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thedrifter
12-10-02, 02:18 PM
by Douglas O. Linder

1969 - 1970

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Chicago7/3CHICA~1.jpg


What did it all mean? Was the Chicago Seven Trial merely, as one commentator suggested, "a monumental non-event"? Was it, as others argue, an important battle for the hearts and minds of the American people? Or is it best seen as a symbol of the conflicts of values that characterized the late sixties? These are some of the questions that surround one of the most unusual courtroom spectacles in American history, the 1969-70 trial of seven radicals accused of conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. ...

What did it all mean? Was the Chicago Seven Trial merely, as one commentator suggested, "a monumental non-event"? Was it, as others argue, an important battle for the hearts and minds of the American people? Or is it best seen as a symbol of the conflicts of values that characterized the late sixties? These are some of the questions that surround one of the most unusual courtroom spectacles in American history, the 1969-70 trial of seven radicals accused of conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Culturally and politically, 1968 was one of the most turbulent years America has ever seen. As the Vietnam war became the longest war in U. S. history, American casualties passed the 30,000 mark. When the Viet Cong mounted their Tet offensive, anti-war protests grew larger and louder on college campuses. At Columbia, students seized the office of the President and held three persons hostage to protest the school's ties to the defense Department. Two Jesuit priests, Phil and Daniel Berrigan, burned hundreds of draft records at a Selective Service center in Maryland. Following the April assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, riots erupted in 125 cities leaving 46 dead. After Senator Eugene McCarthy challenged incumbent President Lyndon Johnson over his support of the war, Johnson withdrew from the race. Senator Robert Kennedy entered the race after Johnson's withdrawl, only to be shot and killed on the night in June that he won the California primary. "Hair," a controversial new musical about draftees and flower children, introduced frontal nudity to large audiences. Feminists picketed the Miss America pageant, black students demanded Black Studies programs, and Eldridge Cleaver published "Soul on Ice."

The Protests

Also in 1968, two groups met to discuss using the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Chicago to highlight their opposition to the Viet Nam War and establishment values. Although there was some loose coordination between the two groups, they had different leadership, different agendas, and favored different forms of protest and demonstrations. The more politically focused of the two groups was the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE). The group more focused on promoting an uninhibited lifestyle was the Youth International Party (YIPPIES). In addition to these two groups, organizations such as the Black Panther Party and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference also planned to have representatives in Chicago to press their complaints concerning racism in American policies and politics.

Rennie Davis, the national coordinator for MOBE at the time of the Convention, first announced his intentions to come to the Democratic National Convention at a meeting of a group called "The Resistance" in November, 1967, at Judd Hall at the University of Chicago. Davis told the group that he "wanted the world to know that there are thousands of young people in this country who do not want to see a rigged convention rubber-stamp another four years of Lyndon Johnson's war." Three months later the newly-formed MOBE held a planning meeting in Chicago to debate four alternative strategies for the upcoming Democratic Convention: a mass disruption strategy, a strategy of uniting behind a peace candidate such as Senator Eugene McCarthy, a "stay home" strategy, and a strategy of bringing as many anti-war people as possible to Chicago for demonstrations and teach-ins. The group of about forty, including attendees Davis and Tom Hayden, generally supported the fourth strategy. In March of 1968, MOBE sponsored another meeting, this one at Lake Villa, a YMCA Camp near Chicago, to discuss plans for August. About 200 persons, including Chicago Seven defendants David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin, attended the meeting. A twenty-one page document, authored by Hayden and Davis, was distributed at the meeting. The document recommended non-violence.

Meanwhile, another group was making its own plans for Chicago. The "YIPPIES" were born, and plans for a "Festival of Life" in Chicago first discussed, in December 1967. Plans for the Festival of Life, as they were developed by Yippie founders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, called for a "festival of youth, music, and theater." In January, the Yippies released an initial call to come to Chicago, called "A STATEMENT FROM YIP":

"Join us in Chicago in August for an international festival of youth, music, and theater. Rise up and abandon the creeping meatball! Come all you rebels, youth spirits, rock minstrels, truth-seekers, peacock-freaks, poets, barricade-jumpers, dancers, lovers and artists!
"It is summer. It is the last week in August, and the NATIONAL DEATH PARTY meets to bless Lyndon Johnson. We
are there! There are 50,000 of us dancing in the streets, throbbing with amplifiers and harmony. We are making love in the
parks. We are reading, singing, laughing, printing newspapers, groping, and making a mock convention, and celebrating the
birth of FREE AMERICA in our own time.
"Everything will be free. Bring blankets, tents, draft-cards, body-paint, Mr. Leary's Cow, food to share, music, eager skin,
and happiness. The threats of LBJ, Mayor Daley, and J. Edgar Freako will not stop us. We are coming! We are coming from
all over the world!
"The life of the American spirit is being torn asunder by the forces of violence, decay, and the napalm-cancer fiend. We
demand the Politics of Ecstasy! We are the delicate spores of the new fierceness that will change America. We will create our
own reality, we are Free America! And we will not accept the false theater of the Death Convention.
"We will be in Chicago. Begin preparations now! Chicago is yours! Do it!"

Hoffman and Rubin continued, over the next several months leading up to the Convention, to propose ever more wild plans for the Festival of Life. Rubin announced plans to nominate a pig, Pigasus the Immortal, for President. Hoffman talked about a demonstration of public fornication, calling it a "****-in." A Yippie Program, distributed in August of 1968, urged Festival attendees to bring "sleeping bags, extra food, blankets, bottles of fireflies, cold cream, lots of handkerchiefs and canteens to deal with pig spray, love beads, electric toothbrushes, see-through blouses, manifestos, magazines, and tenacity." The program promised poetry readings, mass meditation, "political arousal speeches," fly casting exhibitions, rock music, and "a dawn ass-washing ceremony." There were also activities mentioned in the program that were somewhat problematic for the alleged conspirators' trial defense:

Psychedelic long-haired mutant-jissomed peace leftists will consort with known dope fiends, spilling out onto the sidewalks in pornape disarray each afternoon....Two-hundred thirty rebel cocksmen under secret vows are on a 24-hour alert to get the pants of the daughters and wifes and kept women of the convention delegates."

At trial, Hoffman suggested that the proposal of outlandish events in the Yippie program and in speeches by Yippie leaders was simply a way of having "fun." He said that no one was expected to take the events seriously

Chicago officials, led by Mayor Richard Daley, saw the Democratic National Convention as a grand opportunity to promote their city to the world. They resolved not to have anti-war demonstrators spoil their plans. Pre-Convention sparring between the City and protest groups concerned the request of the Yippies to allow demonstrators to sleep in city parks. City Administrator Stahl indicated on August 5, 1968 that the request for permission to sleep in the parks would be denied and that an 11 P.M. curfew would be enforced. On August 23, officials ordered city police to post signs in parks announcing the curfew. As the Convention opening approached, Daley put the city's 12,000 police officers on twelve-hour shifts. In addition, 7.500 Army troops and 6,000 national guardsmen, requested by Daley to aid in keeping order, arrived in Chicago.

In late August, mostly student-age anti-war and counter-culture activists began arriving in Chicago. Several thousand would eventually participate in the Convention week protests (a number far below the 100,000-person estimate that some organizers had predicted). Several days before the convention, demonstration leaders began holding classes in Lincoln Park on karate, snake dancing, and other means of self-defense. Preparations were woefully inadequate for the level of police violence that demonstrators would face. On Friday, August 23, MOBE learned that a federal district judge had denied their request for an injunction that would have forced the city to allow use of the parks after 11 P. M.

continued...............

thedrifter
12-10-02, 02:20 PM
The next day radical leaders held a contentious meeting to discuss whether demonstrators should abide by the city's curfew. Among those favoring compliance with the curfew was Jerry Rubin; among...

thedrifter
12-10-02, 02:23 PM
There was division in the defense ranks concerning trial strategy. Some of the defendants, such as Tom Hayden, wanted to play the trial straight: to concentrate on winning jurors by diligently...

thedrifter
12-10-02, 02:24 PM
There is no simple "yes" or "no" answer to the question of whether the Chicago defendants intended to incite a riot in Chicago in 1968. Abbie Hoffman said, "I don't know whether I'm innocent or I'm guilty." The reason for the confusion--as Norman Mailer pointed out--was that the alleged conspirators "understood that you didn't have to attack the fortress anymore." All they had to do was "surround it, make faces at the people inside and let them have nervous breakdowns and destroy themselves."



Sempers,

Roger