Home > In the Black > A Primer for the Republican National Convention

A Primer for the Republican National Convention

ITB140213 - In the Black 1968 w180

 “Bullshit,” Marty Keegan told himself out loud, walking north towards the Conrad Hilton hotel and thinking of Lord Lytton’s adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” as he and thousands of fellow protesters were chased out of Grant Park with tear gas.

He was ready this time. Like Coach Sox always said, he knew now he was in a real fight, courtesy of the New York City police department that past April, not some polite academic war of words to settle a philosophical or political policy debate—and he literally had the physical scars to prove it. So he had prepared himself—and not by attending the college professor’s blackboard planning session for the upper echelon elites of the equality obsessed SDS or by participating in lame revolutionary boot camp activities in Grant’s Park, charging back and forth across the greens in half-assed rugby scrums, as if that would be effective in confronting Mayor Daley’s thugs. He had armed himself with an improvised black jack made of lead weights, a sweat sock and duct tape, small enough to conceal beneath his jacket, but heavy enough to be lethal.

He already carried the badge of honor of being arrested at a protest—been there, done that—and he had grown impatient with the plodding pronouncements delivered all afternoon, amplified with bull horns that theirs was a peaceful protest. Bullshit. People were dying—for real—and now it was time for real action. He was done writing articles and penning pamphlets. He was done organizing, demonstrating and protesting. No more posing for the cameras, headlines and mugshots. He was done just play-acting to make a point. It was time to effect real change with real action.

The Greyhound bus dropped him off in Chicago late Monday afternoon and he spent all day Tuesday walking the streets of downtown to learn the lay of the land, planning attack and escape routes. Wednesday afternoon, he wandered the inside perimeters of the protesters in Grant Park, ignoring the tinny megaphone tête à tête between organizers and police officials, instead carefully studying the formations of Chicago police officers and Illinois National Guardsmen deployed for the defense of Democrat party delegates, who were there to coronate their pick for the next Commander-In-Chief to send more young men off to die in Southeast Asia. Though it was August, Marty Keegan was dressed in layers to help absorb the blows of billy clubs and carried an industrial mask in his coat pocket to help protect against tear gas and mace. Besides his black jack, he carried a small Mason jar of gasoline and his grandfather’s Zippo lighter. A.B. Keegan changed the world one way and Marty Keegan would do it his own way. He was just biding his time.

No one really knew what happened, but policemen rushed the statue of General John A. Logan to clear away the protesters perched there like flag waving pigeons. It did not really matter why they did it. Marty Keegan knew the battle had begun and he braced himself for action. Not long after, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd and the protesters began spilling out of Grant Park and into downtown Chicago.

Marty Keegan flowed along with the crowd, carefully positioning himself two or three people deep into the crowd as a buffer to protect himself, like working his blockers on the grid iron. Ten thousand strong, the protesters collected in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, where Democrat party officials, including their eventual Presidential nominee, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, were staying. He watched and waited patiently for his opportunity.

“The whole world is watching!” the sea of protesters began to chant as Mayor Daley’s police force waded into the crowd like a charging line of Napoleonic soldiers later that evening, their billy clubs and mace filling the air. “The whole world is watching.”

I hope not, Marty Keegan thought to himself, as he sliced through to the far flank of the crowd, watching the police line loosen and fray as it violently engaged the protesters. Then he saw his prey. A cop had separated himself from the thin blue line to chase a smaller group of protesters with a spray can of mace. Marty Keegan had done it dozens of times on the football field. He exploded out from the crowd. Instinctively angling to stay in the opponent’s blind side, he barreled into his target, driving his shoulder underneath the outstretched left arm delivering the stream of mace. At the same time, he swung his black jack as hard as he could into the officer’s knee, hearing a satisfying crack as the cop crumpled to the curb. Body blows brought the policeman’s arms down to protect his ribs, then Marty Keegan delivered a series of upper cuts to the underside of the pale blue helmet, driving him into a coma from which he never recovered.

By the time fellow officers noticed the assault and ran to the rescue, Marty Keegan was already heading up the alley he had scouted the day before. He tossed the Mason jar Molotov cocktail into their path and disappeared into the night.

It would take several weeks before the pictures a Chicago Sun-Times photographer took of Marty Keegan’s attack found their way into the hands of law enforcement authorities. By that time, the F.B.I. had identified him as one of the Pentagon bombers.

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