Refocusing On Protests Of ’68 Democratic National Convention | WBEZ
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Recreating Protest For 50th Anniversary Of ’68 Democratic National Convention

More than one hundred people gathered in Grant Park on Sunday to recreate an iconic photograph from fifty years ago.

The original photo shows a swarm of protesters. They’re on the hill leading up to the John Alexander Logan Monument. It was part of the chaos surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

People held up cutout images on sticks from the original photo during the re-enactment. The Floating Museum organized the event. It is the start of a yearlong series. 

The nonprofit hoped to recreate the scene when the statue was overrun by hippies, activists, and spectators in what looks like a human ant hill in a photo taken by Peter Bullock

Now, photographer Cecil McDonald Jr. is working with the Floating Museum to reproduce the photo. McDonald talked to WBEZ about the project, what it means for him personally, and what people should consider before trying to scale the 30-foot statue. 

Why he took on the project 

Cecil McDonald Jr.: A mentor of mine, Eric Werner, was at that convention as a photographer and he spoke to me a lot about that day. So when I was asked to [take the photo], I liked being connected to it in that way. 

I could not imagine myself there at the time, so that’s why I was really interested in hearing Eric talk about that day. It also helped me think about what types of photographs I wanted to make. Eric talked about it being very chaotic and very dangerous. 

He was with a friend of his — another photographer who has also passed one — and he talked about being back-to-back with him, kinda photographing and trying to stay connected to the other photographer as a way to be safe but still being able to make photographs as they moved through the crowd. 

He was a really great mentor to me when I started making photographs in the early ’90s. Eric was just a really great spirit, and I still miss him today. 

Mirror images 

McDonald: I think it’s interesting to think about that particular picture and the times we are living now. Though I am not an activist in the usual sense of the word, I often think of photographs, photography, artmaking as a way to activate or think about how you participate in the times that you are in and how those times relate to the history that you, your people have experienced and how do I connect to that. While not being an activist — i.e. on the ground holding a placard, holding a sign, and protesting — but how can I participate in that event or how can I participate through that event right now as a visual artist? 

Something to think about before scaling the 30-foot statue 

McDonald: I don’t have any kinds of suggestions or ways to thinking about scaling it because we’re not supposed to [laughs]. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District said climbing monuments is prohibited.

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