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Political consultant worries 2024 Chicago Democratic National Convention may repeat 1968

Political consultant sees echoes of 1968 as 2024 Chicago Democratic Convention nears
Political consultant sees echoes of 1968 as 2024 Chicago Democratic Convention nears 03:36

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Activist groups planning protests for the Democratic National Convention filing for an injunction Tuesday, on top of the lawsuit they've filed in federal court against the city's blocking of their protest plans.

Meanwhile, with tension building, some comparisons are already being made to Chicago's notoriously chaotic Democratic National Convention of 1968, which still haunts the Democratic Party 56 years later.

Political consultant Don Rose lived through it.

"The hell-on-earth shots of the police in conflict with demonstrators," said Rose.

Rose had been one of of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s press secretaries. Dr. King had been assassinated earlier that year.

By the time of the convention—which took place from Aug. 26 through Aug. 29, 1968—Rose was a spokesman for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, often called MOBE. He also led protests and demonstrations during the convention.

"We were the principal organizer," he said.

Rose has an ominous concern when he sees not only the protests happening across the Chicago area, and the country, against the war in Gaza – as well as the fight against the city, now in federal court, for the right to protest within sight and sound of the convention in August.

"It looks like a repeat in the making," Rose said.

Indeed, he sees 1968 all over again.

"At this moment, there's a perfect parallel," said Rose.

In 1968, the city refused the permits for protests and marches, for which MOBE and the Youth International Party – or the Yippies – had applied.

For this year, protest groups had wanted to set up in Union Park, just a few blocks from the United Center. The city rejected that request for a permit, instead telling the groups to protest at the south end of Grant Park four miles. This puts them in a completely different part of town.

"Unfortunately, the city today seems to be taking a, using, Mayor Richard J. Daley's handbook by denying permits – shunting people off who want to take a march line or be within proximity of where the convention is going on," Rose said. 

As it happens, Grant Park was also the site of some of the most infamous and violent skirmishes between police and protesters during the 1968 convention.

This year, the city has argued that Chicago does not have enough police to protect the planned parade of organizers, while keeping protests in check and managing traffic.

"The denial of protest rights, the denial of permits, and the absolutism of keeping people away from the site can lead us into another perhaps violent confrontation," Rose said.

The fight is back in court right now, with the U.S. Palestinian Community Network and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression - two of the main groups set to demonstrate this summer - now filing a temporary injunction.

24_0430 March v. Chicago - Mtn for PI-FILED-1 by Adam Harrington on Scribd

The filing calls for a court order that would either allow for "less restrictive alternatives for a parade permit within sight and sound of the Convention," or "to conduct parade protests immediately outside the secure perimeter of the Convention"—calling the city's stance a First Amendment violation.

"I can see where a mess might lie ahead," Rose said.

Rose said the city still has time to learn from history, and correct course.

"It's going to take a lot of work, but they've got time to make the repairs," he said. "That's the thing right now."

There was no comment and no response from Mayor Brandon Johnson's office on the court filing the activist groups made Tuesday. The city's Department of Law said it does not comment on pending litigation. 

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