Impossible to recreate 1968

Times have changed as protestors prepare for the coming national conventions.

The 1960s era ended with riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Anti-war protestors demonstrated throughout the selection of the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy and the ongoing Vietnam War led the country to conflict between, as Time reported then, “Chicago cops” and “hippies, yippies, New Leftists, revolutionaries, dissident Democrats, newsmen, photographers, passers-by, clergymen and at least one cripple,” in Chicago that late August.

What was felt then and what happened then cannot come about again today. Though one could argue parallels exist between President Lyndon B. Johnson and President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Vice President Dick Cheney and the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, the home front is not the same now as it was in the 1960s. There is no build-up; there is no breaking point.

Still, two movements, the RNC Welcoming Committee for the Republican Convention Sept. 1-4 in Minnesota and Recreate ’68 for the Democratic Convention Aug. 25-28 in Colorado, are trying to construct protests similar to previous demonstrations in the 1960s – especially the 1968 Chicago protest.

With the Republican Convention less than 10 months away in St. Paul, the RNC Welcoming Committee is planning, according to the Associated Press, “a mass march to protest Iraq; human roadblocks; schemes to disrupt public transportation; and talk of a temporary free state near the main convention site, St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.” The group is also preparing to shut down the 10 bridges in the metro area over the Mississippi River.

Each individual has the right to protest, but a demonstration reminiscent of the 1960s would not be authentic. The radical actions of these two groups could keep more reasonable liberals home. News cameras will be covering protestors’ actions, but that does not mean they need to overact. A civil gathering of tens of thousands will speak louder than mock-guerilla tactics. Protestors cannot shut down a city, but their constant presence can effect change.