Chicago '68

 A Chronology

Hello Democrats


August 15: At a convention of the National Student Association, veteran organizers Allard K. Lowenstein and Curtis Gans formally launch the Dump Johnson movement—an effort to oppose the renomination of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson.

August 31: Five-day convention of the National Conference for a New Politics opens in Chicago. 3,000 delegates from some 200 left, community, and civil rights groups convene to discuss an electoral strategy for 1968. Some want a third-party slate with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., running for President and peace activist Dr. Benjamin Spock for Vice-president. But the conference breaks up in rancor and division. Leftists who want to be active in a presidential race have nowhere to turn but the Democratic Party.

September 23: Allard Lowenstein meets with New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy declines to run as the candidate of the anti-Johnson movement. (In his search for a candidate, Lowenstein will ask California Congressman Don Edwards, Idaho Senator Frank Church, Canadian-born economist John Kenneth Galbraith, General James M. Gavin, and South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern; none accept the role.)

October 8: The Democratic Party announces that the 1968 Democratic National Convention will be held in Chicago.

October 16: Stop the Draft Week protests begin across the country. In eighteen cities, 12-15,000 young men burn or turn in their draft cards.

October 17: 3,000 militant demonstrators attempt to block access to the Oakland, California, army induction center. Oakland police clear the streets using clubs, injuring 20 protesters, bystanders, and journalists.

October 20: In Oakland, in a final Stop the Draft Week protest, 10,000 demonstrators gather at the army induction center. Running, regrouping, and creating barricades, the demonstrators evade, attack, and attacked by the police. Few injuries or arrests result.

Also on this date, Allard Lowenstein meets with Minnesota Senator Eugene J. McCarthy. McCarthy agrees to be the candidate of the anti-Johnson movement.

October 21-22: The National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) organizes an antiwar rally near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, followed by a march to the Pentagon, where another rally would be held in a parking lot, and ending with civil disobedience on the steps of the Pentagon itself. Jerry Rubin, who had been active in antiwar activities in Berkeley, CA, since 1965, was the key MOBE organizer. About 70,000 attend the Lincoln Memorial rally and 50,000 march to the Pentagon. About 650 people are arrested for civil disobedience. Afterwards, MOBE begins to talk about antiwar protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where President Johnson is expected to be nominated for a second term.

November 18: Governor George Romney of Michigan declares his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. “A Republican president,” he says, “can work for a just peace in Vietnam unshackled by the mistakes of the past.”

November 30: Senator Eugene McCarthy officially enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, running on an antiwar platform.

December 31: New York activists partying at Abbie Hoffman’s loft—including Jerry Rubin, Nancy Kurshan, Paul Krassner, and Anita Hoffman—resolve to hold a Festival of Life during the Democrats’ “Convention of Death.” Krassner christens the group “Yippies.”


January 2: Dick Gregory, a black comedian who has become active in the civil rights movement, announces that he will organize protests and marches in Chicago before and during the Democratic National Convention to force the City to enact a stronger fair housing ordinance and take other steps to address civil rights issues in Chicago.

January 5: Dr. Benjamin Spock and four others are indicted in Boston on federal charges of conspiring to counsel draft evasion.

January 21: North Vietnamese troops surround the Khe Sanh combat base and begin a seventy-seven day siege of the 6,000 U.S. Marines stationed there.

January 23: North Korea seizes the U.S.S. Pueblo, a Navy intelligence ship which the North Koreans claim had violated their territorial waters. One U.S. sailor is killed and 82 are taken prisoner.

January 30: The Tet offensive begins in South Vietnam; Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops strike at targets across South Vietnam, reaching even the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Often cited as a turning point in public support for the war. American troops will peak at 542,000 during 1968.

February 1: Richard Nixon enters the race for the Republican nomination for President. Nixon says that the war in Vietnam should be prosecuted “more effectively.”

February 8: Alabama Governor George Wallace enters the presidential race as an Independent, his second run at the office. (Wallace had run in three Democratic presidential primaries in 1964, taking 30% of the vote in Wisconsin, a bit under 30% in Indiana, and 40% in Maryland.)

Also on this date, three black students are killed and twenty-seven are wounded on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, when state troopers fire on two hundred demonstrators demanding the integration of a local bowling alley. The incident is known as the Orangeburg Massacre.

February 27: CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite concludes a special report on Vietnam and the Tet offensive with an editorial, in which he says: “It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.” President Johnson is said to have responded: “That’s it. If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

February 28: Romney withdraws from the Republican race.

February 29: The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission) issues its report. The commission was created by President Johnson in July 1967 to investigate the causes of urban riots, especially those in the summer of 1967. The report warned that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” It called for government investment in new jobs, housing, and an end to segregation. The report’s recommendations were largely rejected by Johnson, but were embraced by New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

March 12: Voters in the New Hampshire primary give President Johnson only a narrow victory over antiwar candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy.

March 16: Senator Robert Kennedy reverses his earlier decision and announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, criticizing Johnson for his handling of the war and urban problems.

Also on this date, in South Vietnam, Charlie Company (11th Brigade, Americal Division) enters the village of My Lai and kills over 300 apparently unarmed civilians. The American public will not learn about the My Lai killings until November 1969.

March 21: Nelson A. Rockefeller, governor of New York, announces he will not seek the Republican nomination for president, but will be available for a draft. Rockefeller notes that “a considerable majority of the party’s leaders” favor Nixon.

March 22-23: A MOBE conference in Lake Villa, Illinois brings together MOBE, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Yippie activists to plan the Convention demonstrations.

March 31: Lyndon Johnson announces a halt to bombing in North Vietnam, deployment of an additional 13.500 troops to Vietnam, and also states, surprisingly, that he will neither seek nor accept the Democratic nomination for president.

April 4: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots break out in more than a hundred cities. On the west side of Chicago, nine blacks are killed and twenty blocks are burned. 5,000 US Army soldiers from Fort Hood in Texas are flown into Chicago to suppress the riot.

April 11: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968. While primarily addressing open housing, the Act also includes a new federal anti-riot law, making it a crime to cross state lines with the intent to incite a riot.

April 15: Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley publicly criticizes Superintendent of Police James Conlisk’s cautious handling of the riots that followed King’s assassination. He said he was giving the police specific instructions “to shoot to kill any arsonist and to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting.”

On the same day, Dick Gregory, citing “inflammatory” conditions in Chicago, says he will not lead any demonstrations during the August Convention.

April 23: At Columbia University in New York, students opposed to the university’s defense contracts and their plans for a new gymnasium to be built on Harlem park land occupy several campus buildings. They are routed by city police a week later: 150 injuries, 700 arrests.

April 26: The Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC) organizes a nationwide student strike against the war. One million students participate in this first national student strike since the 1930s.

April 27: An antiwar march in Chicago draws 8,000 people. When the march ends, Chicago police order the crowd to disperse, then wade in with clubs. The unofficial Sparling report criticizes the police and the Daley administration.

Also on this date, Vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

April 30: Nelson Rockefeller, five weeks after taking himself out of contention, now enters the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

May 1: The May offensive begins, a second phase of the Tet offensive, with North Vietnamese and Vietcong striking numerous targets across South Vietnam, most visibly in Saigon. 2,416 American soldiers will die in combat in May, the highest monthly loss of the war.

May 6-30: Student demonstrations in France lead to a general strike throughout the country. Ten million workers strike, 10,000 battle police in Paris.

May 10: Peace talks open in Paris with Averell Harriman representing the U.S. and Xan Thuy representing North Vietnam. Talks soon deadlock over the North Vietnamese demand for an end to all U.S. bombing of North Vietnam.

May 13: In Washington D.C., Resurrection City rises, a demonstration by the Poor People’s Campaign.

May 14: J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, sends a memorandum to all FBI field offices initiating a counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) to disrupt new left groups. [The FBI was not the only Federal agency spying on antiwar organizations. The U.S. Army began an intelligence gathering operation in July 1967; Conus Intel placed army agents in antiwar groups. In August 1967 the CIA set up a Special Operations Group to investigate alleged links between antiwar protesters and foreign governments; later called Operation CHAOS, the program included wiretaps, mail openings, and burglaries.]

June 5: Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles moments after declaring victory in the California Democratic presidential primary.

June 14: In Boston, Dr. Benjamin Spock and three other defendants are convicted of conspiring to counsel draft evasion. One defendant is acquitted.

June 23: A group of Connecticut McCarthy supporters, disgruntled at being under-represented in their state’s delegation to the upcoming national convention, meet to create a Commission on the Selection of Presidential Nominees. This commission will submit proposals to the convention’s Rules Committee calling for an end to the practice of winner-takes-all in state delegations. [The 1968 convention agreed to study the issue. The resulting committee, the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection—which would be chaired by Senator George McGovern—made recommendations that were adopted by the Democratic National Committee in 1971 and effectively placed control of the Democratic presidential nomination process beyond the reach of the traditional party regulars.]

June 29: 1,200 disaffected Democrats meet in Chicago as the Coalition for an Open Convention, an effort largely organized by Allard Lowenstein. The group concludes that time is too short to mount a fourth-party bid for the presidency. They pass a resolution opposing Humphrey. The group’s course of action in the event that Humphrey does not get the nomination is unclear; Lowenstein says: “If we get to that bridge, I’ll jump off it.”

July 15: The Yippies apply to the city of Chicago for permits to camp in Lincoln Park (about two miles north of the Chicago Loop) during the convention and to rally at Soldier Field (on the lakefront southeast of the Loop).

July 29: MOBE applies for permits to march to and rally at the International Amphitheatre (site of the Democratic Convention and about five miles southwest of the Loop) and to march to and rally in Grant Park (just east of the Loop). All permits are denied, except one allowing the use of the Grant Park bandshell for a rally. [In 1968 the bandshell was located at the far south end of Grant Park, near the Field Museum.]

August 5: On the day that the Republican National Convention opens in Miami Beach, Florida, California governor Ronald Reagan declares he is a candidate for the Republican nomination. Reagan had received more votes in the 1968 Republican primaries than any other candidate, including Nixon.

August 8: Richard M. Nixon wins the Republican party’s nomination for President. The first foreign policy objective of his administration, he says in his acceptance speech, will be “to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.” At the same time, not far away in the black neighborhoods of Miami, riots result in four deaths and hundreds of arrests.

August 10: Senator George S. McGovern announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

August 20: Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops deploy to Czechoslovakia, bringing to an end the short-lived liberalization of the Prague Spring reform movement.

More than 5,000 Illinois National Guard troops deploy to Chicago in anticipation of marches and demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention.

The Democratic party's credentials committee votes to block the seating of the Mississippi delegation because the all-white delegation does not adequately represent Democratic voters in the state. A delegation from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is approved for seating.

Convention Week

August 22, Thursday: In early morning hours, Dean Johnson, a seventeen-year-old Sioux Indian from South Dakota, apparently in Chicago for the Festival of Life, is shot dead by police on Wells Street. Police say he pulled a gun. A Yippie-organized memorial march is held later in the day.

The Democratic party's credentials committee compromises on a challenge to the all-white Georgia delegation. The Georgia delegation votes are to be equally split between a group of delegates headed by Gov. Lester Maddox and another group headed by State Rep. Julian Bond.

August 23, Friday: At the Civic Center plaza (located in the Loop and now known as the Daley Center) the Yippies nominate their presidential contender—Pigasus the pig. Seven Yippies and the pig are arrested.

Illinois National Guardsman and special Chicago police platoons practice riot-control drills.

At Fort Hood, Texas 3,000 soldiers are mobilized for riot-control duty in Chicago; about one hundred soldiers hold an all-night demonstration and pledge to refuse the deployment. On Saturday morning forty-three soldiers—all of them African American—are arrested. [With additional troops from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Carson, Colorado, about 5,000 US Army soldiers arrive in Chicago on Sunday and are quartered at Glenview Naval Air Station and the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, both near Chicago. They are not used during Convention Week.]

August 24, Saturday: MOBE’s marshal training sessions continue in Lincoln Park. Karate, snake dancing, and crowd protection techniques are practiced. Women Strike for Peace holds a women-only picket at the Hilton Hotel, where many delegates are staying. At the 11 PM curfew, poet Allan Ginsberg, chanting, and musician Ed Sanders lead people out of the park.

August 25, Sunday: MOBE’s “Meet the Delegates” march gathers 800 protesters in Grant Park across from the Hilton Hotel. The Festival of Life, in Lincoln Park, opens with music. 5,000 hear the MC-5, from Detroit, play for about half-an-hour. Then, police refuse to allow a truck to be brought in as a stage. A fracas breaks out in which several are arrested and others are clubbed. Police reinforcements arrive.

At the 11 PM curfew, most of the crowd, now numbering around 2,000, leave the park ahead of a police sweep and congregate between Stockton Drive and Clark Street. The police line then moves into the crowd, pushing it into the street. Many are clubbed, reporters and photographers included. The crowd disperses into the Old Town area, where the battles continue.

August 26, Monday: In the early morning, Tom Hayden is among those arrested. Later in the morning, 1,000 protesters march towards police headquarters at 11th and State. Dozens of officers surround the building. The march turns north to Grant Park, swarming the General Logan statue. Police react by clearing the hill and the statue.

At the International Amphitheatre, Mayor Daley formally opens the 1968 Democratic National Convention. [The convention would have been held in McCormick Place on the Chicago lakefront, but it was destroyed by fire in January 1967.] In his welcoming address, Daley says: “As long as I am mayor of this city, there’s going to be law and order in Chicago.”

As the curfew approaches, some in Lincoln Park build a barricade against the police line to the east. About 1,000 remain in the park after 11 PM. A police car noses into the barricade and is pelted by rocks. Police move in with tear gas. Like Sunday night, street violence ensues. But it is worse. Some area residents are pulled off their porches and clubbed. More reporters are attacked this night than at any other time during the week.

August 27, Tuesday: At 1 PM 200 members of the American Friends Service Committee and other pacifist groups leave a near-northside church to march to the Amphitheatre. Joined by others along their route, the marchers eventually number about 1,000. The police stop the march at 39th and Halstead, about half-a-mile north of the Amphitheatre. The marchers set up a picket line and remain in place until 10 AM the next morning. They are then ordered to disperse and 30 resisters are arrested. This is the only march of Convention Week that gets anywhere near the Amphitheatre—it also gets virtually no publicity.

About 7 PM Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale speaks in Lincoln Park. He urges people to defend themselves by any means necessary if attacked by the police.

An “Unbirthday Party for LBJ” convenes at the Chicago Coliseum. Performers and speakers include Ed Sanders, Abbie Hoffman, David Dellinger, Terry Southern, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, and Rennie Davis. 2,000 later march from the Coliseum to Grant Park.

In Lincoln Park, 200 clergy and lay church people, toting a 12-foot cross, join 2,000 protesters to remain in the park past curfew. Again, tear gas and club-swinging police clear the park. Many head south to the Loop and Grant Park.

At Grant Park, in front of the Hilton, where the television cameras are, 4,000 demonstrators rally to speeches by Julian Bond, Davis, and Hayden. Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow sing. The rally is peaceful. At 3 AM the National Guard relieve the police. The crowd is allowed to stay in Grant Park all night.

August 28, Wednesday: 10-15,000 gather at the Grant Park bandshell for the MOBE’s antiwar rally, scheduled to begin at 2pm. Dellinger, Gregory, Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Jerry Rubin, Carl Oglesby, Hayden, and many others speak. 600 police surround the rally on all sides. National Guardsmen are posted on the roof of the nearby Field Museum.

In the Convention at the Amphitheatre, the peace plank proposed for the Democratic party platform is voted down.

At the bandshell rally, news of the defeat of the peace plank is heard on radios. A young man begins to lower the American flag flying near the bandshell. Police push through the crowd to arrest him. Then a group, including at least one undercover police officer, completes the flag lowering and raises a red or blood-splattered shirt. Police move in again. A line of MOBE marshals is formed between the police and the crowd. Police charge the marshal line. Rennie Davis is clubbed unconscious.

At rally’s end Dellinger announces a march to the Amphitheatre, while Hayden urges the crowd to move in small groups to the Loop. 6,000 join the march line, but, since it has no permit and the police refuse to allow it to use the sidewalks, the march does not move. After an hour of negotiation, the march line begins to break up. Protesters try to cross over to Michigan Avenue, but the Balbo and Congress bridges have been sealed off by National Guardsmen armed with .30 caliber machine guns and grenade launchers. The crowd moves north and finds that the Jackson Street bridge is unguarded. Thousands surge onto Michigan Avenue. Coincidentally, the mule train of Ralph Abernathy’s Poor People’s Campaign, which has a permit to go to the Amphitheatre, is passing south on Michigan. The crowd joins it. At Michigan and Balbo the crowd is halted again. Only the mule train is allowed to continue.

Shortly before 8 PM, Deputy Police Superintendent James Rochford orders the police to clear the streets. Demonstrators and bystanders are clubbed, beaten, Maced, and arrested. Some fight back and the attack escalates. The melee last about seventeen minutes and is filmed by TV crews positioned at the Hilton. At about 9:00 PM, first NBC News, then the other networks, interrupt their broadcasts of nominating speeches at the convention to play taped reports from Michigan and Balbo. What would come to be called “The Battle of Michigan Aveneue” is seen by a nationwide audience of 90 million households, as well as by delegates watching monitors at the convention hall.

Inside the Amphitheatre, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, in his speech nominating George McGovern, denounces the “Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago.” Mayor Daley’s shouted reaction was on-camera, but off-mike. Lip-readers later decoded a vulgar rage.

Channing E. Phillips, who had headed the RFK campaign in the District of Columbia, becomes the first African American formally nominated for president by a major poltical party. He receives 67.5 votes.

Hubert H. Humphrey wins the party’s nomination on the first ballot.

When the convention adjourns for the day, 500 antiwar delegates march from the Amphitheatre to the Hilton; many join the 4,000 protesters in Grant Park. Again, protesters are allowed to stay in the park all night.

August 29, Thursday: Several attempts are made to march to the Amphitheatre. At 4pm a delegate march organized by Donald Peterson, chair of the Wisconsin delegation, steps off from the Bismark Hotel on Randolph Street. Using the sidewalks, the crowd stretches several blocks. Near 16th and State Streets, a line of police block the sidewalk and the National Guard soon arrives. After an hour of negotiation, the crowd turns around and heads back to Grant Park.

Senator Eugene McCarthy addresses about 5,000 gathered in Grant Park. Next, Dick Gregory addresses the crowd and invites all the demonstrators to his house, which happens to be in the general direction of the Amphitheatre. Several thousand move south on the Michigan Avenue sidewalks. At 18th Street, the National Guard has barricaded Michigan Avenue to enforce a police line. Gregory crosses the line is arrested. A dozen convention delegates also step forward and are arrested, including Lutheran theologian Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus, Murray Kempton (a New York Post columnist), and Harris Wofford, who had served in the JFK White House. Many in the crowd ask to be arrested, too, but instead tear gas, clubs, and rifle butts send the crowd back to Grant Park.

Near midnight, the 1968 Democratic National Convention is adjourned.

August 30, Friday: About 5 AM police raid a McCarthy campaign hospitality suite on the 15th floor of the Hilton Hotel, because objects were thrown from the windows. A relatively small incident escalates as more rooms of McCarthy campaign workers are entered and several people are hit with nightsticks.

The arrest count for Convention Week disturbances stands at 668. An undetermined number of demonstrators sustained injuries, with hospitals reporting that they treated 111 demonstrators. The on-the-street medical teams from the Medical Committee for Human Rights estimated that their medics treated over 1,000 demonstrators at the scene. The police department reported that 192 officers were injured, with 49 officers seeking hospital treatment.

During Convention Week, 308 Americans were killed and 1,144 more were injured in the war in Vietnam.

September 4: Richard Nixon opens his general election campaign with a parade through the Chicago Loop, cheered by about 250,000. The parade ends at the corner of Michigan and Balbo. That endpoint for the parade, says William Rentschler, Illinois chair of the campaign, provides a “strinking contrast with the grim and depressing disarray of the Democratic convention.”

September 7: In a phone call with President Johnson, Mayor Daley discusses prosecuting protesters under the new federal anti-riot law, which Johnson had signed in April. “I think we got the dope on them once and for all on conspiracy to riot,” says Daley. “If the attorney general goes along with us I think we will expose” Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, the Mobe, “and we’ll also include some of McCarthy’s friends.” Johnson cautions that his attorney general, Ramsey Clark, “doesn’t see this the way you and I see it.”

September 9: Chief Judge William J. Campbell of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois convenes a grand jury to investigate whether the organizers of the demonstrations had violated federal law and whether any police officers had interfered with the civil rights of the protestors.

In a press conference, Mayor Daley makes a now-famous slip of the tongue: “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

October 1: The House Committee on Un-American Activities convenes hearings to plumb the extent of Communist subversion in the Convention Week protests. Testifying over the course of the hearings are: Lt. Joseph Healy and Sgt. Joseph Grubisic, both of the Intelligence Division of the Chicago Police Department (the Red Squad); Robert Pierson, a Chicago police officer who went undercover and was Jerry Rubin’s bodyguard; Robert Greenblatt, national coordinator of MOBE; Dr. Quentin Young of the Medical Committee for Human Rights; and soon-to-be-indicted Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, and David Dellinger. (The hearings recessed on October 3rd and were concluded December 2 through 5.)

October 5: A march without a permit in Derry, Northern Ireland is stopped by baton-wielding men of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The marchers were protesting discrimination in housing and employment. Images of beaten marchers are broadcast worldwide. The Derry march galvanizes Irish nationalist resistance and is often cited as the start of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

November 1: George Wallace holds a campaign rally in Chicago at the International Amphitheatre, site of the Democratic Convention. Ten thousand supporters give Wallace a 20-minute standing ovation at the rally.

November 5: Nixon is elected, defeating Humphrey by 500,000 votes. George Wallace receives about 13% of the vote nationwide and wins the electoral votes of five Southern states.

December 1: Public release of Rights in Conflict, commonly called the Walker Report. The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, charged with studying and reporting on violence in America, formed a Chicago Study Team headed by Daniel Walker, to investigate the Convention Week disturbances. They reviewed over 20,000 pages of statements from 3,437 eyewitnesses and participants, 180 hours of film, and over 12,000 still photographs. The Walker Report attached the label “police riot” to the events of Chicago ‘68. Read an excerpt—the summary to Rights in Conflict.

December 31: U.S. troop strength peaked at 549,500 in 1968. 16,592 American soldiers were killed in 1968, the highest toll for any year of the war.


January 19-20: A counterinagural protest, called by the Mobe and organized primarily by David Dellinger and Rennie Davis, is held in Washington, DC. 10,000 attend a rally on January 19 and several thousand chant slogans and wave signs during the January 20 inaugural parade.

February 26: Thirteen individuals, including five who were convention delegates from New York, go on trial in Cook County Circuit Court on disorderly conduct charges related to the delegate-led attempt to march to the International Amphitheatre on Thursday, August 29. The trial takes 26 days—a record for disorderly conduct charges—and all the defendants are found guilty on April 14.

March 18: U.S. bombers hit targets in Cambodia in a covert expansion of the airwar. Nixon ordered the secret Cambodia bombing campaign, Operation Menu, even as he publicly claimed he wants to wind down the war.

March 20: Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, and Lee Weiner are indicted on Federal charges of conspiring to cross state lines “with the intent to incite, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry out a riot.” Six defendants—Dellinger, Hayden, Davis, Hoffman, Rubin and Seale—are also individually charged with crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot. Each of the two charges carried a five-year sentence; each defendant thus faces a ten-year prison term. The indictment charges that Froines and Weiner, in addition to the conspiracy charge, “did teach and demonstrate to other persons the use, application and making of an incendiary device.”

The same Federal grand jury that returned these criminal indictments also charged eight Chicago policemen with civil rights violations for assaulting demonstrators and news reporters. None of the policemen were convicted. (Forty-one officers of the Chicago Police Department were disciplined after internal investigations, and two resigned, for infractions like removing their badges and nameplates while on duty during Convention Week.)

April 5: An Easter weekend antiwar march in Chicago draws 30,000 people.

May 9: A story by William Beecher in the New York Times reveals the secret bombing of Cambodia. Nixon orders wiretaps on National Security Council aides and journalists to find who the source of the story.

Also on this date, William Kunstler, attorney for the some of the conspiracy trial defendants, files a pretrial motion to compel the government to disclose any electronic surveillance (wiretapping) that the government conducted on the defendants.

June 8: Gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam begins as Nixon announces that 25,000 troops will be withdrawn.

June 13: By way of response to the pretrial motion in the conspiracy case, Attorney General John Mitchell submits an affidavit to the trial judge laying out the “Mitchell Doctrine”—that the governemnt could lawfully, by the authority of the Attorney General, conduct warrantless wiretapping of US citizens for reasons of national security.

June 18-22: SDS holds it national convention in Chicago. The organization splits into at least two factions—the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM).

August 15-17: The Woodstock music festival—the Festival of Life a year late—convenes and communes in upstate New York.

September 24: The Chicago 8 conspiracy trial begins in the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman.

October 8-11: The Weatherman faction of SDS—which split off from RYM—holds its National Actions—the Days of Rage—in Chicago. As if seeking revenge for Convention Week, pipe-wielding Weathermen race through the streets, attacking police, windows, and cars.

October 15: An estimated 2 million people across the country participate in the first Moratorium against the war. The Vietnam Moratorium Committee is headed by Sam Brown, David Mixner, and David Hawk, all former youth organizers from the 1968 McCarthy campaign.

November 5: The Chicago 8 becomes the Chicago 7, when a mistrial is declared in the case of Bobby Seale and a new, separate trial is ordered. After repeatedly asserting his right to an attorney of his own choosing or to defend himself, Seale had been bound and gagged in the courtroom. He is sentenced to four years for contempt of court. [The sentence is later reversed and Seale is never convicted of any Convention Week charges.]

November 15: A MOBE-organized march draws 500,000 people to Washington, D.C.; 150,000 attend a march in San Francisco.

December 4: In an early morning raid, Chicago police fire nearly 100 shots into a west side apartment. Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and Party member Mark Clark are killed. One or two shots were fired by the Panthers.


February 14: The Chicago 7 case goes to the jury. As the jury begins deliberations, Judge Hoffman begins to sentence each defendant,—plus their lawyers William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass—to jail terms ranging from from 2½ months to four years for contemptuous conduct during the course of the trial.

February 17: In response to the contempt sentences, protests occur in cities across the country. The Day After (TDA) protest in Seattle results in a conspiracy indictment of seven persons, the Seattle 7, including charges of crossing state lines with intent to riot against four of them.

February 18: The jury reaches a verdict and the Chicago 7 conspiracy trial ends. All the defendants are acquitted on conspiracy charges. Froines and Weiner are acquitted on all charges. Davis, Dellinger, Hayden, Hoffman, and Rubin are each convicted of individually crossing state lines with the intent of inciting a riot; each is sentenced to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Defendants are freed on bail pending an appeal.

March 6: Three members of Weathermen are killed when a bomb they are building in a New York townhouse explodes.

April 30: Three divisions of American troops cross the border from Vietnam into Cambodia to destroy enemy camps and supplies. Student strikes shut down hundreds of college campuses in the U.S. over the next few days.

May 4: Four students are killed and nine injured by National Guard troops during protests at Kent State University in Ohio. In the aftermath, demonstrations spread to more than a thousand campuses and 100,000 rally in Washington, D.C.

May 15: At Jackson State College in Mississippi, two students are killed and twelve are injured when city police and highway patrolmen fire on a dormitory building.

August 24: A homemade bomb explodes in a stolen van parked at the loading dock outside the Army Math Research Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A graduate student is killed and five are injured. The Army Math bombing is the first loss of innocent life caused by antiwar activists and divides the Left into those who condemn it and those who justify it.


March 8: Eight Philadelphia-area peace activists break into an FBI office in Media, PA, and take thousands of documents, some of which they copy and send to newspaper reporters. The break-in provides the first solid documentation of the FBI’s spying on antiwar groups and the COINTELPRO operation intended to disrupt antiwar activities.

March 29: U.S. Army Lieutenant William Calley is found guilty of 22 murders in the My Lai massacre and sentenced to life in prison. (Twenty-six officers and soldiers, including Calley’s immediate superior officer, Captain Ernest Medina, were initially charged in connection with their actions at My Lai, but Calley is the only one convicted. Calley’s sentence was later reduced and he served less than four years.)

April 19: In Washington D.C. two weeks of anti-war activities begins. Vietnam Veterans Against the War rallies and returns medals on the steps of the Capitol in Operation Dewey Canyon III.

April 24: 200,000 attend an anti-war rally at the Capitol building, while 150,000 assemble at a West Coast rally in San Fransisco.

May 3: In Washington D.C. tens of thousands of anti-war activists use civil disobedience tactics to try to shut down the Federal government. Arrests number about 12,000. Chicago Seven defendants Rennie Davis and John Froines are key organizers of the actions. They and Abbie Hoffman are indicted on riot and conspiracy charges for the protest actions. [The case is never brought to trial.]

June 13: The New York Times begins publication of the History of U.S. Decision Making Process on Vietnam Policy, better known as the Pentagon Papers—a secret Defense Department study, prepared in 1967-69, of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The Pentagon Papers were leaked to the Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst. (Read an excerpt from the Pentagon papers.)

July 24: In the White House a covert operations unit is formed to investigate, identify, and stop leaks of classified information, such as the Pentagon Papers. The group was called the Plumbers, and included G. Gordon Liddy, general counsel of the finance operation of Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President.

September 3: The Plumbers break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s Los Angeles psychiatrist, Lewis J. Fielding, in an effort to uncover evidence to discredit Ellsberg. The operation was unsuccessful.


January 27: The Republican Party anticipates antiwar demonstrators at its 1972 convention and is determined not to have a replay of Chicago ‘68. G. Gordon Liddy submits a plan to counter anti-war demonstrations at the convention, to be held in Miami Beach in August. The plan, Operation Diamond, includes using paid informants to infiltrate anti-war groups, assembling street-fighting squads to “break up demonstrations before they reach television cameras,” and even abducting protest leaders. Operation Diamond is one component of Liddy’s overall campaign intelligence scheme, Operation Gemstone, which includes wiretapping the offices of Democratic Party officials.

February 8: An appeal of the convictions of Dellinger, Hayden, Davis, Hoffman, and Rubin on the individual charges of crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot is heard by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

February 9: An appeal of the contempt sentences of the Chicago 7 and their attorneys is heard by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a separate proceeding an appeal of the contempt sentences of Bobby Seale is also argued.

May 11: Ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals voids a few of the contempt citations of the Chicago 7 and their attorneys, but remands the rest for trial by a judge other than Julius Hoffman. The Court also issues its reversal of the contempt sentences for Seale and remands all the citations for retrial. (The government decides not to proceed with a contempt trial for Seale, but to go to trial on the contempt charges against the Chicago 7 and attorneys Kunstler and Weinglass.)

June 17: Five men are arrested in a break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in Washington’s Watergate complex.

June 19: The Supreme Court renders a decision in the case of United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972) which rejects the “Mitchell Doctrine” as unconstitutional: warrantless wiretapping is not lawful. (The underlying case in this decision involved electronic surveillance of members of the White Panther Party, including party founder John Sinclair, who was the manager of the MC5 in 1968.)

July 5: A different conspiracy trial begins in Chicago: The conspiracy trial of Cook County States Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan, an assistant, and 12 policemen on charges that they conspired to cover up evidence and prevent prosecution of the police who raided the Black Panther apartment in December 1969, killing Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. All defendants were acquited.

July 10: The 1972 Democratic National Convention opens in Miami Beach. The new delegate selection rules and processes set into motion by the 1968 convention have significantly changed the makeup of the convention. However Mayor Daley, leader of the Illinois delegation, ignored the new rules. The Daley delegation was challenged and the credentials committee rejected his delegation, replacing it with a delegation led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. George McGovern wins the nomination.

July 13: Six members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Gainesville, Florida are indicted by a Federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to disrupt the August Republican National Convention with weapons and incendiary devices. [The indictment is based on testimony from an FBI agent. Later indictments increased the total to eight, and the defendants became known as the Gainesville 8; they were all acquitted in August 1973.]

August 23: The 1972 Republican National Convention opens in Miami Beach. About 1,000 anti-war activists are arrested trying to block entrances to the convention hall. A total of 10,000 participate in the RNC demonstrations.

November 7: Nixon is re-elected to a second term as President, defeating McGovern.

November 21: Ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on the convictions of Dellinger, Hayden, Davis, Hoffman, and Rubin for crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot. Citing a number of judicial errors, the convictions are reversed and a new trial is ordered. The Court adds “that the demeanor of the judge and the prosecutors would require reversal if the other errors did not.” The ruling states that the government may re-try the case only if, in line with the Supreme Court ruling in June, the government releases the electronic surveillance it conducted on the defendants.


January 4: The U.S. Attorney announces that it will not seek a new trial on the individual counts of Dellinger, Hayden, Davis, Hoffman, and Rubin.

January 27: The U.S., North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Vietcong sign a ceasefire agreement in Paris. By April the last American combat soldiers have left Vietnam, leaving only military advisers and security forces.

October 29: Trial on the contempt citations of the Chicago 7 and their attorneys before Judge Edward T. Gignoux, a U.S. District Court judge from Maine. For the trial, the government reduces the number of contempt charges to 52. Rubin, Hoffman, and Kunstler are found guilty of two contempts each. Dellinger is found guilty of seven contempts. However in consideration of “judicial error, judicial or prosecutorial misconduct, and judicial or prosecutorial provocation” no sentence is imposed.


July 27-30: The House Judiciary Committee votes three articles of impeachment against President Nixon in connection with the Watergate burglary and other abuses of presidential power.

August 9: Facing impeachment and eroding public support, Nixon resigns.


April 30: The last American personnel in Vietnam leave via helicopter from the roof of the U.S. Embassy as Saigon and South Vietnam fall. Three million Americans served in the war; nearly 58,000 Americans were killed, 150,000 seriously wounded, and over 1,000 are missing in action. Estimates of all civilian and military deaths in the war, from 1954 to 1975, range from 1,500,000 to 4,000,000.