Archive for the 'THIS DATE IN CHICAGO HISTORY' Category

Protesting Pompidou (2-28-1970)

As demonstrations go, this one was orderly.  Ten thousand people on the street, minor disruption, no injuries, only one arrest.  Yes, it happened in Chicago, on this date.

Georges Pompidou was the new President of France.  Recently he’d agreed to sell 50 Mirage supersonic jets to Libya.  There were fears the planes would be resold to Egypt and Syria, and used against Israel.

Georges Pompidou
Now Pompidou’s American visit was triggering protests.  When the French president’s plane touched down at O’Hare, Mayor Richard J. Daley was there to greet him.  After that the mayor was conspicuous by his absence.
Pompidou was staying at the Drake.  He agreed to meet with a group of local Jewish leaders.  He was gracious and answered their questions in detail.  But the Libyan jet sale would not be cancelled.
The action shifted to the Loop.  Pompidou was scheduled to speak to a black-tie dinner at the Palmer House.  By late afternoon, the streets around the hotel were already packed with demonstrators.  A detail of 250 police was hastily doubled.

2-28--mirage jet.jpg
Mirage jet
The protesters were civil.  Many carried signs announcing they’d come from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, or other cities.  One banner took a poetic turn, reading “Shame On You, Pompidou.”  There was even humor–“French Wine+Arab Oil=Chicken Soup.”
The dinner guests began arriving about 7:30.  The demonstrators shouted, waved their signs, but allowed the guests to pass unhindered.  Now the only arrest took place, when a counter- protester refused a police order to move.
Pompidou’s party arrived at 8:15.  The president emerged from his limo smiling and waved to the crowd.  He didn’t seem to realize they were protesters–until he heard the international language of booing.  Then he stopped waving.
Still, Pompidou was a seasoned politician.  The smile remained frozen on his face.  He walked swiftly into the hotel, and didn’t look back.
Mayor Richard J. Daley 
The  dinner went on.  Pompidou made a speech suggesting that city-dwellers should drive less and walk more.  By the time he returned to the Drake, most of the demonstrators had gone.
Some time later, Pompidou issued a statement calling the demonstrations “a blemish on the face of America,” and said city authorities could have done a better job curbing the crowd.  Mayor Daley responded tersely: “Nothing occurred in Chicago for which anyone is required to apologize.”
President Georges Pompidou died in office in 1974.