Historic photographs of protests at the 1972 Republican National Convention and the 2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. On display until December 2, 2016 at the Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art, 148 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY.   Exhibit by Orin Langelle, photojournalist and Gallery Director. All photographs © Orin Langelle.

Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday, Noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment

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Wounded soldier from Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in a wheelchair during protests against the RNC. He was one of over 200,000 U.S. casualties in that war.

Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, about the 1972 protests:“There is no anti-war or even anti-establishment group in America with the psychic leverage of the VVAW.  Not even those decadent swine on the foredeck of the Wild Rose can ignore the dues Ron Kovic and his buddies have paid.  They are golems, come back to haunt us all…”

Artist’s Statement from photojournalist and Gallery Director:

Does voting change things? My exhibit explores this and other questions. I may as well save you any extra reading by answering that question in this first paragraph. Yes. And in my 65 years of experience, voting, at least the Presidential type, makes things worse.

The 2016 elections may be the first elections in U.S. history where both candidates are so disliked by so many.  This year’s election surely qualifies as one of most bizarre and fraudulent bread and circus reality shows ever designed to distract attention from the very real perils we collectively face.

Artist’s Statement continued after exhibit photos and a short video slideshow…

The 1972 Republican National Convention   Miami Beach, FL

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Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) show their outrage as they protest the lives lost (both U.S. and Indo-Chinese) in the Vietnam War. Both VVAW members and thousands of anti-war demonstrators massed at the convention to show opposition to the war.

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The Republican Party’s symbol, an Elephant, pulls a coffin alongside protesters past the entrance of the RNC.

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Demonstrators commemorate the Kent State massacre that occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The massacre involved the murder of four unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970 during a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Nine other unarmed students were shot, one suffered permanent paralysis.

The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of thirteen seconds.

Most of the students were protesting the Cambodian Campaign, a further escalation of the war that President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30, 1970.

In response to the shootings, four million students took part in a student strike. This caused hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools across the U.S. to close. The shooting also further affected public opinion over the U.S. role in the Vietnam War.

[Source: Wikipedia and others]

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Protesters, fed up with draft orders in what later was called an “imperialistic” venture show their disgust for the war. The fighting claimed nearly 60,000 U.S. lives with more than 200,000 U.S. casualties along with countless thousands of people from Indochina who suffered many more deaths and casualties. It is estimated that an additional 100,000 U.S. Vietnam veterans committed suicide after the war officially ended.

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Example: The Mỹ Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai [tʰɐ̃ːm ʂɐ̌ːt mǐˀ lɐːj], [mǐˀlɐːj] was the Vietnam War mass killing of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (American) Infantry Division. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.

The massacre later was called “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War.”

[Source: Wikipedia]

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Windows kicked in by demonstrator protesting against the war and the exploitation of women.

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A young woman sells defiance patches to be worn on the derriere to show disgust for President Nixon’s policies.

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A clash of cultures: In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War and the youth counter-culture, the gap between the generations and cultures seemed insurmountable. One generation marches forward while the other looks back.

NOTE: Friends of the Earth, founded by David Brower during the Vietnam War, was the first environmental group to condemn the war.

One of the reasons FoE did this was the mass spraying of Monsanto’s Agent Orange to defoliate the rainforest and poison those called the rainforest home. A Friends of the Earth open letter stated, “Until recently conservationists have been thought of as content to fight the tragedy of a dam, the outrage of pollution, the spread of ugliness and environmental degradation, and also the economic and political solutions to that sort of mindless destruction. Wars have been someone else’s problem.”

 The 2004 Democratic National Convention   Boston, MA

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 The entrance to Boston’s Fleet Center, home of the 2004 DNC, was festooned with American flags.

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An empty “Free Speech Zone.”

In anticipation of protests, the Boston Police designated a “Free Speech Zone,” dubbed by the demonstrators as the “protest pit.” This stark and dismal concrete square, covered in chalk graffiti, was directly under an elevated train track. Although close in proximity to the Fleet Center, in was hidden from delegates or the media.

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Two hooded activists demonstrate on the morning of the first day of the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Boston, MA at the so-called “Free Speech Zone,.” This was the only legally sanctioned location for protesting at the DNC.

Activists, citizens and free speech advocates converged to protest the pit’s prison-like structure, complete with an 8-foot high chain link fence, razor wire, cameras and uniformed guards high above on platforms.

Demonstrators entered the pit, wearing black hoods with their hands bound behind their backs in protest of the extreme limitations placed on free speech during the DNC. They compared the “pit” to the prison camps in Guantanamo Bay and to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The protesters released a statement: “The extremist crackdown on civil and political freedoms in the wake of 9/11 and the war on terror ushers in the age of a ‘Guantanamo Bay/ Camp X-Ray’ approach to criminalizing the voices of the people. Why did the Democrats stand silent while this assault on democracy occurred in the shadow of the Fleet Center itself [where the DNC was held]? From Abu Ghraib to Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay to the streets of Boston: Is this what democracy looks like?”

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Policeman on guard at the “Free Speech Zone”

In preparation for the Democratic National Convention, the city of Boston shut down public transportation stops nearby the Fleet Center, where the DNC occurred, ostensibly for its protection.

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Graffiti spray-painted in the “Free Speech Zone” in front of the Fleet Center, site of the DNC.

The 2004 Republican National Convention   NYC, NY

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Photo taken at Ground Zero as many thousands of activists converged on Manhattan for a series of protests directed at the RNC, the war in Iraq, and the flawed U.S. political system. On this evening, 9/11 families and their supporters gathered at “Ground Zero,” the former World Trade Center site, ringing bells and observing silence. The event, named “Ring Out the GOP” was called to commemorate victims of violence and oppose anger and revenge. Free bells were given away and thousands of people participated, surrounding the entire site with ringing bells.

Earlier that day photographer Orin Langelle was nearly arrested for taking a photo near Madison Square Garden, site of the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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Demonstrators march towards Madison Square Garden in a “permitted” legal march.

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A “non-permitted” illegal march, mostly people of color and the poor, left Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations attempting to reach Madison Square Garden’s RNC headquarters. As the long multi-block march approached the RNC, police set up orange snow barriers, narrowing the march, trapping people into a “kettle-like” formation. In the midst of this, a motorcyclist ran into the crowd, knocking people over. He was later identified as a plainclothes policeman. After running down several protesters, he was attacked by the marchers. Those marchers were arrested on assault charges.

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A man brutally thrown to the ground by police was arrested at the New York Public Library. An attorney at the library explained that police deliberately use a strategy to randomly arrest a half a dozen or so people, and use that as the legal excuse to clear the area, ironically “for public safety.”

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Woman screams while being arrested at the New York Public Library. The police rounded up and arrested everyone on the patio of the library whether they were involved in the protests or not.

Elsewhere in Manhattan, “flash mobs” of protesters demonstrated, blocking traffic and keeping police vehicles screaming late into the night. Throughout the city, New Yorker’s expressed hostility to the RNC invasion of their town and the extreme police presence that accompanied it. The RNC chose NYC to exploit the 9/11 tragedy. While this strategy may have worked elsewhere in the country, in New York City it elicited hostility and outrage.

Artist’s Statement continued after this short video slideshow:

Photographs in the slideshow include Ron Kovic, Allen Ginsberg, Jane Fonda, John Wayne, Zippies, Young Republicans, Guerilla Theater and direct action from the 72 RNC. The 04 DNC reveals Guerilla Theater exposing the squashing of Free Speech by the Democrats and more issues. The 04 RNC saw major protests against Bush and the Iraq War, arrests, as other topics were brought up included housing, the war on the poor, race, AIDS, workers’ interests, healthcare and the environment. “Taking On the Puppet Masters” records protests against institutions behind those who have power in the U.S. and other countries. Some of those demonstrated against in these photographs include the G20, the World Bank, Halliburton, Big Oil, the WTO and the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Artist’s Statement continued

Both of this year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions were filled with half-truths and lies. And guess what? These lies have never stopped.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, referring to what a mess the election is, said:

“What’s now clear is that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running against the only person that they could possibly beat.” He even went so far to say that maybe the election be called off. Should it?

This exhibit, If Voting Changed Things, documents dissatisfaction with the electoral system, starting in 1972, at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. My first professional photographic assignment was to cover the protests there.

Photographs from the 1972 Republican National Convention illustrate the resistance against the Nixon Administration’s war in Vietnam and the gap between a radical youth movement and the Establishment. Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) played a major role in the demonstrations.

The photos from the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004 highlight the anger at the Bush Administration over the war in Iraq and the overall disempowerment for the many. Bush and company were cynically using Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 NYC attack, to advance their pro-war agenda.

The protests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 not only exposed the Democrats’ suppression of free speech, but also demonstrated what activists called “the hypocrisy of the political process” by confronting the Democratic contender for president, John Kerry. Kerry, a Vietnam Veteran and high profile member of the anti-war movement in the 1970s, whose 2004 election platform included increasing the number of troops in Iraq.

In the eleven elections since I shot those first photos in 1972, things have only gotten worse. But not just worse. Catastrophic. We stand on the abyss of runaway climate change and are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction.

Institutional racism is even more ingrained–with Buffalo being one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. The prisons of the U.S. are overflowing with young black men.

We are in a war without end, while the rich just keep on getting richer and the poorest of the poor die anonymously in horrendous conditions.

Neither Presidential Candidate (those associated with the One Big Party with Two Heads) has any actual plan to change any of this.

My favorite Marx brother was Groucho. But the other famous Marx summed elections up way, long before 1972 stating,

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”

Orin Langelle – 7 October 2016 – Buffalo, NY

P.S. – I wish to thank my co-workers who have made this exhibit possible: Anne Petermann, Kip Doyle and Carolyn Lansom. I appreciate that they have not hung me from a rafter as a result of my rather bad attitude that is becoming more frequent as I watch the Earth’s life support systems being destroyed by rich, greedy sociopaths and psychopaths. In no way are they to blame for any of my pointed analysis, nor is Global Justice Ecology Project, or my friends at Buffalo Canvas, Jennifer and Mark Russell. Mark’s beautiful prints were made with archival paper and ink.*

*Mounted Fine Art Print 14″ x 20″
Printed with Hewlett Packard Pigment-based ink Velvet Rag 315g (20 mil) 100% cotton base
1/4″ Adhesive Gator Board

Mounted Fine Art Print 24″ x 36″
Printed with Hewlett Packard Pigment-based ink Velvet Rag 315g (20 mil) 100% cotton base
1/4″ Adhesive Gator Board

All photographs are copyrighted by Orin Langelle, all rights reserved. No photo can be used without the consent of the photographer.  See Publishing and Acquisition Information.