By Elizabeth Aguilera
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 08/26/2008
In 1968 Polly Baca went to the Democratic National Convention in
Chicago a disillusioned 27-year-old affected deeply by the
assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The former deputy director of the Viva Kennedy campaign was there
only because friends encouraged her to attend.
With a guest pass, Baca was in and out of the convention hall,
catching highlights on the floor and participating in anti-war
On one of those trips from the outside to the inside, she witnessed
an unforgettable scene.
"I looked down and saw the police and military formation approaching
the crowd, they picked up speed and ran into the crowd I had just
been in, swinging their nightsticks," said Baca, who later became a
"I was horrified. I saw one policeman drag a woman across the street
by her hair."
It's been 40 years since that public clash of forces at the convention .
That was a year of movements on behalf of women, people of color
and the young. All of those emotions, passions and anger converged in
Chicago around one issue: ending the war.
Inside the hall, the party seated the integrated Mississippi
delegation, which caused the Georgia segregationist delegations to walk out.
Outside the hall, anti-war demonstrations went on in earnest until a
clash with police that an independent commission later called a
"police riot" ended with 691 protestors arrested, and 161 police
officers and 200 demonstrators injured.
It also brought fame to the Chicago Seven, who were tried for nearly
200 citations for contempt. Those convictions were overturned in 1972.
"You had a formula for deep division within the party and in the
streets with the anti-war protestors," said former California state
senator Tom Hayden, an anti-war protestor in 1968 and one of the
The differences between 1968 and today far outweigh the similarities,
Even the organizers of a group called Recreate 68, who plan to
protest during this convention, recognize that.
Recreate 68 is pushing to revive the spirit but not relive the
violence of that year, said co-founder Mark Cohen, who was a Peace
Corps volunteer in West Africa during the Chicago convention.
"When we say recreate '68, what we mean is recreating those kinds of
movements that can move this country forward again and complete the
revolution that was begun in the 1960s," Cohen said.
Still, there is conflict within the party, especially among the get-
"It's vexing for the anti-war movement because they feel they knock
on doors and wear their feet out supporting peace candidates, but
when the peace candidates get to office there is no peace," Hayden said.
Tent State University organizer Adam Jung has said the group is upset
Obama was so strongly against the war and seems to be backpedaling
now on how quickly he will bring soldiers home.
Hayden plans to speak to the Tent State group.
Denver artist Dan Arensmeier was about 30 years old in 1968 when he
tagged along to the Chicago convention with his father-in-law, Chet Huntley.
He likens Barack Obama's inspiration of people to that era.
"It's the same type of message. It's a continuation of what happened
during the anti-war protests in the 60s," Arensmeier said.
Maybe the same spirit, but Baca says she sees progress.
"There are more differences than there are similarities," she said.
"And it's because, hopefully, as human beings and Americans we learn
from past experiences."
Elizabeth Aguilera: 303-954-1372 firstname.lastname@example.org