The Urban Crisis and the New Militants, Part 2—Social Confrontation: The Battle of Michigan Avenue (1969) Production Company: The Film Group, Inc. Transfer Note: Digital file made from a 16mm print preserved by the Chicago Film Archives. Running Time: 11 minutes.
The Film Group, a Chicago-based production company set up to create industrial films and ads, found a new purpose during the Chicago Democratic Convention in late August 1968. On a lunch break from shooting a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial, founding member Mike Gray and his crew were shocked by police violence on the very streets where they lived and worked. Radicalized, they filmed the chaos and created their feature-length documentary American Revolution 2. From their footage grew the educational series, The Urban Crisis and the New Militants.
Produced by the Film Group’s accountant Bill Cottle, the series consists of seven self-contained modules that “teach by raising questions rather than by attempting to answer them.” The modules tell their story through editing rather than voice-over narration and show “real events, with real people acting spontaneously,” as the Group explained to an educational film distributor. In Social Confrontation, the filmmakers juxtapose events inside the convention hall with those on the streets, connecting the brutality of police with the oppressive tactics of the Democratic leaders.
The 1968 convention brought together a Democratic Party enraged and dispirited by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy just a few months before and torn by opposition to the Vietnam War. President Johnson had refused to seek reelection and many saw front runner Vice President Hubert Humphrey as little better. Antiwar and civil rights protesters converged on Chicago but the police and National Guards had little patience with their demonstrations. On August 28, in part of what the Walker Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence called a “police riot,” authorities clubbed protesters and released tear gas so intense that it permeated the convention hotel. The ensuing mayhem came to be known as “The Battle of Michigan Avenue.”
Social Confrontation captured the havoc firsthand. While convention-goers debated the Vietnam plank, protestors filled Grant Park for a rally. In a series of escalating confrontations documented by the film, police released tear gas, National Guards surrounded the park, and protesters escaped onto Michigan Avenue, mingling with the covered wagons of the Poor People’s March led by Reverend Ralph Abernathy. A stand-off ensued in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, headquarters of the major convention-goers. Receiving an order to clear the streets, the police charged into the 5,000-strong crowd, beating anyone in their path—protestors, reporters and bystanders—and dragging them into police wagons.
The delegates in the convention hall gradually received reports of the melee. When Wisconsin delegate Donald Peterson noted that thousands of young people were being beaten in the streets and proposed moving the convention he was cut off mid-sentence by Convention Chair Carl Albert. The film cuts to bloodied protesters before returning to the convention, shock gripping the hall as Senator Abraham Ribicoff went off script to exclaim “When George McGovern is president of the United States we wouldn’t have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago!” The Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley (father of the current mayor), shouted back in protest, leading Ribicoff to add, “How hard it is to accept the truth!” By the convention’s end 668 people had been arrested and a thousand more treated by medics. Hope, however, still lived on at the candlelight vigil concluding the film.
To counter the images in the news, Chicago commissioned the film What Trees Do They Plant? (1968), titled after one of the mayor’s rejoinders. But the violence documented by national television and films like Social Confrontation had been seared into the public consciousness. The truth proved hard, but not impossible to accept.
About the Preservation
Thanks to release prints of The Urban Crisis and the New Militants donated by Bill Cottle and Mike Gray and grants from the NFPF, the CFA has preserved the entire seven-part series.
The Film Group’s award-winning documentaries American Revolution 2(1969) and The Murder of Fred Hamptonare available on DVD (Facets Video, 2007); Cicero March, another entry from the Urban Crisis series, is included as an extra.
About the Archive
Founded in 2003, The Chicago Film Archives is a non-profit organization devoted to the acquisition, preservation, and exhibition of films that reflect the history and culture of Chicago and the Midwest. Holding over 9,200 titles, the CFA focuses its collections on independent documentaries as well as industrial, educational, experimental, sponsored, and amateur films.
A poem (or more) will be offered by the hour or with the day and at the very least once a week. So stay on your webbed toes. The aim is to share good hearty-to-eat poetry. This is a birdhouse size file from the larger Longhouse which has been publishing from backwoods Vermont since 1971 books, hundreds of foldout booklets, postcards, sheafs, CD, landscape art, street readings, web publication, and notes left for the milkman. Established by Bob & Susan Arnold for your pleasure. The poems, essays, films & photographs on this site are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the author's go-ahead.
New from Bob Arnold ~ "Faraway Like The Deer's Eye" ~ Bob Arnold Faraway Like the Deer’s Eye — A Saga — FOUR BOOKS IN ONE VOLUME ~ A Poet’s Memoir // 50 Years of Longhouse & Poets // A Builder’s Life, with photo assembly // The Selected Poems of Bob Arnold // An afterword by Andrew Schelling
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Available from Longhouse. Please link on the image for ordering information. Drawing from years of poetry and also new poems, The Woodcutter Talks is Bob Arnold at his finest branching love poems with back country work poems and settlement with community, family and individual portraits. The extensive collection also showcases vintage photographs from woodcutters and woodchoppers and big-saw-pullers of old. Sweat runs down the cheeks of the mere literary and they adore one another.
Stone Hut by Bob Arnold
"Once again, my friends, this is your best book! Exquisite in design, fat enough to be a feast, pretty enough to just wade around in, but deep enough to dive into and stay with, all I can say is WOW, you guys really did it – it’s the first of its kind, a scrapbook novel that is also a how-to and a mystery -- how did he do it, and how does he make rocks balance like Thor? — Gerald Hausman" ~
Museum, An Unlikely Meditation, written by the poet Bob Arnold, is as much an unlikely novel. Visit this page for details.
Cid Corman's Of, Volumes 4 & 5 from Longhouse.
ANNOUNCING. The final volumes to Corman's opus in one book ~ of, volumes 4 & by Cid Corman. 1500 poems, 850 pages edited by Bob Arnold, now available in a limited edition from Longhouse, 2015. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information ~
'Fully a book ~
An interview with Bob Arnold on Cid Corman’s ‘of’
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L O N G H O U S E is very proud to announce a new book by John Bradley in their on going series of S C O U T book publications — other titles from the series have been by Kent Johnson, Janine Pommy Vega, James Koller, Bob Arnold and Lorine Niedecker with more in the works. An opening salvo at the front of the book by Patrick Lawler should provide ample cover for what the reader should come to expect. And Thereby Everything John Bradley Longhouse 2015 First edition only issued in softcover 208 pages, perfect bound illustrated throughout by Bob Arnold with 150 photographs
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Visit this page for information on this new Longhouse by Dudley Kaufman (2016)
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New from Longhouse. Please click on the image
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New from Longhouse. Robin Magowan. The Garden of Amazement, Scattered Gems After Sâeb. large softcover glossy bound with an introduction by the translator, 112 pages
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