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Correction appended, July 25, 2016, and April 4, 2017
With the 2016 national party conventions underway, with fear of unrest rattling politicians on both sides of the aisle, one refrain has come up again and again: things may be bad this year, but let’s hope it doesn’t get as bad as 1968. That was the year that the Democratic National Convention in Chicago might have been better known, 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 This gallery presents some of the unpublished outtakes from that story.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 prepare to meet in Philadelphia next week to officially select Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee for president, it’s abundantly clear that the answer was no.
Correction: The photo captions in the original version of this gallery misstated, at least once, where in Chicago the photo was taken and on which dates. An observant reader points out that, based on the landmarks visible in a photograph, the pictures were likely taken in Grant Park, not Lincoln Park as originally stated, in August of 1968. (The portfolio of unpublished photographs were labeled in LIFE’s archives as having been taken in Lincoln Park that July.) Are you a Chicago expert who recognizes the exact locations in any of these images? Please let us know on Twitter @LIFE so that we can learn more about the history behind the photographs.