sir: The demonstrators went too far. While being represented at the convention by men seeking change through the system, they went outside the system and took to pressure tactics. And change outside the system is revolution plain and simple. Fellow students, don't you believe in representative government? As long as you are a minority, you must submit to the majority and try harder.
Covington, La.
Sir: I am appalled and angered by the behavior of my fellow students and other young people involved in the riots. Legitimate protest for legitimate cause is something that I believe in, but when thousands of otherwise levelheaded men and women risk beatings in an effort to defame the Chicago police department, which is all that was accomplished, they make a mockery of anything the protest movement has ever stood for. The hollow chant "the whole world is watching" seems to acquire a double meaning.

Sir: As a young historian born during World War II, I had never really been able to form a mental picture of the way the Nazi storm troopers came to power in Hitler's Germany. After watching the scenes of the brutal attacks by the Chicago police on the peace demonstrators, I think I know what that tyranny must have been like. Mayor Daley's inhuman repression was a blot on the fabric of human dignity. Daley for anti-Man of the Year.
Charlottesville, Va.

Sir: My husband and I were among the onlookers who were tear-gassed on Michigan Avenue. We thought it a minor discomfort to endure while the police attempted to control that frenzied, filthy, foul-mouthed mob of cretins. We watched these "innocents," as you called them, doing their "thing," i.e., overturning police motorcycles, setting fires on the sidewalks, rocking a van containing policemen in an attempt to overturn it, foisting signs in our faces reading "F— the draft," waving the Cong flag as they chanted "Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh." Spare me the bleeding heart's account of how they were brutalized. They were a danger to every one of us in Chicago and, unless stopped as they were here, constitute an even greater danger to our nation tomorrow.


Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Sir: As a Chicagoan, I am ashamed of the brutality perpetrated by Mayor Daley and the zoo he calls "the finest police force in the world." Having spent three nights on Michigan Avenue observing the occupation of "Prague West," I find absurd Daley's charge that news coverage of the conflict was one-sided. King Richard was fortunate that the TV cameras could not see everything. One night, a cop overtook a young girl fleeing from tear gas. Grabbing her by the hair, he hit her across the face with his nightstick, ripped off her blouse, ripped off her bra. After clubbing her over the head a few more times, the cop left her—half-naked, bleeding and unconscious in the street—as he ran on into the melee. He was smiling. Daley earlier said that "no mob will control the streets of Chicago." But what do you do when the police are the mob?

Perhaps I'm just overreacting. I had legitimate reason to be on South Michigan Avenue during convention week: I live there. One unidentified policeman didn't think this sufficient and hit me across the back of the neck with his billy club. Dazed by the blow and overcome by tear gas, I could not get up from the sidewalk. Finally, a young Negro reached out his hand, saying, "Let me help you, brother. Now you, too, know what police brutality is."


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