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1968 DNC Veteran Returns to Chicago as Delegate

Written by on Friday, June 28, 2024

Fifty-six years later, anti-war protests will again serve as a backdrop to the convention.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: June 28, 2024

Host: For one Sarasota resident, being sent to the Democratic Convention in Chicago this August as a delegate for the local party means coming full circle. She was in Chicago in 1968 to cover that protest-laden convention as a young reporter. Ramon Lopez has her story.

News Reporter: Thus the night that Vice President Humphrey was to receive the Democratic Party’s nomination for president was also the night of the bloodiest confrontation.

[chants of “The whole world’s watching!”]

Ramon Lopez: Protest against the Vietnam War was the battle cry for the 10,000 demonstrators who skirmished with Chicago police in the streets outside 1968’s Democratic National Convention. Held August 26th through 29th of that year, Senators Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie would become the presidential and vice presidential nominees, respectively. They would lose the election to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

The most contentious issue of the convention was the continuing American involvement in the Vietnam War. And the convention marked a turning point, as youth and minorities became more involved in national politics. So said the keynote speaker at the DNC, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii:

Daniel Inouye: So it should hardly surprise us when the children of such progress demand to be heard when they become aware of inequities still to be corrected. Neither should we fear their voices. On the contrary, whether we know it or not, the marching feet of youth have led us into a new era of politics and we can never turn back. 

RL: The convention was among the most tense and confrontational political conventions in American history. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley mobilized 11,000 Chicago cops and 6,000 army national guardsmen to keep the anti-war protestors out of the convention. Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale led the street demonstrations in what became known as the “Battle of Michigan Avenue”. An after-action report on the violent clashes between police and protesters called it a “police riot”. But Daley thought differently.

Richard Daley: The confrontation was not created by the police. The confrontation was created by the people who charged the police. Gentlemen, get the thing straight, once and for all. The policeman isn’t there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder [sic]. 

Barbara Katz

RL: Barbara Katz is no stranger to national politics and reporting on major news events. She was at the 1968 DNC working as a cub reporter for the CBS radio station in Chicago, WBBM. And this August 19–22, she will be at the DNC in Chicago once again — but as a delegate this time. She was also a DNC delegate in 2020, but it was a virtual event because of the COVID outbreak, and thus a ‘let-down’ for her. Katz looks forward to being there in person this year.

Barbara Katz: I’m very honored; I’m very excited. Apparently there are going to be about 5,000 delegates from all over the country, and it’s — I don’t know the exact number coming from Florida, but definitely in the hundreds. And so I think it’s going to be a great event.

RL: Katz earned bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Chicago. She went on to get a second masters at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Katz got her first “real” low-level reporter job at WBBM, and was in-and-out of the democratic

convention. She worked as a reporter for 15 years, including stints at wire service, UPI in Boston, and in Washington, DC for the National Observer newspaper. Katz also worked for Indiana Senator Birch Bayh as a speechwriter and assistant press secretary.

UCLA Law School was up next for her. She ended up at the Securities and Exchange Commission for a dozen years in the Enforcement Division. Now retired, she splits her time on Longboat Key and Bethany Beach, Delaware. She keeps busy, serving as vice chair of the Sarasota Democratic Party District 17. It includes Sarasota County, Charlotte County and part of Lee County.

She was elected one of five delegates to the upcoming DNC. The others are: Mary Clupper, Lou Grossman, Marvin Covey, and Peter Imhoff. Sebastian Martinez and Lucy Garner are the two at-large delegates.

Katz reflects on the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

BK: This was a horrible convention in terms of the violence that occurred outside and the incivility that took place inside. Mayor Richard Daley, on the last night of the convention, brought into the convention hundreds of city workers. They sat at the convention waving signs that said, “We love Mayor Daley.” I was walking out of the convention after those demonstrations, and I happened to see one of these signs on the floor, and I thought, “Oh, that’d be a great piece of history to take with me.” So I picked it up and I was carrying it out of the convention and who do I happen to run into but the actor Warren Beatty, I asked him if he would be willing to sign my poster. And he said, he sort of glared at me and he said, “Well, only if I make a change to it.” And he pulled out his pen and where it said, “We love Mayor Daley,” he wrote in the word “don’t.” And so it now reads, “We don’t love Mayor Daley.” And then he signed it. I still have it. It’s hanging in my office in Sarasota. And it’s a great memento of that time and of that experience. 

RL: WSLR News asked Katz what delegates actually do at political conventions.

BK: Well, your guess is as good as mine. I do not know yet exactly what I’m going to be doing. Our main job is to, in fact, nominate President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the presidency and vice presidency again. And then there also will be a vote on the platform.

RL: The head of a U.S. Palestinian group says there will be anti-Israel demonstrators at the upcoming DNC in Chicago. They will march with or without permits. He said this DNC is the most important one since 1968. The march on the DNC will be the largest mobilization for Palestine in the history of the city, he promises. Katz believes Biden’s support of Israel will lead to yet another anti-war protest.

BK: I think there is definitely going to be discussion about the whole issue of the Gaza war. It is such a terrible situation, a terrible problem. Of course, he needs to be supporting our ally, but I think he has been indicating that he’s not very happy about the current direction of the Israeli government, and I support him in that concern, and I hope that whatever discussion there is, is constructive.

RL: WSLR News asked if Katz sees any direct parallels between 1968 and 2024.

BK: There will be protesters this year, of course. I don’t believe the Gaza War will produce the same level of  protest as the Vietnam War did.

RL: We spoke to Barbara Katz before President Biden debated former President Trump Thursday night. And based on initial public and expert reaction to the debate, there may be far more for our local delegates to do at the upcoming DNC in Chicago than one might have expected only a few days ago.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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