Posted byat 27th April, 2009
(Author’s Note: This is an expanded version of today’s Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind podcast on The Point. It contains more verbiage and a pretty picture of Richard J. Daley, but it doesn’t contain awesome music from Mike Bloomfield, CSNY, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Buddy Guy, nor do you get to enjoy my snotty tone of voice. To get the full experience, read this, listen to The Point, burn some incense, and put on a crash helmet.)
This is my anniversary. It was 41 years ago today that I attended my very first police riot.
Not that we knew it at the time. I was a lanky, tassel-haired youth of 17, and I was in downtown Chicago for a peace march. We had permits, we had about a quarter-million friends, we had about 12 million cops and we sang Country Joe McDonald while we toed the line. The police had other ideas.
When we reached the Civic Center for our rally, the police decided we had enough fun. In direct violation of the agreements that were made and noted in the permit, they began using their police clubs to disperse the crowd just as the speakers started to talk.
That’s when I learned a valuable lesson: you don’t disperse a crowd with truncheons. You beat a crowd with truncheons.
Teachers, nurses, veterans, students… it didn’t matter. Back then, the cops were equal-opportunity head-bashers. For a kid raised on cold-war era civic classes, it was quite an education. Seeing “old” people get beaten on by the police was interesting enough, but seeing returned Vietnam vets get bashed with clubs really put the whole matter in perspective. The cops weren’t supporting the soldiers, they weren’t supporting the war, and they certainly weren’t supporting law and order. They were deeply offended by us. To these guys and to many others of their generation, the act of protesting was unpatriotic.
Somewhere, the ghost of George Santayana was snickering.
The April 27th police riot turned out to be a dry run for the Democratic National Convention, held while the whole world was watching four months later. The cops’ behavior, where I was beaten along with thousands of other average American citizens, made me the person I am today. The official government inquiry called it a police riot.
I say this as I’m about to go home for a week – a convention, some meetings, and a lot of Italian beef: I remain a proud Chicagoan. The cops from 1968 have since retired. It’s a whole different police force today; they have conquered the international reputation earned by their predecessors. It’s also a whole different Mayor Daley.
I’m looking forward to going home.
Mike Gold’s Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind rants can be heard every Monday and Friday on The Point podcasts, , available right here at www.michaeldavisworld.com, as well as at comicmix.com, getthepointradio.com, zzcomics.com, and ravenwolfstudios.com. You can subscribe to The Point at iTunes by searching under “The Point Radio.” Tell ‘em Groucho sent you. Maybe they’ll give you a DeSoto.