I Survived the Siege of '68 | Letters | Chicago Reader

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I Survived the Siege of '68


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To the editors.

Thanks for John Schultz's "Siege of '68" article [September 9]. This 20 year Big Lie about the "police riot" is so much crap, however comforting it has been for those who want to believe that we live in a just system with a neutral state machine.

I was a 26 year old antiwar activist with SOCIALIST CONVICTIONS, married with two young children and working at a National Can factory at the time of the '68 Convention. I took off work on Wed. the 28th to participate in the demonstrations in Grant Park (which cost me my job when the FBI came to talk with my boss--free speech, right?).

I was about 50 feet from the west end of the rally at the old Bandshell when I saw the police form a line and attack the crowd right after the flag went to half-mast, marching in unison, smashing anyone in their way and stomping anyone unable to escape their cadenced advance.

Riot? This was a well-organized and well-executed police attack on a peaceful crowd listening to music and speeches. When we're shown pictures of Soviet police breaking up rallies, they're "totalitarian Communists"; when the American repressive apparatus comes down, they're either out of control ("it was a police riot") or protecting us from extremists.

Schultz's version of the events on Michigan Ave. that evening squares with my experience too. I was there for the whole thing. The cops attacked and withdrew in well-coordinated waves, in well-formed lines, pushing, shoving and sometimes beating people bloody. I saw many people that night turn from pacifism ("Give Peace a Chance") to a gut anger and begin throwing rocks and epithets ("Fuck the Pigs!"). It wasn't until the end of the evening that individual cops and groups of them began to take off on their tricycles, trying and sometimes succeeding in running us down.

Again, thanks to you and to John Schultz for his truthful account. Jerry Fresia, in his recent book Toward an American Revolution (South End Press), helped me to better understand the link between the "Police Riot" of '68, COINTELPRO, the CIA's Secret Wars and the U.S. Constitution.

Many people see such things as isolated episodes and say, "We have to practice what the Constitution sets out." Fresia makes the point that the Constitution was established PRECISELY IN ORDER TO HAVE A FUNDAMENTALLY ANTIDEMOCRATIC FORM OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATION ". . . for guaranteeing class rule ever since the [richest property owning white males--the "Founding Fathers"] decided that they needed the present political system to protect their power and privilege from the 'common people'."

Earl Silbar

W. Barry

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