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WBAI’s Bob Fass, reporting from Chicago on August 27, 1968

Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1968

Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1968

The last days of August, 1968 were probably the most tumultuous of the 1960s. Tens of thousands of protesters had arrived in Chicago, Illinois to protest the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention. By August 27, the city’s police department had, over the previous two nights, relentlessly attacked demonstrators, reporters, and newspaper photographers. The nation’s most forceful critics of the war: political activists, artists, musicians, and radicals of all stripes, were now determined to make their voices heard despite the violence directed at them.

So was Bob Fass of WBAI-FM in New York City. He arrived in Chicago with his microphone and proceeded to tape everything he could: conversations, public events, performances, whatever. He then phoned  it all into ‘BAI’s studios – stream of consciousness radio enveloping a series of discrete experimental presentations. In honor of Columbia University having acquired Fass’ vast opus, I’ve transcribed a bit of his radio presentation from Chicago on August 27, 1968.

The program begins with Fass himself:

“Let me just say a few words first, in the action last night, I just got a report from the medical committee that there were 40 people who were so seriously injured that they might have died if they hadn’t received medical attention. 14, at least 14 reporters in Chicago and national newspapers were injured by police last night. Some very seriously. A number of them were hospitalized. Some of them had broken limbs, and many of them had broken cameras. I myself spoke to somebody who was attacked by police shouting ‘get the photographer! get the photographer!’

There are a couple of rumors current that or may not come out in this material that I’m going to transmit now: rumors that the Hells Angels are in town and they’re going to help the Yippees. And rumors that a Chicago gang, probably the Blackstone Rangers, have said that they like what the Yippees are doing and they want to help. The first piece, that you’ll probably recognize, is the voice of Phil Ochs as he exchanges semi-hostile jollity with Jerry Rubin.”

An exchange between Rubin and Ochs commences, followed by an Ochs performance, with interviews with various protesters interspersed, followed by a speech by Yippee leader Abbie Hoffman:

Bob Fass [Kino Lorber]

Bob Fass [Kino Lorber]

“. . . for the past four months I’ve been hearing about a very large gang in Chicago that were doing some very groovy things and really had their thing together. Now this gang had been kind of interested. They’d done some interesting things in Chicago. And last night I heard that they were looking for me. So I went down to this meeting place that we were supposed to meet but they didn’t show up. But when I heard that they were looking for me, I already knew the information I needed, they were with us!

So today this guy came up to me in the park over here about four hours ago and said ‘I’ve been looking for ya.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been looking for you . . . let’s go over hear and sit down.’  . .  He said ‘We like what you are doing here in Lincoln Park, we’ll be up here tonight doing it with ya’.”

The Pacifica Radio Archives originally preserved this audio. You can listen to it yourself on the Internet Archives. Here’s a trailer for a documentary about Fass:


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