When Cops Were Pigs (1968)
by Ron Kurtus (revised 3 December 2012)
Police have been called many names throughout the years, including fuzz, coppers, and pigs. They were called coppers as far back as 1846. Even further back was the reference to police as pigs in the 1811 Oxford English Dictionary. The term was even used as far back as the 1500s, referring to a person who is disliked.
The fuzz and coppers or cops expressions have been slang expressions in modern times. The term pig was not popular until the press picked up on the expression during the 1968 National Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Starting in August 1968 and for a number of years afterwards, police officers were called pigs by young people, the disenchanted, and even the media. This came about when a group who called themselves the Yippies, protested near the 1968 National Democratic Convention in Chicago. They had a small pig as their presidential candidate, and when police disrupted their demonstration, they started to call the police pigs. The expression caught on. Years later, the radical leaders of the Yippies became mainstream and calling police "pigs" drifted into the past.
The following is a rough history of the times.
Questions you may have include:
- What happened at the 1968 convention?
- What role did the pig have in the demonstrations?
- What happened in the years to follow?
This lesson will answer those questions.
1968 National Convention
The Vietnam War was a major issue in the 1968 National Democratic Convention, held in Chicago, Illinois. Democratic candidates for the 1968 U.S. presidential election were anti-war advocate Eugene McCarthy and supporter of the Paris Peace Talks, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. In general, both were in favor of ending the war.
The convention was meant to select a candidate to run against Richard Nixon for the office of President.
Meanwhile, a group of anti-war protesters, extreme left radicals and anarchists attempted to protest and disrupt the convention proceedings. Led by such radicals as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, the group demonstrated outside the convention hall.
They called themselves Yippies, as opposed to the popular hippy movement of long-haired, free-spirited youth. YIP stood for Young International Party. It was a spin-off of the expression of hippie for the love generation.
Pig for president
One of the things the Yippies did to show their disrespect for the political process was to have a small pig as their candidate. Rubin and Hoffman would carry the pig around, while supporters hooted and cheered.
Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was fed up with these punk kids trying to disrupt his convention in his city, so he sent in police to break up the Yippie demonstrations. Daley took a particularly hard line against the protesters, calling for whatever use of force necessary to subdue the crowds.
As police started to disperse the crowds and arrest some of the members, someone said, "We're running a pig for president. But you guys are the real pigs." This caught on and everyone started chanting, "Pigs! Pigs!"
Reporters headlined their stories: "Police Called Pigs." This expression caught on and many young people soon started calling police "pigs".
Although at first the police were outraged at such disrespect, some soon wore the name as a badge of honor. At least one police department issued little pig lapel badges for their officers to wear.
After the convention, Humphrey lost the election to Nixon, the Vietnam War finally ended, Rubin and Hoffman went mainstream, the Yippies were replaced by the Yuppies, and cops were no longer called pigs.
Despite the disruptions outside the convention building, Hubert H. Humphrey was nominated to represent the Democrats in the election. Whether the public was outraged at the behavior of the Yippies and of the anti-war movement or they associated them with the Democratic is uncertain. But Richard Nixon, who certainly was not an anti-war candidate was elected.
This left many anti-war people wondering what these idiot Yippies were thinking of when they protested at the Democratic Convention.
Chicago Seven trial
Rubin, Hoffman and five other protesters—David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—were brought to trial on conspiracy charges. In 1970, they were found not guilty, but Rubin, Hoffman, Dellinger, Hayden and Davis were convicted of crossing state lines with the intent of inciting a riot. They were each sentenced to five years' imprisonment and fined $5,000. The convictions were all reversed on appeal in 1972.
Vietnam War ends
Nixon continued the Paris Peace Talks and several years later, the U.S. forces pulled out of Vietnam, leaving the country to the Communist forces in 1973.
Years later, Jerry Rubin did a complete turn-around, and took to wearing 3-peice suits. He became an entrepreneur and businessman. But still not one to completely follow the rules, he was hit by a car in 1994 while jaywalking in Los Angeles and was killed.
Abbie Hoffman also became a businessman years later, except that his business was dealing in cocaine. He was arrested but then avoided prison by living under an alias. In 1989, he committed suicide.
The expression Yippie disappeared, but a number of years later Yuppie became popular for short haired BMW-driving young professionals. I guess Rubin went from being a hippie to a yippie to a yuppie.
Police are no longer called pigs. That was kind of a childish name anyway.
Those were weird times.
For a number of years after August 1968, police officers were called pigs by many people, including the media. Yippies protesting the 1968 National Democratic Convention had a small pig as their presidential candidate. When police disrupted their demonstration, they started to call the police pigs. The expression caught on. Years later, leaders of the Yippies became mainstream and people no longer called police pigs.
Be fair minded
Resources and references
Why are the police called cops, pigs, or the fuzz? - from The Straight Dope
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When Cops Were Pigs - 1968