The 1968 Walker Report—Rights in Conflict, the official federal commission report on the 1968 Democratic Convention that came out a couple months after it ended—was made famous by its initial branding of the Chicago police's spectacular brutality during several periods in the long week as a "police riot." The behavior of the Chicago police was indeed appalling; the police even targeted the press for beatings (63 of the 300 press working the street were beaten by police).

Antiwar demonstrators spat and threw urine at both police and National Guardsmen. Spitting on police is recounted several times in the book. The Walker Report also describes a torrent of abuse heaped directly at National Guardsmen in uniform in an apparent attempt to goad them into violence. According to accounts, many of the demonstrators were holding cameras, ready to take pictures of guardsmen who reacted violently.

Interestingly, given Professor Jerry Lembcke's prior stereotyping of women, one policeman stationed at the Hilton reported that the obscene abuses shouted by "women hippies" outnumbered those by men "four to one." (Rights in Conflict, p. 235) (Of course, it might have been that the police officer just wasn't accustomed to women being as foul-mouthed as men.) One Guardsman is quoted describing how one male demonstrator went down the line spitting in servicemen's faces, flicking ashes and lit cigarettes at them, and making religious slurs (Rights in Conflict, p. 213). This represents yet another story debunking Jerry Lembcke's claim that there were no contemporaneous accounts of servicemen being spat upon (the Walker Report was completed just 53 days after the late August, 1968 convention).

A September 1, 1968 Chicago Tribune account praised the guardsmen who (unlike the police) were credited with showing extreme restraint in the face of extraordinary taunting:

"Newsmen observed that the demonstrators hurled insults at the guardsmen and some spit on them in an attempt to provoke them into action." (p. 2)

These two accounts tend corroborate in an indirect way one of Bob Greene's spitting stories in Homecoming. John Kelly, a national guardsman in uniform, was guarding the Conrad Hilton during the 1968 Democratic Convention (p. 130). When a young 2d lieutenant "gave us hell" for joking with the "young female hippies" who were putting flowers in the barrels of their guns, "one of the girls spat right in the lieutenant's face." She "melted into the crowd" before they could carry out the order to arrest her. Interestingly, Kelly was pleased with the young woman's spitting; he wrote: "What she did was just as good as fragging the son of a bitch."

And it shows that spitting stories do not necessarily feed some psychological need to account for the U.S. losing the war. Further, spitting was claimed to be witnessed by someone who had the anti-brass orientation that Lembcke for some reason thinks is being denied by those who claim that servicemen were spat upon.

Although neither the government report nor the contemporaneous Tribune news story directly confirms John Kelley's account, they do confirm that Guardsmen were spat upon at the place Kelly reports during one of the times that the National Guard was posted in front of the Hilton. And, of course, the Walker Report and the Tribune account are both contemporaneous accounts of spitting on troops.

Another installment soon . . . .

Craig Oren (mail):
First of all, Jim, I would be *very* surprised if you were wrong about spitting incidents. But I think this post is not helpful to your case. There is little reason, I think, from inferring spitting on Vietnam vets from spitting on National Guardsmen. After all, those guardsmen were involved in a direct confrontation with demonstrators, and no doubt tempers flared. By contrast, vietnam vets were not brandishing weapons when they came back from the war.
2.21.2007 1:16pm
James Lindgren (mail):

Good point, but read the next part, Part IV.

Although the 1995 Beamish study of anti-war demonstrations says that activity at demonstrations is not the way to test the spitting stories—for precisely the reason you raise—Lembcke repeatedly treats the Beamish study as significant support for his view that spitting stories are "bogus" or "false."

Further, the Chicago demonstrations illustrate what sorts of spitting incidents people were mostly arguing about at the time, and tend to support one of the stories in Bob Greene's book, which IMO the anti-spitting scholars do not give enough weight to.

In his response to an earlier post of mine , Lembcke also discounts stories of spitting at demonstrations, such as the October 1967 demonstration at the Pentagon, covered by James Reston, and the female spitting stories.

So there are reasons to cover this issue, even granted the wisdom of your argument.
2.21.2007 2:17pm
The only way I can allign the writings of Lembcke with my own experience is to assume it is a politically motivated big lie, repeated often, carried by others because it meets some need of Lembcke and others.

Whether this need is to make him feel better as he denies his past, or the past of his associates, I do not know. Whether it is instead to shore up means of attack on his current politics and associates I don't know. It would not surprise me if as in so many such circumstances, the first person who had to be convinced of the constructed facts is himself, meaning he may currently feel he is honest.

But the facts alledged are so sweeping, and the rheoric that is used to construct it is feeble (because one small group was not hostile to soldires, it is impossible that any were?) that it requires special pleading to accept. That so much of the press accepts it uncritically, speaks either to their own credulity, or to meeting their own emotional needs.

Thank you for the efforts you have made to disprove this "fact" that was gowing a life of its own.
2.21.2007 3:42pm
hey (mail):
This is just further evidence that all riot control procedures since the 60s have been horrid. They should have shot all of those idiots. A world without Hippies. No John Kerry, no Jane Fonda...

Bring back the Riot Act and Draconian Enforcement. Hang, Draw, and Quarter.

Damn Boomer traitors destroying our civilisation.
2.22.2007 12:20am