Magazine article The New Yorker

THE CHICAGO PRECEDENT; DEPT. OF RABBLE-ROUSING Series: 2/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

THE CHICAGO PRECEDENT; DEPT. OF RABBLE-ROUSING Series: 2/5

Article excerpt

A case can be made that no political assembly in history has inspired more elaborate and widespread opposition planning than the impending Republican National Convention. At the web site CounterConvention.org, more than a hundred and thirty organizations, with such names as the Campaign to Demilitarize the Police, the Mad Anarchist Bakers League, and the Vomitorium, have registered in solidarity against the President's renomination gala. High Times is publishing a special "Activists' Guide" to protesting the Republicans' arrival. And, according to The Nation, "the city itself may become a giant art installation," featuring a variety of as yet unspecified "visual interventions" directed at airplane passengers.

"It's going to be a little bit like the Battle of Seattle," Pat Buchanan, the former Presidential candidate, predicted the other day, alluding to the large-scale demonstrations against the World Trade Organization conference in 1999, during which police fired rubber bullets at overzealous protesters. Buchanan himself was there among the hordes, he said, marching peacefully in support of labor unions, when the anarchists stole the show. "I had some things in common--but not a great deal--with the folks dressed up as sea turtles," he said.

Buchanan also has some things in common, but not a great deal, with the throngs expected in Manhattan this August. He has experience, for example, in counter-conventioneering. In 1968, as a twenty-nine-year-old campaign aide to Richard Nixon, he set up an opposition outpost in Chicago, the site of the riotous Democratic Convention. "The old man was going to Key Biscayne," Buchanan recalled of Nixon. "He was down there with Bebe Rebozo. And I asked to be sent to the Convention to be sort of his eyes and ears." Buchanan was joined there by, among others, a young speechwriter named William Safire and a local congressman named Donald Rumsfeld. As far as we know, they were not there to perform any dirty tricks, and they stopped short of making an art installation of Lake Shore Drive. Ever businesslike, they organized some rebuttal speeches, and if their clean-cut presence provoked a hippie or two, and added to the general unrest, Nixon wouldn't complain.

"I remember when the Grant Park demonstrators--when that whole thing started--I was watching from the Conrad Hilton Hotel," Buchanan said. "We'd been teargassed down there on the street, and we got back into the hotel and watched from the nineteenth floor as the so-called police riot took place. …

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