Monday, October 24, 2011

How many people are playing “1968” in their minds? Will we ever live it down?

It almost felt like false advertising.

I’m talking of television coverage of these Occupy Wall Street/Chicago/Washington/wherever protests where one can clearly hear the participants chant, “The whole world is watching.”
One month, and counting

AS IN THE chant that was used by the anti-war activists who protested in Chicago back in 1968 – the year that Chicago police engaged in overkill (that’s why it ultimately got labeled a “police riot”) to try to maintain order in Grant Park.

The idea that anything that is happening these days is comparable to the chaos of our society in the summer that I was 3 years old is just an exaggeration; which is what makes the lengthier-than-usual incarceration for some protesters seem all-the-more like overkill. To compare these protests to the activities of the ‘60s seems way too much like people in desperate need of validation.

Perhaps they even think they’re being “60s-ish” by managing to get arrested. The most recent activities of these activists who want government to quit being so lovey-dovey with big business (as compared to Tea Party types, who think government is too hostile towards such interests) have resulted in arrests.

Just this weekend, Chicago police spent their late Saturday into early Sunday in Grant Park, taking into custody 130 people who camped out (which in and of itself was not the problem) and wouldn’t leave at curfew.

IN SHORT, THE park closed for the evening, and these people didn’t want to leave.

Activists are issuing statements saying they plan to continue such activities on weekends. Which means that every weekend, we’re going to get the sight of Chicago police hauling people off in the wagons so they can spend some time in a holding cell – all so that charges can be filed that likely will be dismissed in the future so that prosecutors can focus their attention on “real” crime.

Which makes the whole thing seem like a game. We’re playing “60s.” Will someone lose control and clobber someone just a bit too hard with that police club? Although it is nice to see evidence that not everybody is a Tea Party-type (which is what those people would have you believe).
Not everybody thinks '68 was cute

Don’t think that thought of this being a game hasn’t run through the minds of some, particularly when egged on by the same chants that echoed through Grant Park some 43 years ago while the unaware Democratic Party operatives nominated Hubert Humphrey to take a fall to Richard Nixon in the presidential election cycle that year.

JUST A COUPLE of weeks ago, I covered that big downtown protest march for one of the suburban daily newspapers – the march that had a few thousand people converge on the Art Institute of Chicago (and which resulted in only one person being arrested – for pushing a police officer).

While there, I ran into a former reporter-type colleague of mine who now works for one of the wire services, and who told me that her editors in New York were all hot and bothered for the Chicago version of the “Occupy (fill in the blank)” protests.

It is the history. Everybody was eager to see if the 21st Century version of the Chicago police (on horseback, bicycle and foot) would snap and start swatting at people with their clubs.

Would we get current college kids getting their heads smashed in before getting hauled off to a holding cell and having the mug shots taken that will haunt them if any of them ever try running for public office sometime around the year 2030.

WOULD THEY GET beaten upon like their activist grandparents (while their Reagan-era children shrugged in disgust that “Junior” was turning out to be just like “Pop”)?

Of course, it didn’t happen. And it is unlikely to happen in Chicago, or anywhere else. While I can’t testify to every single “Occupy (fill in the blank)” protest, the activity I have seen has included these people with vest-clad “marshals” who are their own members.

Those “marshals” literally guide protesters through the activity, and inform them if they’re about to do something that could be construed as a criminal violation that could get themselves arrested. In short, these people are policing themselves to a large degree.

Even the Associated Press is describing the most recent arrests in Chicago as “noisy, but peaceful, defiance of police orders.” Not exactly the activity of 1968 – where you can still find aging “hawks” who will tell you the Chicago police were justified in their forceful behavior because the protesters were throwing bags of excrement at them.

AS FOR THE current protests, the worst thing I saw happen to a protester by police was one point where a mounted police officer’s horse literally felt the “call of nature” and urinated on the street – which also was covered in so much manure.

That urine dribbled down the street and right into a group of protesters sitting on the pavement – who suddenly realized just what that puddle developing around them truly was.

That’s a far cry from ’68. It’s actually almost amusing.

If the “whole world” truly is watching now, I can’t help but think they’re getting bored and are ready (63 percent of people surveyed by the Gallup Organization say they don’t comprehend what these protesters are about) to flip the channel.


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