Twenty years after the turbulent Democratic National Convention, Abbie Hoffman and other key players in the bloody demonstrations that scarred the event have reunited for a weekend symposium to keep the memory alive and reflect upon the lessons learned.
"There are a lot of younger people who don't know what happened or have misconceptions," said Dean Blobaum, one of the organizers of the reunion. "Having participants talk about why they came to Chicago and what it meant to them can educate those people, younger people."Most of the weekend's events, including panel discussions, film reviews and historical presentations, are centered at the International Amphitheatre, the site of the 1968 convention where protesters and police clashed.
During the riotous convention week, thousands of protesters hurling rocks and bottles battled with police and National Guardsmen.
"They were real people, they were real police, clubbing real human beings," former Yippie leader Hoffman said at a news conference Friday. "We were coming to Chicago to protest the war in Vietnam, in whatever way, shape or form we could. We were met by a stone wall, which by the way we did not expect. We expected them to act with a certain amount of reason. We did not expect them to act absolutely berserk."
Hoffman, 51, was joined by fellow "Chicago 7" conspiracy trial defendants Bobby Seale and David Dellinger and Yippie co-founder Paul Krassner in the shadow of Grant Park's Logan statue, where the protesters gathered to prepare for battle.
"It's kind of like a camp reunion with some of the original cast," said Krassner, a satirist and journalist.
"It's like history in the sense that after 20 years, for a lot of young people today the only image they have of it is something that's shown on TV sometimes," Krassner said. "They have no understanding of the context, or that it was officially labeled a police riot."
Also attending the event is Eugene McCarthy, the former Minnesota senator behind whose presidential candidacy the protesters rallied.