Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sentimental Chicago Cops

In 1968, what happened at the Democratic Convention was called "a police riot," but surviving officers held a reunion this weekend to celebrate what they remember as Custer's last stand for democracy.

The invitation assured attendees they were “the only thing that stood between Marxist street thugs and public order.”

As a witness to their efforts, arriving on a delegates' bus, I recall them surrounding the barbed-wire enclosed meeting site with battle gear, prompting a seatmate to advise, "If they ask you to take a shower, don't."

They were ubiquitous inside. One barred me from entering an area that my delegate badge entitled me to, nodding at Mayor Richard J. Daley seated front and center at the head of the Illinois contingent. "You guys pick presidents," he said, "but you know who's running this convention."

Outside, they were tear-gassing, clubbing and herding protesters, including a billy club across the backside of reclusive Hugh Hefner when he ventured from the Playboy Mansion to witness the action.

As they reminisced at their reunion, the retired cops could bask in the continuity of power in their domain, with Daley's son still running Chicago in a dynasty rivaling that of the Dear Leader's family in North Korea.

As the first Mayor Daley famously said on TV back then, "The police aren't there to create disorder, they're there to preserve disorder." They certainly did.

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