May 4, 2024

Could the 2024 Democratic National Convention Echo Chicago’s History?

By Brady Bauer and Bradley Gambosi 
@redlineproject

United Center image

The United Center will play host to much of the DNC in August. (Photo/Bradley Gambosi)

The 2024 Democratic National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 19-22 in Chicago, returning to the Windy City for the first time since 1996.

When it comes to the election, there is no event on the campaign trail that holds the same level of significance as the national conventions. The convention will welcome over 5,000 US delegates that represent all 50 states to elect their party’s presidential candidate.

Chicago is expecting 60,000 visitors to attend the convention in 2024, and it’s the last big event on the campaign trail as they drive to the Nov. 5 general election..

The convention itself is planned to have its main host site be the United Center with other events going on inside the McCormick Place.

The DNC will mark the 12th time that Chicago has hosted the convention. No DNC is remembered more than the 1968 convention, which resulted in bloodshed, violence, and the eventual activation of the National Guard. Hundreds of protesters were arrested. 


Timeline: Chicago’s History with the Democratic National Convention


The nation was deeply affected by both the escalation of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., with tensions boiling over in Chicago during the DNC, leading to one fatality and over 700 injuries.

Due to rising divisions within the Democratic party many pundits have brought up the possibility of a redo of the 1968 convention in Chicago. However, Gov. J.B. Prizker has been proudly declaring that “Chicago is prepared for the DNC” amid concerns.

With all of the problems currently plaguing the country, there is also going to be an influx of activist groups coming to march on the convention.

One of the many political organizations that were denied a protesting permit inside the convention were the Students for a Democratic Society at UIC.  

Democratic Society President Liz Wrath, along with other members, provided all relevant information to the City to acquire the permit and were still denied. 

“We provided the city with as much information as possible,” she said. “From the causes that we were marching for, the minimum and maximum number of people that would be protesting each day. We even gave the number of signs, megaphones, and other protesting items such as flags we would have with us.”

The wait that followed after submitting the permit form was an issue within itself, Wrath said, “After we submitted the protesting permit form to the City we didn’t receive any call, email, or any other acknowledgment for two weeks, so we decided to go bring a physical copy to the office.”

After reviewing their form, the city offered the group and others an alternate marching route in Grant Park; however, the group rejected this alternative route as it is 3.5 miles away from the convention site.

This location would completely put these groups out of sight, hearing, and inside of a mainly tree-enclosed space and has sparked First Amendment violation lawsuits to arise. 

Wrath is optimistic about eventually getting an protesting permit accepted by the city but if it doesn’t go through, Wrath and other members of the Students for Democratic Society at UIC are planning to protest past their designated area and eventually into the floor of the convention. 

With the 1968 DNC resulting in a large number of arrests, beatings, and violence on activists across the city as well as those who have traveled from across the United States, organizers and other attendees hoped for a safer convention. 

Despite the outcries from various activist groups, UIC Political Science Professor E.J. Fagan said he doesn’t think people will see much from the groups during the convention.

“Conventions are ultimately a story about the people actually in the room—that is where the TV cameras are going to be and I’m very skeptical that you’ll see much of what’s going on outside of the convention area,” said Fagan, who has spent his career studying political parties and conventions.


Poll: Will you be trying to go to the 2024 Chicago DNC?


His skepticism stems from the tightly controlled narratives of the conventions. This large-scale event is meant to showcase party unity and the curated image of the party itself—despite the dissenting public who are not inside the room.

In recent years, especially in 2016 with the toss-up between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters, conventions have faced criticisms for replacing political discussions with spectacle.

In joint research, East Carolina University Political Science Professors Jonathan Morris and Peter Francia of East Carolina University argued that the era of conventions serving as platforms for political debate, decision-making, and policy discussion are gone, and now instead serves to appeal simply to those faithful to the party and undecided voters.

Fagan said the 1968 DNC Convention has shaped political conventions into what they look like today. 

“The 1968 convention is probably the most important convention in American history,” he said. “It led not only to a lot of controversy and cost Democrats the election, but more importantly resulted in dramatic changes to how party conventions work.”

Remembering the 1968 Convention

Fagan alluded to the chaos of the 1968 DNC Convention “led to the eventual Democratic loss that year in the general election,” and is what “changed the handling of them forever.”

The City of Chicago is implementing two “buffer zones” that will be in place for nine days. This secure area will have different security organizations working together to ensure the citizens of Chicago are safe. 

While not officially released to the public yet, the Department of Homeland Security have released two maps of likely area impacts around the two buffer zones that will cover areas around the United Center and McCormick Place.

DNC Buffer Zones

Patryk Szczepaniak, a political science major at UIC, worries about how these zones will impact people around them. 

“It’ll be interesting the impact this has on the city, good and bad,” he said. “CPS schools have already delayed their start date to avoid dealing with the convention and many other similar things will have to follow suit if they land in these areas.”

The Democratic Party has kept quiet about specific speakers on the agenda for the convention, but there are a few key ones to expect. 2028 Presidential hopeful Gov. J.B. Pritzker will undoubtedly be a large character as he’s one of the main reasons the event is happening in Chicago.

Other people expected to speak or play key roles are Mayor Brandon Johnson, Vice President Kamala Harris, possibly popular Midwestern Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

 

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