Yippies in Lincoln Park, 1968

June 14th, 2011by John RussickFiled under: Collections, Exhibitions

The Yippie was allegedly born at a New Year’s Eve party in New York City at the end of 1967. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and others active in the movement to stop the war in Vietnam coined the name as a twist on hippie, a largely derisive term used at the time to describe young people who had embraced the counterculture. Yippie was also shorthand for the Youth International Party, although their agenda and approach were quite different from traditional American political parties.
The Yippies staged theatrical events to highlight the failings of the dominant social order in America. For example, Hoffman once organized a group to tour the New York Stock Exchange. While inside, they threw fistfuls of one dollar bills onto the floor of the Exchange. They hoped a mad scramble for the meager amount of money would illustrate what they saw as the mindless pursuit of wealth in America.

In August 1968, Chicago hosted the Democratic National Convention (DNC). During the four-day event, while other political groups, like the Students for a Democratic Society, organized marches and rallies to protest the war, Hoffman said that the Yippies planned to “throw a lot of banana peels around Chicago.” One of the first Yippie events staged that August was a Loop rally at which Pigasus, a live pig, was nominated for president.

Yippie flag, Gift of Seed Publishing, 1968.978

This flag came to the Chicago History Museum in 1968. It was donated by the leaders of the local underground newspaper, the Chicago Seed. Earlier that summer, during the DNC, the Seed and other newspapers and media outlets covered a Yippie-staged event called the Festival of Life in Lincoln Park, which was organized in opposition to what Hoffman called the “convention of death” on the other side of town. The Yippies invited thousands of young people from across the country to the festival. Participants planned to camp overnight despite Mayor Richard J. Daley’s mandate to close the park at 11:00 p.m. each night. The flag was likely a witness to both the festival and the violence that followed.

Poster promoting the Festival of Life in Chicago, August 1968

At 11:00 p.m. on August 25, 1968, police began clearing Lincoln Park. With batons and tear gas, they pushed the crowds of students and activists into the adjacent neighborhood. For the next four days, police and antiwar protesters clashed in Grant and Lincoln Parks and in the city’s streets. The bloody conflicts marred the convention for the Democrats—whose nominee, Hubert Humphrey, lost the ‘68 election to Richard Nixon—and soiled the reputations of Mayor Daley and the Chicago Police Department, which was widely characterized as being out of control and excessively violent.

If you or someone you know was in Lincoln Park that night in 1968, please tell us your story.

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One Response to “Yippies in Lincoln Park, 1968”

  1. Big Shot: We Can’t Go Home Again | Big Shot Movie Club Says:

    […] 1968 Nicholas Ray attended the democratic national convention in Chicago to see what the Festival of Life was all about. The violence of the Chicago police riots that he encountered shocked him. He was […]

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