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There’s a chance that the recent brawling of the mid-term election campaign has left you exhausted. You need some form of civilized rescue.
I’m here to remind you that it could be worse.
In a few weeks the Democrats will choose the site of their national convention to nominate a presidential candidate to run in 2016 against the Republican’s choice, which will be made later this year in Cleveland, Ohio, the city the Republicans have already chosen to rally their warriors.
The Democrats most likely choice for their own site right now is Philadelphia and possibly Brooklyn.
But it doesn’t matter. They don’t make conventions any more like the ones in Miami Beach in 1972. To this I can offer personal testimony, having covered every raucous day of it. You should know that this was the year of the Yippie rebellion when thousands of young folks descended on Miami that year. Their aim was to disrupt the Republicans as well as the cops — the symbols of law and order who had earlier grapplings with the youth rebellion over the war in Vietnam.
Abbie Hoffman was there rallying the discontented youth who showed up by the thousands from around the country, occupying parks, and raising particular hell generally. Hunter Thompson also starred among the New Age journalists. So, too, making far more than a cameo appearance, was the actress Jane Fonda. You may be curious about what I was doing among this crowd of the disaffected. In those years the Minneapolis Star and Tribune were owned by the politically active Cowles family. I wrote a daily column for the Star and managed to stay a few strides ahead of hanging posses and football fans demanding to know if the Vikings would ever win the Super Bowl.
The Yippies in the 1970s, though, were impossible to avoid. They filled the beaches at night, staged allegory plays in the park and climbed the banyan trees when the excitement slowed down.
I covered the convention business that on the Republican side produced no unexpected news because Richard Nixon was the clear choice for re-election and Spiro Agnew his sole choice as the vice president. But the clear side story at both conventions, in effect the dominant story, was the Yippie rebellion that included such overt nastiness as flag burning, blocked traffic, midnight marches through the city, and then on the climactic day a brawl with the police when they surged toward the convention center.
It didn’t take the powers of a professional sleuth to be aware of all this. From the convention center I filed the usual stories as the selection process droned on. But I decided in the late stages that there was a bigger story outside: the Yippies advancing against the forces of law and order amid waves tear gas. So I strapped my little Olivetti typewriter into my vest, wired the office in Minneapolis to pick up all of the relevant convention news from the wire services and walked into the gathering night, where the Yippies we’re trying to take over the street against a half dozen platoons of police.
“Don’t go too far,” one of the cops said. “The street is full of tear gas.” I nodded my thanks, pulled my shirt over my mouth and nose and inched my way into the street, where the action between the police and protesters was getting heavy. I wanted to ask these folks what they hoped to accomplish and if there was another way to do it. Another cop appeared and said I better finish that interview in a hurry, and then, suddenly, Miami Beach went black.
I was flat on my back and a young man in priest’s garment was saying, “Do you speak English?
I started to answer but couldn’t . I gargled and tried it again and said, “Under normal conditions, yes.”
He introduced himself as a priest from a Latin American country working in the states and a volunteer to law and order during the convention.
“Can I walk you back to the safe zone,” he asked.
I smiled heroically and said I was sure I could manage.
I landed on my butt after two strides.
The priest took the Olivetti and walked me back to the convention center, where Spiro Agnew was joyously being greeted as the vice presidential nominee.
The newspaper’s chief editor called me the next day.
“Nice coverage,” he said. “The next time you decide to take on young revolutionaries, get rid of the Olivetti and switch to a gas mask.”
I said I would consider it but how about my billfold?
“What about it?”
“I Iost it climbing a banyan tree. There we’re better stories there than on the convention floor.”
Friend, if you think the political times of today are loopy, let me reintroduce you to the Yippies.