chapter  7
12 Pages

“Stop the War in Chicago Please”

Performative Protest and the Limits of Dissensus
BySusanne Shawyer

On the evening of 28 August 1968, the "Battle of Michigan Avenue" raged in the street outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. On the broad avenue separating Grant Park from the hotel, chaos reigned as thousands of anti-war demonstrators confronted National Guard and Chicago Police determined to keep demonstrators away from delegates to the Democratic National Convention. In reality, only some of the demonstrators on Michigan Avenue were democratic reformers. The message of the week was of an America ruled by force. In other words, their disruptive demonstrations during convention week were meant to incite reactions from the thousands of police and federal troops brought in by the city of Chicago and Mayor Richard Daley to keep civil order. At the heart of this plan was theatre of cruelty, and its use of shocking imagery and sensory experiences to agitate audiences.