Following a tumultuous seven-month span that included the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, tensions boiled over at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While party leaders discussed candidates and platforms inside the International Amphitheatre in late August, roughly 10,000 protestors assembled on the streets of Chicago and clashed with thousands of police officers and the National Guard.
The primary cause of the demonstrations and subsequent riots during the convention was opposition to the Vietnam War.
The Youth International Party (known as the "Yippies") and their leaders Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman sought to hold a Yippie convention to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. While they were denied a permit, the Yippies still attended the convention to demonstrate en masse.
After learning of the planned protests, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley publicly vowed to use force to prevent any demonstrations.
On Sunday, Aug. 25, the evening before the convention began, Chicago police arrived in Grant Park to clear out young people who had already assembled to protest the Vietnam War. Tensions escalated quickly and the police used clubs to move demonstrators into the streets. The violence continued on Monday and Tuesday nights when police used force and pepper spray on protestors who refused to disperse.
The worst rioting occurred on Wednesday, Aug. 28, after Democratic delegates inside the Amphitheatre voted against an official party platform of peace in Vietnam.
Reports of the vote quickly spread through Grant Park, which had swelled to more than 10,000 anti-war activists. After one demonstrator attempted to lower an American flag flying nearby, police quickly arrested him and violence ensued.
The National Guard and Chicago Police forced the mob onto Michigan Avenue, where they continued to use force and pepper spray to clear the streets. The riots were captured by national television cameras and broadcast into American living rooms for the nation to see.
Hubert Humphrey's nomination was overshadowed by more than 500 arrests and 200 injuries during the Chicago riots.
Visitors to the Heinz History Center's exhibition "1968: The Year That Rocked America," can watch dramatic footage of the riots and see gear used by the Chicago Police. The exhibition closes May 12. Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.