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Looking at the Archives From the Time of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Seeing Familiar Themes

Protesters villainized. Journalists blamed. Politicians exploiting public anxieties.

In this Aug. 26, 1968 file photo, Chicago police officers confront a demonstrator on the ground at Grant Park in Chicago during the city’s hosting of the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo, File)

This story was first published in ProPublica Illinois’ weekly newsletter. Sign up for that here.

This week, ProPublica Illinois reporter Mick Dumke wrote a column about the letters people sent to Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley after the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held in the city, praising him for how he and the police handled protesters. Amid demonstrations, violence broke out, and Daley attacked the press for its coverage of those events.

In one letter that touches on what the convention came to represent, a national simmering point of truth, facts, police violence and Chicago’s reputation, the manager of the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band — the “official band of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade” — thanked Daley and said “we regret” the “biased coverage of the television media.”

“We will do whatever we can as individuals and as a band to keep Chicago where it should be — the leading city in the nation — in education, in economic growth and in social justice,” the letter read.

An independent report found that police violence was “often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat.” And it concluded that Chicago police and Daley specifically targeted journalists during the clashes.

Learn more about the letters in this week’s Politic-IL Insider column. And you can read the full letter below.

Letter transcribed:

September 3, 1968

Re: Convention Week

Dear Mayor Daley,

Thank you for maintaining law and order in our great City of Chicago so that the majority of Chicagoans and visitors could go on about their business despite the uprisings in our parks and on Michigan Avenue.

We regret the biased coverage of the television media.

We will do whatever we can as individuals and as a band to keep Chicago where it should be — the leading city in the nation — in education, in economic growth and in social justice.

Please relay our thanks to the Chicago Police Department and Fire Department and the National Guard for a splendid job, especially during the past week of contention.

Very truly yours,

Jerry Ryan
Band Manager

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