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Monday, 20 July 2009

Chicago Is....

Junto Photos: Richard Carreno
'Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?'

By Richard Carreño
Junto Staff Writer

Forty years ago, it was known the Conrad Hilton Hotel, the luxurious flagship of the eponymous chain based in Chicago. It was also the site of one of the bloodiest occasions of civil protest in American history as thousands of students and protesters of all ages gathered at hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention to condemn the Vietnam War.

On the Southside of Chicago, in a raucous convention hall, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was being bestowed his party's nomination -- with the blessing of Lyndon B. Johnson and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and his cadre of pro-war goons. Meanwhile, at the Hilton Hotel, in the Loop at the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Congress, across from Grant Park, another scene was being played out.

For a time, it was peaceful -- while Daley's 'pigs,' as his police force was known, was held in check. Author Norman Mailer speech-ified to the assembly. So did anti-war presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. Me, I was on the roof a local TV media truck.
Thanks to The Washington Square Journal, the NYU daily, I was there covering the convention and protest with Roberta Levine, another student reporter. I positioned myself in front of the hotel, the locus of most of the serious protest events by Students for a Democratic Society and more lighthearted ones by Abbie Hoffman and his Yippie band of fellow travellers.

Peaceful for a time. As the evening wore on, and as Humphrey was declared the nominee, besting McCarthy, tensions grew, and, finally, Daley unleashed his thugs. The New York Times called it 'a police riot.'

Around me, below from the truck, the police swung batons, knocking kids to the ground and dragging them to Paddy wagons. Others were thrown threw the the hotel's plate-glass windows.

In moments, it was over. But it was just the beginning.

I walked by the hotel yesterday. It's now called the Congress Plaza.

There should be a commemorative plaque on the hotel wall. There isn't.