Monday, January 30, 2012

’68 or ’96 – Did Chicago learn lesson?

We will get scenes similar to this protest at the G8/NATO summit from 2008. Photograph provided by Muji Tra.

It is with some amusement that I watch city officials get all worked up over the prospect of riots occurring as a result of protests connected to the upcoming G8/NATO summit that will be held in Chicago this spring.

I’ll be the first to concede that this event is going to bring a certain element of people wishing to make a statement in whatever visual manner is necessary, and who have little to no interest in Chicago itself.

THEY WOULDN’T EVEN think of coming here if not for the event being held here.

Yet when I say I’m amused, it means that Rahm Emanuel makes me laugh with the degree to which he seems determined to implement security measures that will give Chicago the feel for a few days of a police state.

To paraphrase the “Tommy DeVito” character played by Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas,” Rahm Emanuel is behaving like a clown, he makes me laugh.

Maybe that means Emanuel’s goons will now single me out for abuse similar to what the DeVito character did to that waiter who had the unmitigated gall to question him about a $7,000 bar tab.

MY SERIOUS POINT is that it just seems like overkill. Considering how one of the seminal events of Chicago history is the Police Department reaction to the anti-war protesters who converged on the city in 1968 when the Democratic National Convention was held here, it makes it seem as though we have learned nothing.

Which is a shame, because 1996 was supposed to be the year that we put that image to rest and showed we had learned from our mistakes. Although I have to admit that, at the time, I was never convinced of the truth of that statement.

I recall the ’96 Democratic National Convention as such an uneventful event. Democrats gathered in our city to make it official that Bill Clinton would be allowed to run for a second term as U.S. president.

It was an over-glorified pep rally for the Democrats – getting them excited about the prospect of beating up on Republican nominee Bob Dole that November. It wasn’t any real “news” made at that event.

IN FACT, MY most vivid memory was the speech given by actor Edward James Olmos. Not because of anything he said, but because he kept making this shrill whistling sound to try to get the attention of the convention delegates – who were ignoring him because many were more concerned about planning which party they were going to that night.

But that event came off without a hitch. The protester-types who insisted on coming to Chicago in 1996 were easily controlled. We didn’t have any riots. We didn’t have any of the mass arrests that would have created broadcast images similar to ’68.

We certainly didn’t have a “Chicago Seven” going on trial in U.S. District Court some time around 1998 for what they did at the Democratic National Convention similar to what happened back in the late 1960s.

Yet it seems like we’re determined to think we’ll have a conspiracy trial of sorts maybe in 2013 to punish the people who are anticipated to engage in a plot to overthrow Chicago.

WHICH IS WHY we’ve gotten the sentiment of overkill – such as the talk of police from across all the suburbs being lent to Chicago during the summit, along with cops from across the country. All we need now is the sight of a Naperville cop swinging his nightstick into someone’s skull, with perhaps a Chicago cop then swinging his club into the camera that would dare to record that image.

It’s overkill that will go a long way toward provoking certain elements to want to start up some trouble that they wouldn’t have been inclined to do had the police presence not been so intense. In short, police states generally create the mood that instigates people to want to use their own overkill in response to the police overkill.

I’m hoping we’re not on the verge of another “police riot” like we had 44 years ago – no matter how much some people will dispute the use of that phrase to describe the activity.

I couldn’t help but notice one other similarity – the concept that ridiculous rumors that are so absurd get believability.

BACK IN ’68, it was the idea that the “radicals” were going to taint the city’s drinking water supply (a.k.a., Lake Michigan) by dumping LSD in it. The whole city would wind up taking an acid trip – despite the fact that a large-enough quantity of the drug needed to really achieve such a goal would be impossible to “sneak” into Chicago.
Here's hoping we don't get an encore

To me, the same absurdity is at stake when people talk of the need to “shut down” Facebook – because all these “radicals” will use it to send secret messages to each other as far as plotting out their “takeover” of the city – as though they are really nothing more than a large-scale flash-mob.

Some aldermen are going so far as to get all outraged at the very thought of a “social media” shutdown. Although I don’t see the point. After all, I thought the whole thing about Facebook was that it was all out in the open and made obsolete the concepts of “privacy” and “secrecy.”

How secretive can a conspiracy be if anybody (including the police themselves) can “read all about it” on Facebook?


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