48 years ago: Cops under attack, terrorism warnings in U.S., and racial unrest at a Louisville amusement park

Chicago police 1968
Chicago police attacked protestors outside the Democratic convention in August 1968.

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

It’s summertime at the height of the presidential nominating contest, and the nation is transfixed by civil unrest: Protestors are attacking police amid dark warnings about terrorism on the streets and claims the powerful news media is spreading liberal propaganda.

Richard Daley 1968Sound familiar? It should, because that was the scene 48 years ago this summer, when Democrats gathered in Chicago for a convention to pick Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine as their nominees for the 1968 presidential elections.

On The Courier-Journal’s front page that Friday morning, Aug. 30, 1968, a headline told the story: “Angry Daley Defends Police; Assails Press.” From Chicago, New York Times correspondent R. W. Apple Jr. wrote:

Infuriated by attacks upon himself, his city and his police force, Mayor Richard J. Daley yesterday defended the manner in which anti-war, anti-Humphrey demonstrations were suppressed in downtown Chicago Wednesday night.

Daley described the demonstrators as “terrorists” and said they had come here determined to “assault, harass and taunt the police into reacting before television cameras.”

“In the heat of emotion and riot,” Daley said, “some policemen may have over-reacted, but to judge the entire police force by the alleged action of a few would be just as unfair as to judge our entire younger generation by the actions of the mob.”

Daley Convention 1968
A defiant Mayor Richard Daley on the convention floor reacts to criticism Chicago police were overacting to protests outside.

In fact, an independent study found four months later, the clash between 10,000 protestors and police devolved into a police riot when officers broke through and began beating one man as the crowd pelted cops with rocks and chunks of concrete. Protestors’ chants shifted from “hell no, we won’t go” to “pigs are whores.”

By then, civil unrest had come to Louisville in a different form: A popular amusement park reserved for whites for six decades had been integrated four years before. Fontaine Ferry Park would be heavily vandalized during racial turmoil less than a year after the Chicago convention.

Fontaine Ferry Park ad August 30 1968

None of that was reflected in an advertisement that Aug. 30 on page 21 of the CJ, where the park promoted 13 rides for only a nickel apiece and the “last big teen hop of the season.” (Adjusted for inflation, those rides would cost 35 cents in 2016 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.)

Postscript

Fontaine Park was sold in 1969, and renamed Ghost Town on the River in 1972, then River Glen Park in 1975, its last season. The city eventually bought the park land, which is now the site of a residential development called Fontaine Estates, where houses were first sold in 1996.

Humphrey Muskie campaign buttonDaley died of a massive heart attack on Dec. 20, 1976, after more than 21 years as mayor — and eight years after that pivotal convention in the city he loved.

And Humphrey narrowly lost the White House to former Vice President Richard Nixon; he died Jan. 13, 1978, of bladder cancer at his Minnesota home.

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