If you say the letter “G” with the letter "R", plus the number “8” together you get ‘GREAT”. I’m not so sure Chicago is going to be a GR8 place to be during G8 (G-R+8 =G8) NATO conferences in May of this year. In fact Chicago may be “Gr8ing” on the nerves. The possibility of becoming a repeat of the Democratic convention of 1968 is nerve racking. Before we talk about G8 in May, a brief review of 1968 is in order.
The political climate in this country in 1968 was ripe for outbursts. People were outraged by the asassinations’ of Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Groups like Students for a Democratic Society, Yippie, and National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam had made known their intentions to demonstrate. None had espoused violence but Mayor Daley countered demonstration plans by refusing to issue permits. Purportedly this move was in response to concerns for the safety of visiting politicians and Daley himself.
Richard J. Daley,then mayor of Chicago, intended to showcase the city's achievements to national Democrats and the news media. Instead, Chicago became the icon for conventions gone wrong. Huge numbers of demonstrators clashed with Chicago police and National Guard. The police got rough with demonstrators and the press including veteran reporters Mike Wallace and Dan Rather. Tear gas was so strong that it reached the Hilton hotel room shower of Hubert Humphrey. The crowd wasn’t blameless. They taunted the police with jeers and shouts. 10,000 demonstrators faced 23,000 members of law enforcement. Demonstrators were maced, gassed and jailed. While back at the convention center according to Farber in 1981 article, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff used his nominating speech for George McGovern to tell of the violence going on outside the convention hall, saying that “with George McGovern we wouldn’t have Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago. This didn’t go over too well with Richard J. Daley. The story goes that a lip reader was able to translate the inaudible reply from the mayor. You’ll have to fill in the blanks but it goes something like this. “F___ you, you Jew son of a b___! You lousy motherf___r! Go home!” We don’t really want a repeat of either this incident or a similar verbal maelstrom delivered by Mayor Emanuel and we know he is capable.
The Mayor has called the Summits an unprecedented opportunity for Chicago to showcase itself to the world. This is a deja vue moment if ever there was one, recall Mayor Daley in 1968. Just this January the Mayor’s (i.e. Emanuel) ordinances to increase fines for anyone resisting arrest, increasing permit fees and closing the parks two hours before the usual times passed through the council by a big margin. The ordinance that gave me chills was the ability of the Chicago Chief of Police to deputize out of state law enforcement members. Does the mayor think the Chicago Police Force and the FBI plus the National Guard aren’t going to be able to handle it? That’s a real scary thought.
I guess City Council members aren’t much on learning from history. Rahm Emanuel was noted as saying he listened to people and made changes based on their recommendations. I guess none of those people reviewed 1968 either. So what’s the Mayor to do?
One thing I might suggest is using some of the $54.6 million being chipped in by Homeland Security to deal with safety and security during the Summits to implementing a more rigorous but not more expensive permit licensing process. I don’t design apps but it would seem that there should be a way to issue an app based permit for each specific group. That code would establish where the group was allowed to demonstrate and a time, including duration. How about a bar coded badge for all members belonging to said group? No code, no get in to the designated spot. Hey what about hiring some well qualified out of work folks to scan bar codes? Just about everyone has a mobile phone. We have loads of out of work code and app designers. Put them to work on this and I bet by May there may be a few less in the Occupy section.
Mayor Emanuel might also want to meet with organizers of groups planning protest. If a member of their group, identified by code or app or whatever starts trouble there is a way to trace the trouble maker. Most of the organizers don’t want a repeat of 1968. They just want freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I think both of those are covered in our constitution but we have to admit there are folks out there who abuse everything including our constitutional rights. Those people who use assembly to create havoc should go to jail and pay fines, even if they are law enforcement.
Study the past, if you would divine the future.