Stories that feature ‘Harry Belafonte’

Chicago 1968

This story takes place in 1968. It was told on October 8th, 2010 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Far be it from me to defend Richard Daley, but the truth is that the only thing that saved our movement from being totally discredited at the 1968 convention was the brutality of the Chicago cops and the stupidity and overreaction of Daley and Lyndon Johnson.

I had a full summer program booked that year, except for the weeks of the convention. I had arranged to bring Harry Belafonte into the Auditorium the week before the convention. When we set it up, nobody anticipated the kind of excitement that was going to take place. The booking was set probably six months ahead. I think Harry was on tour that summer and he liked the idea. He probably thought he was going to participate in some of the platform hearings; I don’t know. I thought we would get some business from the advance delegates and it was all fine.

By that time it was a week before the convention opened and Chicago was already a semi-poIice state. All sorts of threats were flying in every direction. Bobby Kennedy had been shot in June, but there was no sense that Armageddon was going to come to Chicago. My sense later on was that people had been warned to stay away, and if the cops had not provoked a riot, the whole thing that the Yippies organized would have been a sideshow, and anybody else’s attempt to intervene would have been incidental. I think it was Daley’s arrogance and ignorance that created this massive confrontation in which they beat the shit out of everybody in sight. And obviously the insanity of the establishment, given the lack of any cohesive movement by that time, just created its own mirror insanity in the resistance movement.

Harry did his concert series the week before the convention. The last night, Harry made a short speech deploring the violence that was taking place in Chicago. I’d sold half the main floor that night to Israel Bonds, and they were hysterical. I thought it was quite courageous, because Harry was really the greatest of the Jewish folksingers.

The net result of the events was that people dropped out and stopped fighting back. There was still moral outrage, but what really ended the war, without taking anything away from the peace movement, was that the Vietnamese were not going to give up and were defeating us militarily. And the soldiers had had enough and were starting to shoot the officers.