The 1968 Walker Report—Rights in Conflict, the official federal commission report on the 1968 Democratic Convention that came out a couple months after it ended—was made famous by its initial branding of the Chicago police’s spectacular brutality during several periods in the long week as a “police riot.” The behavior of the Chicago police was indeed appalling; the police even targeted the press for beatings (63 of the 300 press working the street were beaten by police).
Antiwar demonstrators spat and threw urine at both police and National Guardsmen. Spitting on police is recounted several times in the book.
The Walker Report also describes a torrent of abuse heaped directly at National Guardsmen in uniform in an apparent attempt to goad them into violence. According to accounts, many of the demonstrators were holding cameras, ready to take pictures of guardsmen who reacted violently.
Interestingly, given Professor Jerry Lembcke’s prior stereotyping of women, one policeman stationed at the Hilton reported that the obscene abuses shouted by “women hippies” outnumbered those by men “four to one.” (Rights in Conflict, p. 235) (Of course, it might have been that the police officer just wasn’t accustomed to women being as foul-mouthed as men.)
One Guardsman is quoted describing how one male demonstrator went down the line spitting in servicemen’s faces, flicking ashes and lit cigarettes at them, and making religious slurs (Rights in Conflict, p. 213). This represents yet another story debunking Jerry Lembcke’s claim that there were no contemporaneous accounts of servicemen being spat upon (the Walker Report was completed just 53 days after the late August, 1968 convention).
A September 1, 1968 Chicago Tribune account praised the guardsmen who (unlike the police) were credited with showing extreme restraint in the face of extraordinary taunting:
“Newsmen observed that the demonstrators hurled insults at the guardsmen and some spit on them in an attempt to provoke them into action.” (p. 2)
These two accounts tend corroborate in an indirect way one of Bob Greene’s spitting stories in Homecoming. John Kelly, a national guardsman in uniform, was guarding the Conrad Hilton during the 1968 Democratic Convention (p. 130). When a young 2d lieutenant “gave us hell” for joking with the “young female hippies” who were putting flowers in the barrels of their guns, “one of the girls spat right in the lieutenant’s face.” She “melted into the crowd” before they could carry out the order to arrest her. Interestingly, Kelly was pleased with the young woman’s spitting; he wrote: “What she did was just as good as fragging the son of a bitch.”
And it shows that spitting stories do not necessarily feed some psychological need to account for the U.S. losing the war. Further, spitting was claimed to be witnessed by someone who had the anti-brass orientation that Lembcke for some reason thinks is being denied by those who claim that servicemen were spat upon.
Although neither the government report nor the contemporaneous Tribune news story directly confirms John Kelley’s account, they do confirm that Guardsmen were spat upon at the place Kelly reports during one of the times that the National Guard was posted in front of the Hilton. And, of course, the Walker Report and the Tribune account are both contemporaneous accounts of spitting on troops.
Another installment soon . . . .