Political Beatings, Then and Now

Marty was beaten in a jail cell of the police station in the small central Rhode Island town where we both grew up. His mistake was standing outside of the McCarthy for President office located in the business district in town. It was the summer of 1968 and the violence of the Democratic convention was but a few weeks away, and the trial of the Chicago 7, protesters at that convention, would soon follow. Bobby Seale, a Chicago defendant, would be separated from the other defendants at the trial and bound in a chair in the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman.

Like the presidential primary season of 2016, the McCarthy office drew a large number of young people, including Marty, and it became a sort of political and social center in town. I can picture the office all of these decades later as if it existed in the present. When I volunteered in the Sanders campaign, and went into the Pittsfield, Massachusetts office, all of those memories came flooding back. The presence of many young volunteers was nearly a mirror image of the ’68 campaign.

Both offices had several long tables filled with campaign buttons, volunteer sheets, campaign literature, bumper stickers, and campaign signs. If technology could be eliminated as a variable, and it cannot, both campaigns would look very, very similar. Of course, Citizens United has opened the floodgates of unregulated money in the campaign process, but in ’68 we were fighting similar fights against the power of the establishment; however, the war in Vietnam and the draft predominated our concerns then.

Like protesters at Trump rallies, Marty made a similar “mistake” all of those decades ago by standing out. Like our political contemporaries all over the country, we hung out at the campaign office and many of us were obvious for our long hair and hippie dress. When the police put Marty in the squad car, they said that he had given them “lip” when they made one of their many daily passes of the headquarters. Once in the jail cell, a cop beat Marty up. It didn’t matter that his father was a prominent businessman in town and operated a private accounting business on the second floor of the building where the McCarthy office was located. Marty needed to be taught a lesson about political orthodoxy and the police were more than willing to administer that lesson.

Fast forward to the presidential primary campaign of 2016 and the extreme right-wing Republican candidate, Donald Trump. The Atlantic (March 14, 2016) recounts the violence against protesters at Trump rallies around the country in “Trump Can’t Tell the Truth About Violence at His Rallies.”

There was the now infamous sucker punch in Fayetteville, North Carolina; the altercation between a Time photographer and a Secret Service agent at another Trump rally; the Black Lives Matter demonstrator who was hit in November; and then there were Hispanic protesters hit in October. In North Carolina, Trump observed of the violence, “See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen, because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak.”

The decades move on and the political system remains a reflection of the larger society, with the exception of a small number of people with extreme wealth and from Super PACS now dominating the system, and instead of a beating in a jail cell of a small town in the Northeast, now it happens with the encouragement of the Republican frontrunner and in full view of the public. “The whole world is watching!”

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings