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50 Years Ago: Antiwar Protesters Brutally Attacked in Police Riots at 1968 Democratic Convention

Chicago met the protesters with 24,000 police officers, National Guardsmen and Army soldiers using tear gas and clubs

A melee breaks out between police and demonstrators near the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 28, 1968. (Bettman / Getty Images)

A melee breaks out between police and demonstrators near the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 28, 1968. (Bettman / Getty Images)

It was 50 years ago this week that the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago became a national spectacle, as a major political event veered into chaos that culminated with a police riot, much of it unfolding on live national television.

The 1968 DNC came in the middle of a year of mass protests against the Vietnam War. Protests also erupted and civil disorders in April, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Then, on June 5th, Robert Kennedy was killed as he sought the Democratic Party nomination for president.

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Democrats had to select a nominee after President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek another term amid fallout over Vietnam. His vice president, Hubert Humphrey, was ultimately nominated for president without competing in the primaries and after party bosses arranged for his support from most delegates.

As protests raged outside the convention, inside, Aretha Franklin, whose funeral will be held Friday in Detroit, was invited to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Read the full transcript here.

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