Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk
The Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 was so tumultuous that it might have been better described, as LIFE Magazine put it the following week, as the Democratic Convulsion.
That week, LIFE devoted more than a dozen pages to the events in Chicago, but the photographs of the protests that made it to print represented just a fraction of those captured that week. This gallery presents some of the unpublished outtakes from that story.
“No political event since 1860 has mirrored the harsh specifics of national tribulation as dramatically as last week’s Democratic convention in Chicago,” the magazine’s main convention story, by Paul O’Neil, began. The convention, he wrote, was “the kind of turbulent response to national difficulty the citizenry expected in 1968, but it made obeisance, in the end, to the very bombers and the very nightsticks which had been so symptomatic of the country dilemmas all along.”
The convention would go down in history for the harsh battles in the street between police officers and protesters “The police behaved, even to the ordinary citizen, as though they had finally been granted license, long desired, to run the city their way,” LIFE noted and for the selection of Hubert H. Humphrey as nominee despite major divisions in the party after incumbent president Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run again, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the success of the peace-focused campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
At the point at which LIFE examined the events, with the distance of only one week, one question emerged: Would the 1968 drama herald the end of the party? As the Democrats met virtually this summer to officially select Joe Biden as the party’s nominee for president, it’s abundantly clear that the answer was no.