updated 7/20/2004 6:36:35 PM ET 2004-07-20T22:36:35

During the 1968, nothing could match the power of the images playing out in downtown Chicago. Violence in the streets overshadowed politics in the convention hall, as the city's unrest reflected the mood of a nation.

Two American icons, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy's brother, Bobby, had just been assassinated that year. Everyday, news trickled of young Americans dying in Vietnam.

War protesters decided to gather in Chicago and send a message to Democractic candidate Hubert Humphrey and his party. But Chicago Mayor Richard Daley posted 12,000 police officers on the streets, and called in the Illinois National Guard.

"You saw America at an intersection," says NBC's Tom Brokaw. "I spent most of my time at that convention out on the streets with the demonstrators. One night, I walked between the protestors and the national guard men. They were all the same age, and I thought this was the dividing line of America. How are we going to survive this?"

Television cameras recorded a bloody riot. By week's end, there were nearly 600 arrests and over 200 injuries. "I went home to my parents who were FDR working class democrats, and I thought they would be very sympathetic towards the demonstrators," says Brokaw. "We had a huge fight, my dad was outraged by the lack of respect for police and for the institutions of law in Chicago. That was also a lesson to me about where we were in the country, and how much trouble the Democrats were in.”

Ultimately, it was the Democratic party that was left battered and bruised.

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