Staged Riot Incites A Riot

On Wednesday, as delegates arrived, militants pulled the engine wires to disable the buses of the Mississippi and South Carolina delegations. Lunatics lay in front of the Illinois bus, spray-painting its windshield black, slashing its tires, torching an American flag and trying to throw it into the engine. Then came the big VVAW march down Collins Avenue. It was silent but for the drill marshals’ commands and the tramp, tramp, tramp of combat boots. They massed in vigil: silence, for ten minutes. Hunter S. Thompson said he’d never seen so powerful a scene. Then, one of the leaders took up a bullhorn: “We want to come inside!” Thompson said he’d never seen cops so intimidated, wrote that an “almost visible shudder ran through the crowd.” A man next to him muttered, “Oh my God.” Thompson forthwith took off his watch. “The first thing to go in a street fight is always your watch, and once you’ve lost a few, you develop a certain instinct.” An angry right-wing girl vigilante tried to slash through the protesters on her motorcycle. Two army helicopters swof-swof-swoffed overhead, Vietnam-like, thickening the tension. Pete McCloskey, the Republican presidential-primary candidate who wasn’t going to be allowed to be nominated lest an antiwar speech make it on TV took his revenge: he talked security guards into letting three of the vets inside. Ron Kovic, a veteran confined to a wheelchair, used a press pass to try to get close to the podium. He intended to approach the president to shake his hand—then refuse to let go until Nixon answered his questions.