1968

Mayor Daly’s police attacked anti-war protestors outside the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. That pretty much gave the election to Richard Nixon, it was not what Mayor Daly, or the protestors had in mind.

Those watching television coverage of the convention would have witnessed Daly yelling, “You fuckin Jew”, as Senator Abraham Ribicoff addressed the convention.

Walter Cronkite, the grandfather of truth at CBS, interviewed Daley as a form of apology after condemning him and his city for the police riot and the mugging of CBS reporter Dan Rather on the convention floor.

Columbia University students occupied the law library and Mark Rudd, their Students for a Democratic Society leader, grabbed the microphone from the Columbia University president during a Martin Luther Jr. memorial ceremony and denounced the University for their plan to build a gymnasium on public park land that African-American youth used for recreation.

*****

Ten days before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and on Gandhi’s birthday, Mexican soldiers machine-gunned eight hundred students in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square.

Two weeks later Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the Olympic victory stand and raised their black-gloved fists. They were kicked off the team and sent home.

There was no code of conduct for champion behavior. Smith and Carlos told the whole world that things weren’t right in the promised land and the lords of decorum punished them. It was much as Soviet athletes would have been punished had they made gestures indicating that all was not well back home. Winners could not celebrate, move their bodies in joyful dances, jump up and down, or anything but stand like a robot.

With professional athletes now competing in the Olympics it is hard to imagine athletes like Michael Jordon being sent home for misconduct on the victory stand. Many Olympic athletes now have more money and power than the lords of decorum.

*****

In a massive 1968 military crackdown, Russia and four other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia and put an end to the “Prague Spring” movement for democracy. And in China the Cultural Revolution was doing its destruction.

In 1968: Indonesians slaughtered three hundred thousand overseas Chinese[1]; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were murdered; student demonstrations almost overthrew the French government; Huey Newton, a founder of the Black Panther Party, was tried for the murder of an Oakland, California, police officer.

*****

In late 1968, the Black Student Union and other student groups in the Third World Liberation Front did some research and documented what they could already see. The minority enrolment at San Francisco State College had been going down steadily for the past several years. It was becoming an all-white, middle class college. On November 6, 1968, they called a student strike that lasted five months.

The students demanded equal access to public higher education, more senior faculty of color and a new curriculum that would embrace the history and culture of all people, including ethnic minorities. As a result, the College of Ethnic Studies was instituted in 1969 and hundreds of other higher education institutions across the country followed SF State’s lead.

At one time, there were more than two thousand students and supporters in a marching picket line surrounding the small campus.

Governor Ronald Reagan appointed S. I. Hayakawa as the new president with orders to stop the demonstrations in whatever way necessary. The new president declared martial law and two hundred students were arrested. Several were seriously injured by four-foot wooden clubs, shaped like curved Samurai swords, coming down on their heads from the incensed mounted police. The police seemed to take the demonstration personally. They were defending America against an internal enemy.

Many San Francisco cops hated the dress, long hair, disdain for authority, and social mores of the demonstrators. They especially hated the ones who chanted over and over to a hand clapped cadence, “It is time!” Clap, Clap. “To off the pigs!”

The cops could only stare with fuming disgust at what they saw as impudent, repulsive, un-American brats swaying to the beat of killing cops. When the police were finally allowed to attack, they hurt some people and it wasn’t just the ones yelling the hateful slogans. To the cops and to the new college president, those picketing had no rights.

The Cossacks, with their swords held high and swinging low, chased the peasants. There were permanent head injuries that day, both physical and spiritual. These were mostly white kids being beaten by mostly white horsemen.

After the chase, one cop threw up and another

hyperventilated. Their bodies and emotions weren’t nearly as tough as they tried to appear.       Without the black boots and uniforms many were beer-gutted with skinny legs.

Some cops liked the demonstrations. They got off on hurting people, and they liked the overtime pay.

I watched the demonstrations with Randy Kehler, a friend, who organized for the War Resisters League, whom I had met at Committee of Returned Volunteer meetings and demonstrations. We went in the College of Business to take a leak—exactly the wrong building. Tactical squad riot police headquarters was in the College of Business, of course it was.

Four tactical squad members followed us into the restroom. The first two cops jammed Randy and me against the wall and demanded identification. The other two searched the stalls and wastebaskets.

I fumbled my driver’s license and it fell to the floor.

“You dropped your card.” The cop had a nasty curl to his lips.

He didn’t move back. I slid down and picked up the card with about six inches between me and the surly cop. One slight wrong move and I was going to get hurt. Randy had some granola in a bag, one cop looked inside the bag and then emptied it into the trash can.

Many SF State strike alumni rose to prominence in the fields of social justice, law, public health, education and public service. They include: actor and activist Danny Glover, who was a member of the Black Student Union; and Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay, who worked on the strike as a member of the Philippine American College Endeavor (PACE) and was a Third World Liberation Front spokesperson; Alumnus and statesman Willie Brown, who has served as speaker of the California General Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco, during the strike he was a young lawyer and legislator who worked to free striking students who were jailed; former U.S. Congressman, Oakland Mayor and alumnus Ron Dellums also worked to free striking students from jail.

*****

The 1968 TET offensive began the end of the American war as it is called over there. No one squealed on thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army troops moving toward every regional capital. There were no informants as arms were smuggled into Saigon by the coffin-full. Tens of thousands of people had to have known what was about to happen and no one told the boss. It should have been a sign to McNamara and Johnson that everyone in Vietnam was either on the side of the Viet Cong or the Viet Cong had anyone who wasn’t an ally too scared to tattle. Either way, the Viet Cong was in charge.

McNamara was evidence that education is not always synonymous with intelligence, character and compassion. Johnson proved that genius politicians are not geniuses on every issue.

With the My Lai killings, the battle of Khe San and the TET Offensive making the 1968 headlines, Lyndon Johnson concluded that he was overthrown by the Vietnam War and announced he would not run for a second term.

*****

A 1968 jury in West Virginia acquitted former Governor Barron of bribery. The governor, affectionately known as “Wally,” later pled guilty to bribing the head juror in that bribery trial.

And much worse for West Virginia in 1968, seventy-eight miners died in a coal dust explosion at Consolidation Coal Company’s Farmington Mine.

West Virginians watched in disbelief as Tony Boyle, president of the in United Mine Workers of America, stood at a television microphone as smoke was still coming out of the mine and said of Consolidation Coal Company, “This happens to be one of the better companies, as far as cooperation with our union and safety is concerned.” Years later, Boyle died in prison after being convicted of paying for the murder of his union rival, “Jock” Yablonski

November 3, 1968, a day before the election for Governor of West Virginia, Republican candidate Arch Moore’s helicopter crashed while landing at the Hamlin football field. The pilot was apparently attempting to avoid power lines when the helicopter hit a flag pole and spiraled tail first, 30 feet to the ground, landing atop a car.

Every TV station in West Virginia reported the crash with pictures of the crash scene and Moore being wheeled from the ambulance as did the front pages of newspapers the next day—-election day. Democratic candidate James Sprouse had led in the polls but the crash is credited with swinging the election to Arch Moore.

Moore went on to distinguish himself by being elected governor three times and going to prison for election fraud.

 

 

 

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About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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