With the political climate percolating at near boil, public officials are genuinely worried about violence at the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. After all, protests have turned very ugly indeed at past conventions. In today's Seeker Daily report, Jules Suzdaltsev explores the question: Are political conventions prone to violence?
If history is any indication, you can certainly make that argument. The infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago is the oft-cited case-in-point. Civil rights and antiwar protests were rampant across the country that summer, and the convention was held just months after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Activists poured into the city and eventually there were roughly 10,000 protesters on the streets of Chicago, squaring off against twice that many law enforcement officers. Police tear-gassed the crowds and assaulted hundreds of protesters. Even delegates and journalists inside the convention hall were beaten and jailed.
After the debacle of 1968, law enforcement has taken a decidedly proactive approach to policing national conventions. For example, during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, more than 400 protesters were arrested and some detained for weeks while facing felony charges -- charges that were dropped for 95% of those arrested.
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In 2004 and 2008, similar measures were taken to head off potentially violent or disruptive protests. Activists complained of being targeted and intimidated by FBI agents in the lead-up to the conventions, and many filed official complaints of harassment.
In 2008, an anti-establishment protest group called The RNC Welcoming Committee was infiltrated by several undercover officers and informants. In the days before the convention, eight activists were arrested on charges of terrorism and detained until the convention was over. The terrorism charges were eventually dropped amid allegations of entrapment.
History suggests that conventions attract protests, protests can turn violent, and authorities can overreact. None of that necessarily has to happen, but as highly publicized events, national conventions are a natural locus for public demonstrators seeking media attention, and media outlets seeking a story. That doesn't help, either.
-- Glenn McDonald
Cleveland.com: FBI, police visit activists' homes in advance of Republican National Convention
SFGate: Critics say FBI crosses line by intimidating activists / Agents keep asking even after lawyer privilege is invoked
History.com: Democratic convention besieged by protesters
Democracy Now: Eight Members of RNC Activist Group Lodged with Terrorism Charges