GQ: The Mess We Made

Peter Yarrow (folksinger, Peter, Paul and Mary): I put on my three-piece suit and went into the convention hall and started buttonholing people. I went to Birch Bayh, who I had worked with before, and I said to him, "You can't expect me to support you from here on out unless you support this peace plank." And from the look on his face, I knew my ability to use Peter, Paul and Mary's history of campaigning was going to be very minimal. I went back to the Hilton that night feeling very discouraged. I went up to my room, which overlooked Grant Park, and I heard someone down below saying into a microphone, "Delegates, if you are with us, flash your lights!" So I went over and started flipping the light switch up and down, and then I heard a huge cheer come up from the crowd. I realized that the wall of this hotel looked like a Christmas tree.

So I went downstairs with my guitar in hand, and at that exact same moment, Mary [Travers] made the same decision. We went down together, and in front of the hotel were two lines—the Chicago police and the National Guard, their guns in a ready position.

Someone thrust these two microphones in front of us, and Mary looked at me, and I said, "Sing, Mary!" So we started singing "If I Had a Hammer," and then they said, "Sing 'Puff, the Magic Dragon.'" Underneath a helmet was a 19-year-old kid who had grown up on "Puff, the Magic Dragon." It was absurdity.

12:02 p.m. Session reconvenes. Mahalia Jackson sings national anthem, then "Ain't Gonna Study War No More," and receives loudest applause of convention to date.

Marty Oberman (Staffer for McGovern Campaign): A lot of us young people really believed in this. We were there to stop the war, and it failed. And sort of spontaneously on the convention floor, delegates started forming a huge circle. I mean, across the whole convention floor was a circle. Many, many delegates, and I remember getting in the circle, all of us holding on to our neighbor, and we started singing "We Shall Overcome" and swaying. I think this went on for an hour. After the vote was taken, we just took over the floor and, in defeat, stood there and sang this protest song. And it wasn't just young people. There were lots of older people, establishment people, who were really upset. To me, it was probably the most moving moment of the convention.

George McGovern: It's just a tragedy that it wasn't adopted. I think if we had passed that peace plank, Hubert Humphrey would have been elected president.

5:40 p.m. McGovern announces he can't support majority Vietnam plank and therefore can't run as vice presidential candidate with Humphrey.

6:05 p.m. Police use tear gas to halt attempt of protesters to march from Grant Park toward the amphitheater. Gas drifts into rooms at Hilton, where Humphrey is reportedly affected.

Donald Rumsfeld (Congressman, Illinois): Governor John Love of Colorado and I went down into Grant Park. No one knew who we were, and we just moved around and tried to get a sense of what people were saying and thinking. When the violence started, we went back to our hotel room and stayed out of it. When you're in a hotel, and the hotel ?lls with gas, and there's that smell, that odor, and there are police around -- it creates an unpleasant environment.

Pat Buchanan (Aide to Richard Nixon): I was coming back to my hotel, because there was tear gas all over the place. The hotels along Michigan Avenue were all sealing their doors. You couldn't get out.

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