A lot of commentary has been written over the years about the riots that took place in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention. At the time, the War in Viet Nam was raging and much like the Occupy Wall Street movement of today, many young Americans were angry and sure that their country was going in the wrong direction.
Tens of thousands of young American descended on Chicago in the summer of 1968 to protest the ongoing, unjust war against the people of Viet Nam. With much of the world tuned-in to the proceedings of the Democratic Convention, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (Sr.), was not about to have his city embarrassed by a bunch pot-smoking hippies in torn jeans. Daley ordered his police department to show the demonstrators no mercy: don’t let them chant, don’t them march, keep them off the streets, keep them out of sight; and don’t let the media witness whatever it is you have to do to achieve those objectives. The result was the most violent, bloody, police initiated riot in American history.
Hundreds of young Americans were viciously beaten; those who didn’t require hospitalization were arrested. Daley’s strong-armed tactics even extended even to the floor of the convention where CBS anchorman Dan Rather, was manhandled by plains-clothes security when he tried to investigate the unexplained arrest of a delegate.
With the whole country in a state of shock by the riots, the City of Chicago was determined to put the blame squarely on the heads of the demonstrators. Seven leaders of the anti-war movement were tried on charges of conspiracy in a now infamous trial. No official in city government or the Chicago police department, was ever held accountable for police behavior.
Looking back at those riots, some commentators have noted that this was a clash between well-educated, mostly middle class college kids and a blue-collar, working class police force. The riots were in many ways a symbolic confrontation between idealistic youth who believed that their country could “do better,” and all working class Americans who were inclined to believe that such protests were nothing less than a treasonous rebellion against the institutions and country they loved.
This afternoon, AddictingInfo writer and editor, Wendy Gittleson, published the written record of a Facebook conversation between 5 New York City policemen on November 17th, moments before some of them went on duty at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The verbiage of the conversation doesn’t suggest that these men viewed their role as “law enforcement officers” who are responsible for protecting freedom of speech and civil liberties. Rather, the record of that conversation suggests that they were looking forward to making arrests and violently engaging the demonstrators:
- “On my way to wall street…..Let the savagery begin… Hey Aaron see its not racist”
- “Don’t worry Mike….I’m watching over you and Wayne on my tv chilling at home. nice and warm……wish I were there with you guys….It would be nice to crack a white guy over the head… Imao
- “Why he gotta be white?”
- “Be safe Mike, lock one up for me.”
According CBS News, 175 OCWS demonstrators were arrested that day. Huffington Post reports that on November 17th: “As thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters took to the streets on Thursday, journalists once again found themselves a target of police violence and arrests.”
Again, the working class were being called upon to: help maintain the status quo; don’t let a bunch of privileged idealistic kids who don’t really appreciate what this great country is all about have their say; and remember, the media isn’t on your side, they want to catch you doing something wrong so don’t treat them with any respect.
Some historians have suggested that ultimately, the American Civil War was all about Southern aristocracy turning the white working class against the Union, just so they could keep their slaves. If blue-collar cops in this country really buy the idea that the OWS movement is contrary to their personal and professional interests, it would seem that the 1% have once again, effectively turned some of the 99% against each other.
Video OWS demonstrations, November 17.