Flaunting The Convention In Chicago
The Democrats hope the passing of a generation has stilled memories of their ill-fated 1968 foray into the Windy City where police and National Guardsmen attacked demonstrators before shocked TV viewers.Although most of the Chicago cops who clubbed hapless college students while "the whole world was watching" have long since retired, recently off-duty city police have been selling T-shirts bearing the slogan, "My Father Beat Up Your Father in 1968." Cute, but Abbie Hoffman's son, whose father was indeed beaten up back then, and peace movement stalwarts like David Dellinger, who are returning to organize demonstrations against the Democrats, say they fail to see the humor.Hoffman, Dellinger, Tom Hayden (who will be a delegate this time around),Jerry Rubin and others who were convicted in a tumultuous federal trial for plotting Yippie riots at the 1968 convention were later freed on appeal.Chicago authorities want to assure that this convention will be flawless, with protests controlled and limited to an assigned space and time. The city selected a fenced parking lot for officially approved rallies, a half block from the convention site at the United Center, home to the Bulls and Blackhawks.Demonstrators immediately dubbed the area, "The Protest Pit." Times for different protest groups are allotted through a lottery supervised by a city-contracted accounting firm. Several groups were given spots in this manner, but a coalition of organizations calling itself Not On The Guest List took the city to federal court last Friday and U.S. District Judge James Moran ordered the city to ease its restrictions."People are irked that you can only protest in a designated area," says Gus Landauer, a spokeperson for Active Resistance, a coalition of anti-authoritarian groups hosting a "counter-convention" from August 21-31. He thinks there will be enough people participating in marches to ignore the strict guidelines and "take the streets.""There probably will be thousands in some of the demos," he guesses. "And no one knows what the reaction of the police will be when a march that size gets to the United Center."Tony Doyle, however, a Columbus, Ohio artist whose drawing appears on the cover of the alternative gathering brochure, explains that the main emphasis of the counter-convention is not on protest. "We are proactive, not reactive," he says. "We're using these 10 days to organize and strengthen communities of resistance."Landauer, who says the event has been in the planning for almost a year, expects 1,000 people to participate in an intense schedule of workshops on cooperatives, collectives, community organizing, free schools and alternative economics as well as a media, video and film festival, radical history bus tours and nightly shows.There will also be a "Festival of the Oppressed," featuring a pedal-powered giant puppet procession to the convention site. Landauer says food and housing will be provided for 750 attendees, including a Detroit area contingent. Planners have received surprising cooperation from area businesses."This has been a very low cost event for us, given its scope," he says, "particularly since a number of landlords have rented their buildings to us for a dollar a month as a show of support." Landauer notes that Republican organizers were able to keep protesters in San Diego mostly out of sight."I don't think the Democrats are going to be as lucky in Chicago."Active Resistance can be contacted at 1573 N. Milwaukee, #420, Chicago IL 60622; or call 312-278-0775.