Note: This is the seventh installment in my series of memoir posts about the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 and my small role in the streets action surrounding it. In today’s episode Amy and I make it Grant Park, where a certain literary lion makes an appearance and the Cops go ape, again.
Everyone knew that Wednesday of Convention Week was going to be the Big Day. That’s when the Democrats down at the International Amphitheater were supposed to select their Presidential candidate. The press and cameras of the nation were on hand for the event. The Mobe was staging its answer to the Yippie LBJ Unbirthday Party the day before—an afternoon rally at the Pertillo Bandshell in Grant Park. From their they hoped to stage a traditional anti-war march despite still being unable to obtain a permit. That meant I would be called on in my other supposed position for the week—demonstration marshal.
For the first time I had a running buddy when I left the church Movement Center that morning. My friend Amy Kesselman came with. Amy stood a good 5 foot nothing. She had short black hair, deep brown eyes, and a little mole on her upper lip. Cute as a bug’s ear. Hey, I was 19 and noticed such things. But I would never dream of putting a move on her. She was so intensely serious, in her 20’s and a dedicated SDSer of the community organizing stripe. Out of my league, for sure.
I met Amy when she was working with 49th Ward Citizens for Independent Political Action (CIPA), in Rogers Park in the spring of ’67. She gave what would now be called technical advice and support to our high school organization—the fighting Liberal Youth of Niles Township (LYNT)—which may be the lamest acronym ever—when we put on a program called Up Tight About the Draft? That summer she helped get me credentialed as the youngest voting delegate to the New Politics Convention held at the Palmer House where I met—or at least shook hands with—Rev. Martin Luther King and assorted other movement leaders and/or heroes. And it was Amy who got me my glamorous slot as baby sitter, cook, and dishwasher to the high school kids back at the Movement Center and the marshal thing.
We took the train down town. It was a very pleasant day, the warmest of the week, but still cool enough for me to wear my denim jacket. Tuesday the city was under a high haze or light clouds, but that day there was a glorious clear blue sky. Most of the seating in front of the Band Shell in Grant Park was taken when we got there. Speechifying had already begun. The park swarmed with cops in their baby blue helmets, but they seemed to be keeping their distance.