Parades, Protests and Politics


1968: A Convention in Crisis

As the 1968 Democratic National Convention approached, events throughout the nation combined to create a tense atmosphere in Chicago. Rising sentiment against the war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the failure of the Democratic Party to apply its civil rights policy had an effect both inside and outside of the International Amphitheatre, where the convention delegates gathered.

Tempers were flaring inside as well as outside the Democratic National Convention 1968.

Tempers were flaring inside as well as outside the
Democratic National Convention; 1968.
(CHS, ICHi-26289, Oscar & Associates, Inc.)

Months before the convention, political activists planned demonstrations in Chicago to share the spotlight with the Democratic political leaders. Some groups, such as the Yippies, came to Chicago determined to challenge traditional political process and authority. Tensions increased and turned into violence when police refused to allow these groups near the main hotels and the conventional hall.

Protesters crowd the streets during the 1968 convention.

Protesters crowd the streets during the 1968 convention. (CHS, ICHi-18354)

As the riots escalated, Mayor Richard J. Daley called in the troops. In total, 11,900 Chicago police, 7,500 Army regulars, 7,500 Illinois National Guardsmen, and 1,000 FBI and Secret Service agents were stationed in the city. Police and other authorities used force to keep the demonstrators away from the delegates' headquarters at the Conrad Hilton Hotel and the Amphitheatre. At the end of convention week, police announced that 589 persons had been arrested and more than 119 police and 100 demonstrators injured.

Police barricades kept protesters away from the convention hall.

Police barricades kept protesters away from the
convention hall. (CHS, ICHi-19630)

Inside the Amphitheatre, tension was also brewing. Antiwar delegates supporting Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern opposed the controlling Humphrey faction, not just over the nomination, but in virtually every aspect of the convention. They challenged the credentials of 15 delegations, a record number. Debate over the inclusion of an anti-Vietnam War plank in the platform lasted two days. Connecticut senator Abraham Ribicoff, in a speech nominating George McGovern, stated that "with George McGovern as President of the United States, we wouldn't have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago." Television viewers throughout the country witnessed Mayor Daley's furious response.

Window sticker showing support for police action during the 1968 Democratic Convention.

Window sticker showing support for police action during the 1968 Democratic Convention. (CHS, ICHi-26272)

Although the turmoil would take its toll on the Democratic party, Humphrey's supporters retained control of the convention. He won the platform fight and was nominated on the first ballot. Humphrey selected Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine as his running mate.


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Century of Progress
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World's Columbian Expo
Parades, Protest and Politics
Parades, Protests and Politics Photo Gallery
Parades, Protests and Politics Artifacts
Parades, Protests and Politics Bibliography
The Pullman Era
The Stockyards
Fort Dearborn

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