Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention

Overview

Did the police lose control of themselves in dealing with demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention? Or were they simply men who saw themselves as protecting their city from the forces of revolution? Kusch contends that Chicago's police were more than unthinking thugs, that they had, in effect, become a counterculture, even more so than the people they ended up attacking. From Polish and Irish working class backgrounds, these men felt they represented a time gone by, a different way of life. ...

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Overview

Did the police lose control of themselves in dealing with demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention? Or were they simply men who saw themselves as protecting their city from the forces of revolution? Kusch contends that Chicago's police were more than unthinking thugs, that they had, in effect, become a counterculture, even more so than the people they ended up attacking. From Polish and Irish working class backgrounds, these men felt they represented a time gone by, a different way of life. The world they found themselves in during August of 1968 was an almost alien environment. Analyzing interviews of men who were on the streets and examining in-depth their actions and the reasons behind them, Kusch challenges traditional thinking on this pivotal event.

As television cameras rolled, and flash bulbs popped, young middle-class college kids were attacked by Chicago's finest. For four days, police chased, bludgeoned, and kicked, not only the protesters, but innocent onlookers and dozens of media representatives. Going beyond stereotypes and addressing what went on behind the cameras, Kusch challenges the assumptions that the police rioted and that the violence was limited to a handful of individuals. These officers are revealed as real men, with families, lives, and fears. It was these fears—as much as their hatred of the antiwar movement and the people in it—that led to the violent showdown. This work tackles a turbulent period when presentation was key for all the major players: the protesters, the media, and the police themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

"Battleground Chicago is especially valuable because it lets the police officers involved in the riots in Lincoln and Grant Parks have their say."

— Julia Keller

Choice

“This retelling of a well-known story is significant partly for its detail and objectivity, but mostly because the author focuses on telling the story from the perspective of the police rather than the protesters. . . . Highly recommended.”

Contemporary Sociology

“Masterful. . . . Kusch’s interviews contribute invaluable material to one wishing to decipher and make theoretical sense of what happened in Chicago during the 1968 Convention.”
History

“A fascinating story unfolds, of family-oriented cops recruited from white ethnic communities confronting middle-class ‘longhairs’; of both the police and the activists able to perceive one another only as stereotypes . . . of the cumulative and destructive mutual antipathy between police and press.”
Journal of American History

“Kusch’s history of white Chicago policemen and the 1968 Democratic National Convention is a solid addition to a growing literature on the cultural sensibility and political perspective of the conservative white working class in the last third of the twentieth century.”
Chicago Tribune - Julia Keller

"Battleground Chicago is especially valuable because it lets the police officers involved in the riots in Lincoln and Grant Parks have their say."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275981389
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2004
  • Series: Battleground Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Kusch has worked as a freelance editor, a communications consultant, and a political speechwriter. He is the author of All American Boys: Draft Dodgers in Canada from the Vietnam War.
 
 

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Paerback Edition

Preface

Timeline

1 "An American City": The Roots of a Creed 1

2 "Freaks, Cowards, and Bastards": The War at Home 17

3 "What's America Coming To?": January-June 1968 31

4 "On to Chicago": Countdown to August 43

5 "A Perfect Mess": Convention Week 69

6 "Terrorists from Out of Town": Fallout in the Second City 115

7 "Half the Power of God": Chicago in '68 Revisited 135

Conclusion 159

Notes 163

Bibliography 193

Index 201

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2004

    Taking it to the streets

    I was a pretty young guy in 1968 but I remember well the images from television, the violence and the cops beating the antiwar people. Well, I thought I knew it well, before this book. The author took me on a blow by blow account to the streets and really brings the convention week of that summer alive through the eyes of the cops who where there. It is a violent and unflinching account of the mayhem of that crazy week. It also puts to rest some of the exaggeration by some members of the press core that the police were the ones who had rioted. Kusch shows that the reporting that week was not always that objective as the media were being beat by the police, too. And while he shows how the cops behaved, he also puts that violence into a measured perspective by relating how the reporting of the police violence was skewed by personal conflict, raging stereotypes on both sides, and distortion after the fact of the ugly conflict as one side was able to shape our memory of that event through television and print journalism. Kusch does not sugarcoat the actions of the cops but shows them as real neighborhood guys who believed they were protecting their city from subversion. This book is a colorful, thoughtful account; some parts of it I will want to read again, especially the 50 to 60 pages devoted to the intense street battle which says so much about the Sixties and that fateful summer. Highly recommended.

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