The activist returns
05/16/2012 10:00 PM
Who better to lead a South Loop history tour last week for members and friends of the South Loop Historical Society than 70-year-old restaurant owner, 49th Ward Democratic Organization president and 1968 troublemaker Michael James? James met up with the South Loop neighbors in Grant Park to spin a few yarns.
He can’t make it to NATO because his daughter is graduating from Yale this weekend and of course he wants to be there, so he’s leaving the NATO-related demonstrations to the new generation. James was born in Connecticut, but his father encouraged him as a young man to travel west and take jobs, to better understand the world. So he took a job in a California cannery, but ultimately ended up at Lake Forest College, wanting to join the Marines.
That didn’t last long. He started to rethink the military and the Vietnam War, and the next thing you know, he was involved in the political machinations and ramifications of his time.
James couldn’t remember all that much about all that happened back in August of ‘68, but vivid in his mind (and on the internet) was that one infamous night, the “shoot to kill,” “whole world is watching” big night when anti-war activists came to Grant Park to protest the Democrats’ ultimate backing of the war at their political convention, the violent confrontations with the police across from the Hilton, and being one of the rabble-rousers who tried to upend a paddy wagon, but failed.