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Cary Brunswick

February 18, 2014

Unconventional events changed my outlook

On the night of Aug. 28, 1968, I put away my books, turned on the 13-inch, black-and-white television and sat down to check on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I hadn’t planned to watch it, since Vice President Hubert Humphrey was supposed to be a shoo-in for the presidential nomination. But I had heard reports on the radio of unrest both inside and outside the convention hall, so I decided to tune in.

I had just begun my second year of college at a small Florida school, where classes began at the beginning of the week. I wasn’t political at all; cynicism dominated my thinking despite, or because of, my experiences of both the good and the bad in American society. But I did want to avoid being drafted by the Army and sent to Vietnam. I was opposed to fighting in the war because I thought the domino theory, spouted by the government to justify it, was ridiculous, and, of course, I didn’t want to get killed, let alone for a ridiculous idea.

I was aware that there were anti-war activists, hippies, yippies and political radicals, but that wasn’t for me. After all, I was a business major, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

For about 10 minutes, I watched the usual convention fare of speakers and cheering, though this year there also was a lot of jeering because of the candidates’ differing stances on the war. Then, suddenly, the coverage shifted down to the Grant Park area downtown where anti-war demonstrators were beginning to march to the convention site. Chicago’s Mayor Daley had said they wouldn’t be allowed to do that, so barricades and police blockades were in place.

Then, police in riot gear started attacking marchers with clubs and tear gas, kicking them while they were down and dragging them away to waiting paddy wagons. We watched in shock as bloodied demonstrators were beaten and hauled away, or left prostrate on the street, too injured to move. The brutal police action resulted in 589 demonstrators arrested and 219 injured.

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Cary Brunswick

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