Back in 1968, I was a little kid in Logan Square. It was a nervous year in our neighborhood, starting with the west side riots after Martin Luther King's assassination.
The west side burned for days as all hell broke lose. No one knew how far it might go. We could smell the smoke and see it from our 3rd floor apartment, and occasionally see flames shooting high into the sky, visible above the trees on Kedzie Blvd. Much of the worst destruction happened in the area highlighted in orange at the bottom of the map.
Although over 40 years have passed, the west side has never fully recovered. That destruction sowed the seeds of further destruction, which continues today.
The riots' explosion of violence against police and firefighers set the stage for what would come next. When the protests and riots happened during the Democratic convention, my mother radiated fear. It was impossible to avoid feeling it. A threat that LSD might be put into the water supply caused more panic. That might sound wacky now, but in the context of that time, some people took it seriously.
The anti-Vietnam war protesters gathered, camped out in Lincoln Park, and marched, in defiance of the mayor's refusal to grant any of the permits they'd applied for. More protesters came. They were ordered to leave, and they refused. Clashes with police turned violent. Images of police beating protesters made the evening news, and the fear grew. "The whole world is watching," they chanted. And the world was watching that infamous moment in Chicago's history, captured so well in the film "Medium Cool."
The ghosts of 1968 still linger over City Hall and the Chicago Police Department, their invisible hands affecting official response for more than 40 years. No one wants to go there again.
Today the Occupy movement is spawning hundreds of protests across the country and around the world, and it shows no signs of letting up. In contrast to the sometimes violent police response in New York and Oakland, the Chicago Police Dept. has kept restraint in their response to protestors. The ghosts of 1968 and the whole world are watching now. No one knows what will happen next.