Why were antiwar activists determined to protest at the Democratic National Convention
The Chicago National Convention was televised and a protest there would be seen by millions of Americans. Protesters blamed the Johnson administration for making the Vietnam War wider and lying about its progress.
The Democratic Party and Lyndon Johnson in particular were damaged by the Vietnam War. Antiwar protesters saw Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam conflict as being unnecessary to protecting U.S. interests. Johnson's promises of winning the war were viewed as lies after the short-term success of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Many Americans viewed the war as never-ending and the McNamara strategy of using body counts as a measure of success as cruel.
War protesters realized that they would have a national audience if they demonstrated at the Chicago National Convention. Many antiwar protesters wanted Robert Kennedy to win the nomination after Johnson stated that he would not seek another term in office. Kennedy, a former hawk, viewed the war as unwinnable and thought that a negotiated peace between the two parties and an American pullout was the best strategy. Kennedy, the leader in the contest for the Democratic nomination, was assassinated in California in June 1968. The protesters did not want to see another candidate who would promote the failed policies of Johnson win the nomination. Conflicts between protesters and police were televised as the protesters felt as though their voices were not heard by the mainstream party leaders and the police tried to maintain order during the convention. It did not help that Mayor Daley of Chicago took a hard stance against the protesters. The riots at the convention ultimately led to the election of Nixon who promised "peace with honor" in Vietnam.