On August 26, 1968, the Democratic National Convention started its four-day event at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. The year had already turned out to be turbulent; Racial tension and political unrest were at an all-time high after the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. So it was not surprising that demonstrators from all over the country – many of whom were against the Vietnam War – came to the DNC.
On August 28, approximately 15,000 protesters arrived at Grant Park Bandshell to attend a rally that the city had given protesters permission to hold. But when the afternoon event ended and several thousand of those in attendance decided to march to the International Amphitheater, the earlier silence of the event turned into violence. For the next five days and nights, police and activists were in direct conflict. While authorities used tear gas and their batons, protesters threw stones.
Although many arrests were made, seven of the people who were handcuffed that night quickly became household names: Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Lee Weiner. Better known as the Chicago Seven, these political radicals have been charged with conspiracy and instigation of riot and trial. At the end of that trial, they would all be acquitted of the conspiracy, but five of them would be found guilty of rioting and even their defense lawyers would receive jail sentences for contempt of the court.
From the indictments of March 20, 1
1. The Chicago Seven was originally the Chicago Eight.
Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was originally one of the men who were indicted along with Hoffman, Hayden, and the rest of the Chicago Seven. However, he was removed from the case after vociferously refusing to ignore his right to a lawyer. Seale wanted well-known attorney Charles Garry to represent him, but since Garry had a scheduled gallbladder operation, he requested the trial be postponed. Judge Julius Hoffman (unrelated to Abbie) denied the motion, but Seale turned down his court-appointed attorney. And since Judge Hoffman did not allow Seale to represent himself, he effectively removed his right to legal representation.
2. Judge Hoffman had Bobby Seale handcuffed and choked.
After Seale was denied legal representation, he called Judge Hoffman a racist and repeatedly interrupted the trial. Once he said, “You did all you could with these witnesses who were laid to lie by these government swine agents saying and condoning some lazy racists, fascist crap from racist cops and pigs who turn people’s heads strike – and I demand my constitutional rights! “
Judge Hoffman ordered that Seale be restrained both physically and acoustically. So Seale was chained and gagged to a chair and removed from the case a week later after Hoffman ordered him to serve four years for purely contempt of court.
3. The Chicago Seven were indicted under a brand new law.
The Chicago Seven were the first to be charged under the anti-rioting provision set forth in Title X of the 1968 Civil Rights Act (better known as the Anti-Riot Act), which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in April 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed. That was two months before the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, and four months before the protests at the DNC in Chicago.
4. Noam Chomsky and other prominent figures came to defend the Chicago Seven.
In an open letter to The New York Review of BooksActivists / intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Judy Collins, and others criticized the application of the anti-riot provision of the law and defended “The Conspiracy” (another name for the Chicago Seven). Her letter began: “The indictment of eight political dissidents for conspiracy to promote disorder and turmoil in Chicago during the week of the National Democratic Convention is one of the most threatening challenges to political freedom since the death of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.”
5. Yippies made sure the Chicago Seven’s case would be theatrical.
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin co-founded the Youth International Party, better known as the Yippies. The revolutionary movement used absurdity and drama to draw attention to its causes, and the Chicago Seven trial was no exception. These “Groucho Marxists” openly mocked Judge Hoffman and in one case they wore the robes of their own judges in court. When Judge Hoffman asked that they remove them, all they had to do was see for the courtroom that they were wearing Chicago Police Department uniforms underneath.
6. Abbie Hoffman played tug of war with an assistant federal marshal over a flag.
In addition to playing dress-up, Hoffman also unfurled a National Liberation Front flag – a popular symbol of support for the Viet Cong – on the defense table. When Marshal Ronald Dobroski attempted to remove the flag, he and Hoffman participated in a round of classic playground game that only added to the farce of the process. It was also recorded by a courtroom artist.
7. The defense called over 100 witnesses during the Chicago Seven trial.
That included many famous faces. The main argument of the defense team was that the protests in Chicago had been peaceful until police instigated violence. The majority of their witnesses confirmed this, including the poet Allen Ginsberg, the comedian Dick Gregory, the musician Arlo Guthrie, and the writer Norman Mailer [PDF].
8. Even the defenders of the Chicago Seven were charged with contempt.
The contempt for court quotes began on the first day of the Chicago Seven’s trial when Tom Hayden greeted the jury and was reprimanded for it. However, the remainder of the trial was largely an exercise by the defendants showing their disdain for Judge Hoffman’s court in response to the judge showing his prejudice against them. While the jury considered, Hoffman announced a total of 159 contempt quotes for the defendants and their lawyers, including eight months for Abbie Hoffman for laughing and four years for defense attorney William Kunstler for addressing the bank as “Mr. Hoffman” instead of “Your Honor” . [PDF].
9. Five members of the Chicago Seven were found guilty, but their sentences were eventually overturned.
The jury finally approved [PDF] All seven men on conspiracy charges cleared John Froines and Lee Weiner of all charges against them and found the remaining five members of the Chicago Seven guilty of crossing state lines to cause a riot. After all the chaos and theatrics of the trial, all judgments and contempt quotes were overturned on November 21, 1972 by a three-judge panel that believed that Judge Hoffman had shown the jury’s selection process to bias the accused by excluding evidence would have. and not inform them of his own communication with the jury.
10. Pacific David Dellinger was arrested again at another Democratic Congress in Chicago.
The radical pacifist David Dellinger was arrested again during a protest against the Democratic National Convention in 1996 when he returned to Chicago in 1996. Abbie Hoffman’s son Andrew was among those arrested that day. Dellinger was 80 years old at the time.