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As 2024 DNC Host, Chicago Can’t Seem to Live Down the 1968 Protests

U.S.As 2024 DNC Host, Chicago Can’t Seem to Live Down the 1968 Protests

Mayor Brandon Johnson of Chicago understands the comparison to 1968. Once again, the city is gearing up to host a late-summer Democratic National Convention against a backdrop of fury and antiwar campus protests from the party’s younger, leftist flank.

But that is where the parallel ends for Mr. Johnson.

“We’re a different city. I’m a different mayor. And our Police Department is in a much different place than it was in 1968,” he said in an interview last week.

Mr. Johnson, a 48-year-old Democrat who has served one year in office, stressed that this was not the same Chicago as the one that erupted into chaos during the 1968 convention. Then, police officers attacked protesters with billy clubs, dragging them out of Grant Park in a show of bloody force. This time, the Chicago Police Department is undergoing extensive training and preparation, officials said, including de-escalation techniques, as they do before other protests and large events.

And Mr. Johnson, who was elected mayor after a career as a social studies teacher, labor organizer and county commissioner, drew a sharp distinction between himself and Mayor Richard J. Daley, the powerful leader who ran Chicago during the 1968 convention and whose own Police Department stoked tensions and violence.

“We’ve been through these type of challenges before,” Mr. Johnson said. “But the difference is who’s in charge right now,” he said, adding that he had been part of “countless peaceful demonstrations” throughout his life.

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