41 Years Later in Chicago, Police and Demonstrators Still Clash, but With Words

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CHICAGO — They arrived at the police union hall looking older, grayer, wider. At least one bore a cane.

It seemed an unlikely reunion: a gathering, 41 years later, of the police officers who clashed with demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in this city, leaving behind an image Chicago has tried to shed ever since.

“People ask me, ‘What is there to celebrate about all of this?’ ” said Tom Keevers, one of the former officers, long gone from the force but with lasting memories of the 12-hour shifts he worked during those tense days in August 1968. “My answer is that I feel fine about what happened.”

For some, there was no grand meaning to the meeting here on Friday, just some retired friends sharing pizza and beer and war stories on a warm summer evening. But for other retired officers, this was a chance at last to correct history, at least quietly, among one another, about all that happened during the convention, about the tales of police answering the provocations of Vietnam War protesters with billy clubs, about the damning conclusions of a commission back then that the police had acted with “unrestrained and indiscriminate” violence.

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