1968 August 28

“Police Riot” at Democratic Party Convention


Yippies and other anti-Vietnam War protesters organized mass demonstrations at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago to protest the war and Democratic Party presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey’s support for the war. (The Yippies — members of the Youth International Party — were a loosely organized group of anti-Vietnam War activists and cultural radicals in the 1960s.) The Chicago police responded on this day with brutality and illegal arrests in what the official investigation of the events, the Walker Report, labeled a “police riot” (see December 1, 1968). Famously, Connecticut Governor Abe Ribicoff, speaking to the convention and on national television, denounced the “gestapo” behavior of the police (see below).

Leaders of the protests were subsequently prosecuted and convicted for violating the new Anti-Riot Act (passed on April 11, 1968), which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to promote disorder. The Chicago Eight Trial was a tumultuous affair, with open conflict between the judge and the defendants and their lawyers. Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale’s case was severed from the others, thereby changing the name of the main case from the Chicago Eight to the Chicago Seven. On February 18, 1970, all seven of the remaining defendants were acquitted on conspiracy charges, but five were found guilty of violating the Anti-Riot Act. Their convictions, however, were overturned on appeal. On February 15, 1970, Judge Hoffman found two of the defendants’ lawyers, William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, guilty of contempt of court. Their convictions were later overturned, however.

Watch Ribicoff’s “Gestapo” remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3v0rctksFU

Read the Walker Report on the “police riot”: Rights in Conflict (December 1, 1968)

Learn more about the protests and the Democratic Party Conventionhttp://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/protests-at-democratic-national-convention-in-chicago

Watch Haskell Wexler’s acclaimed film, Medium Cool, based on the protests:

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