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The Trial of the Chicago 7: A Question of Allegiance

The Disrupted Trials

The problem of disruptive defendants who make orderly trials impossible demands a more philosophical jurisprudence than it has been getting. Obviously the acceptance of a court’s jurisdiction depends on one’s social allegiance altogether, and this can be taken into account. Consider first the case of the New York Panthers. Given their prohibitively high bail, the judge cannot exercise his ordinary power to impose short terms for contempt, since the defendants are in prison anyway. And psychologically, there can be no doubt that imprisonment during the crisis of a trial creates a pent-up frustration and sense of being trapped and railroaded that naturally will burst forth at any occasion to be heard. If the defendants were free on bail, at least some of this would explode outside, not in the court.

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The theory of their high bail has two overt reasons and perhaps one hidden one. (1) It is said the defendants are dangerous and might carry out the conspiracy they are charged with, bombing public places. I do not know any evidence that such acts by similar defendants on bail have occurred; but it ought not to be difficult to keep such marked persons effectively under surveillance and disarmed, especially since criminal association with them would spell almost certain arrest for any accomplices.

(2) More plausibly, it is feared that the defendants might forfeit lower bail and leave the country, as Williams, Cleaver, and others have done. Why is this bad? The claim by the defendants that the court itself is political part of an oppressive System, means that they have no allegiance to its justice. Allegiance cannot be compelled. If a person feels he is not a citizen, he may reasonably choose physical exile, and it is probably political wisdom for the sovereign to allow it, with penalties — as Castro has sometimes done in Cuba, though not in the (to me) interesting cases of anarchists and “moral” offenders. Needless to say, those who opt for exile, e. g. Williams or Cleaver, might not find themselves happy outside the United States either. Implicit in the idea of bail is that the defendant has a choice, to accept the jurisdiction or pay a penalty, of property and citizenship, for leaving it. There may be exceptions when a society cannot allow this choice, but then it has given up the idea of the social contract altogether. If one cannot refuse jurisdiction, there is no longer a question of identifying with the sentence, and a jail becomes equivalent to a dungeon or cage for animals. (To be sure, all penal systems degenerate to this any way. Prisons are not a workable idea.)

(3) But the hidden motive for prohibitive bail, or trigger-happy use of the contempt power, may be to keep the defendants from political, not criminal, action on the streets. This motive actually surfaced in the trial of the Chicago Seven when Judge Hoffman threatened Dellinger with contempt for having made a political speech outside the court! And political defendants claim, justifiably or not, that a chief reason for these recent trials is to put them out of circulation and tie up their time and money. In the pretentions of the American constitution, of course, this motive has no warrant whatever; and if there is the slightest trace of it, the court with its subpoenas becomes simply a place of violent politics and the defendants are right to try to disrupt it.

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***

All of the above should have no connection with the concept of a “political trial” that people like Dellinger, Spock, or the Berrigans have asked for. Traditionally, a Political Trial is one where the defendants try to show that political issues of the times are relevant to the meaning of their acts, and the legal guilt or innocence of the acts depends, at least in part, on their political justification. Often, indeed, it is impossible to separate the legal and political questions even formally, as when a ”law” may be unconstitutional, against the Nuremberg judgments, or so forth.

In my opinion, the meaning of all adjudicable acts is at least partly extra-legal. During a trial, acts are always interpreted in their real social and moral contexts, otherwise there would be no point in pleading extenuating circumstances or bringing in social and psychological factors or the current state of science and art, as in M’Naghten, Leopold and Loeb, Brown, Scopes, or all censorship cases. Rather, it is implicit in the very idea of trial by a jury or peers that the indictment will be interpreted and judged, at least partly, according to substantive social and moral, and not merely formal and legal, justice. The jury is supposed to bring in its own life experience and values; and it must consist of peers in order that the defendant’s acts may be understood in the sense that they were performed. (Thus the Panthers claim that white jurors are not adequate peers.)

But if all trials, and especially trials with novel issues, depend on the social, moral, and political interpretation of the community, it is unacceptable for judges to run them as if the meaning of acts could be defined in cut-and-dried courtroom terms; but this is what happened with Spock, the Chicago Seven, and others. In any State legal system, with abstract statutes and penalties imposed from above, it is inevitable, and perhaps useful, that there is a distinction between legal justice and moral or political justice — as an anarchist, I am not so sure that it is useful — but it is monstrous to try to make this distinction absolute, to direct a  jury not to consult its life experience and values, and to prevent a jury from hearing evidence in that direction.

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Political, moral, and civil libertarian defendants have always used Political Trials to address the public outside the courtroom. This is in itself a good thing, it is part of the democratic process. A man willing to risk his liberty for his beliefs has a claim to air them in. court, and the public can only profit by hearing deeply held convictions. The one disadvantage to it could be that the stump speeches may take so long as to be obstructive to the court procedure, but any judge has enough power to prevent this kind of filibuster. It is quite another matter for a judge to keep defendants from explaining themselves to the jury, including the jury’s political judgment, as part of the judicial process. The result of trying to prevent a trial from being political in this reasonable sense is to drive lively and intelligent defendants to make the court itself a place of confrontation, physical force, or tricks, not a judicial forum at all. The defendants can no longer give allegiance to the court, and we must go back to the problem of disruptive defendants that we started from.

Finally, in the midst of the courtroom uproar there is increasingly appearing a strain that is not political at all, but existentialist and religious: the middle-class young people, the witness-bearing of priests, the noise of the sons of uprooted urban poverty. This is a response of life in over-structured and dehumanized institutions; it is not aimed at the courts as such but at all authority. Naturally it ought not to shout demands for “constitutional rights” or “Power to the People” or “Socialism”­ — any constituted society would have statutes and courts — but it really makes no difference what the words are, though Abbie is unusually boring.

My own intuition, as a conservative anarchist, is that we ought to affirm Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as among our great victories, that we have to preserve and extend, at the same time as we increasingly try to get away from States and Courts altogether. ❖

1970_Village Voice article about the Chicago 7 trial

1970_Village Voice article about the Chicago 7 trial

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The Trial of the Chicago 7: ‘The Seditious Movie’

films in focus

“LOVING” gets so much better as it goes along that it emerges almost in retrospect as that rarity of rarities: an intelligent and compassionate treatment of the New York-Westport merry-go-round. Throughout his career in films, Irvin Kershner has shown an unusual interest in eccentric losers stranded in natural locations. “The Luck of Ginger Coffee,” “A Fine Madness,” and “The Flim Flam Man” never quite bridged the chasm between surreal characterizations and too real backgrounds, but, with “Loving,” Kershner has found material that fully conforms to the contradictions of his style. George Segal’s commuting commercial illustrator is a kind of Charlie Bubbles character drowning in Bromo Seltzer, and at first it does not seem clear why he has begun to malfunction as a marital mechanism dedicated to making money as efficiently as possible, but suddenly the why seems less important than the how. Don Devlin’s adaptation of J. M. Ryan’s novel is deceptively elliptical in its exposition, and Kershner’s distant lensing of cramped streets creates a dangerous degree of anguished alienation in the audience, dangerous, that is, because many spectators may turn off from the protagonist before he begins making psychological contact with his predicament. Then suddenly there is one unexpected scene, and another, and still another, and, for a climax, a voyeuristic orgy of childish adultery, combining the possibilities of Marshall McLuhan, Sigmund Freud, and Lewis Carroll. Ultimately, husband and wife (Eva Marie Saint) come together with convulsive violence through mutual shame and humiliation and a shared complicity in the sweet life of suburbia. Segal and Saint are ably supported by Sterling Hayden’s Old Testament plutocrat and vulgarian, and Keenan, Wynn’s grubby agent.

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Not the least of the merits of “Loving” is its acknowledgement that a man’s job is of more than passing importance in the living of his life. Indeed, making a living is often the largest part of making a life. Not that the movie should have been called “Living.” “Loving” is about loving, and the energy it requires to keep relationships in focus. George Segal’s tiredness should make many members of his generation extremely uncomfortable if not utterly uptight. “Loving” strikes too close to home.

I strongly recommend Robert Bresoon’s “MOUCHETTE” at the New Yorker. Also, Maurice Pialat’s “ME,” a stirring testament to the irremediable loneliness and alienation of a child. The film manages the difficult task of expressing feelings without fantasy, and of evoking tears without sentimentality.

1970 Village Voice article by Andrew Sarris about a possible Chicago 7 movie

FOR THE BENEFIT of readers who wish to be kept informed on where it’s at, the following press release dated March 3, 1970 is reprinted in its entirety: “Abbie Hoffman announced this morning (March 3) that he and other defendants in the Chicago conspiracy trial will attempt to offset legal expenses by making their own feature film of the trial.

“Speaking on Alex Bennett’s WMCA radio show, Hoffman said the film will be called ‘The Seditious Movie’ (‘because we’re not allowed to make seditious speeches’). It will star all seven defendants, their lawyers, and a number of ‘sympathetic’ celebrities including Dustin Hoffman (no relation), he said.

“The Yippie leader revealed that he sent a telegram to Judge Julius Hoffman (also no relation) yesterday afternoon offering the judge $100,000 to play himself in the film. The prosecutor and assistant prosecutor have also been offered money to appear.

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“The picture will be directed by Nick Ray (‘Rebel Without a Cause’), Hoffman (Abbie, that is), and Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman said. It will be filmed this spring in New York on a studio set that will be an exact replica of the Chicago courtroom where the trial took place.”

The implications of such a press release strain the resources of the most speculative mind. The idea of re-enacting a judicial spectacle full of violent outbursts, poisonous prejudices, and the most lurid lapses of decorum would seem to be consistent with Abbie Hoffman’s strategy of making political realities seems as grotesquely contrived and as predictably theatrical as a Punch-and-Judy show. And who is to say that he is ill-advised to treat his predicament with such levity? Sacco and Vanzetti were much more lovable than Abbie Hoffman, but they were judicially crucified just the same. The fact is that Abbie Hoffman and his co-defendants should never have been brought to trial at all on such flimsy evidence and on such nebulous charges. And that they should be denied bail as dangerous criminals at a time when the alleged murderers of the Mississippi civil rights workers were roaming around on their own recognizance indicates the rampant hypocrisy of the American judicial system. But what galls many otherwise sympathetic souls about Hoffman is that he seems determined to exploit every misfortune to the greater glory of his own showbiz personality. Dear Abbie just won’t behave like a professional victim with sad, mournful, hangdog expressions. There is no stoicism, no proletarian nobility, no heroic dignity in this clown of a thousand costumes. There will be no revolutionary songs about Abbie Hoffman, perhaps because Abbie knows enough about history to realize that the subjects of revolutionary songs seldom live long enough to sing them.

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There is a great deal of talk these days about the proper tactics for reform and revolution as if the unarmed and the outnumbered can ever prevail even with magical verbal potions from Havana or Hanoi. More likely, the white middle class radicals will indeed cash in their ideological images for the rich rewards of cultural one-upmanship while the blacks of all classes bear the full brunt of the backlash. It is hard to forget that Abbie Hoffman is at least partly responsible for making Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell, and Carswell such household words, and so long as Nixon is allowed to campaign against Abbie Hoffman, so long will the Great Silent Majority continue to swell into terrifyingly Hitlerian hordes. As I have said, Abbie Hoffman doesn’t belong in a courtroom or on the political stump. He is a creature of the theatre, the cinema, the media. He should not be tried by judges, but rather reviewed by the gentlemen of the Fourth Estate. And was it so long ago that Eugene McCarthy’s crusading children cut their hair before canvassing the New Hampshire voters? If anyone has found a better way to change conditions in America except by winning election then let that inspired innovator step forward and explain how. Somehow, I don’t see that the antics of Abbie Hoffman are improving things, but I am talking as a citizen rather than as a critic. As a critic, I am sorry that Abbie Hoffman was unable to get Groucho Marx for the role of Judge Hoffman. With Nicholas Ray at the helm, and Groucho Marx in his judge’s robes, “The Seditious Seven” might well have emerged as a mordant version of “Duck Soup.” But as for changing people’s minds and souls with a movie, forget it! Reliable observers tell me that Southern audiences give the murderous rednecks in “Easy Rider” standing ovations for blowing up the noncomformist bikers. ❖

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1970 Village Voice article by Andrew Sarris about a possible Chicago 7 movie

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The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Conspiracy in Jail

The Press of Freedom: Transcending of Differences

The long-distance operator finally reached the Conspiracy office the Saturday before last, several hours after the Appeals Court granted bail to the Chicago Seven. The caller asked for several of the defendants, none of whom was available. “I’m really sorry, operator,”  blurted the euphoric, thoroughly exhausted staff worker, “they’re all out getting laid.”

The nightmare, or at least its first phase, is over. Prosecutor Foran is making the rounds on the Northern Illinois Kiwanis circuit manfully describing the defendants as “fag revolutionaries” and loathsome subverters of American youth. Sprung from their five-by-eight metal cages, most of the defendants spent last week relaxing and making plans to move the Conspiracy office to New York.

Last Wednesday, Dave Dellinger, who has been advocating the abolition of prisons for 30 years, talked with a few of us about his unexpectedly brief residence in the Cook County Jail, which he described as “from a racial point of view, one of the most ideal societies I’ve ever been in.”

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The defendants weren’t prepared for the instant heroism and generosity accorded them by the inmates, who had exultantly followed the trial on television. (Even the prison guards had soft moments: one wordlessly pocketed Dellinger’s stash of Cuban cigars during the daily 3 a.m. strip-and-search routine and returned them later; another knowingly overlooked Dellinger’s copy of the New Left Review, a British Marxist monthly, while other reading matter was confiscated.)

“The inmates really know what it means to run up against a legal system which is stacked against you,” Dellinger said. “A lot of them are there because they couldn’t make bail. The fact that we had stood up to the greased machine was something new to them.”

Dellinger had the good fortune to reside in a cage that was out of the direct glare of the bulb that stays on day and night. He shared it with a veteran safecracker with a very creative passion for new hustles. “The guy was actually very friendly. We took turns sleeping except that when it was my turn he would try to convince me of his plan. ‘Dills,’ he would say, ‘you’re big now, really big. With your name and my experience we could start an organization and get eight million people to pay $4 dues a year — say a buck every three months. That’s 32 million bucks a year — 32 million, Dills, whaddya say?’ I rolled over and asked him what the hell the organization would do. He told me to leave that to him. When I finally convinced him I wasn’t interested, he sort of groaned, ‘Dills, the trouble with you is that you’re an idealist.’ ” Dellinger laughed, “I tried to explain that if I wasn’t an idealist, I probably wouldn’t be in a position to consider the proposition in the first place.”

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“The best time in jail was Conspiracy Day when 7000 people gathered outside the jail to support us. We could hear the helicopters whirling overhead. One guy at the end of the cell row had a partial view of the crowd and passed along what he saw. It was a human information chain as it went from cell to cell. The inmates shouted and joked about how the Conspiracy kids were going to blast a hole in the jail and how everybody better hurry and get packed.”

I asked Dave to discuss the disagreement he had with Tom Hayden over whether it was worth speaking out in court, thereby risking contempt citations and jail terms. Generally, Dellinger thought it was and Hayden thought it wasn’t.

“Before the trial we all agreed to wage a ‘positive defense.’ I wanted a few of us to conduct our own defense but was strongly over-ruled on that. We did agree that we wanted to present testimony that would leave the jury with a sense of what we are about as total human beings. There was no way they could judge us fairly unless they heard and saw what we believe and what leadership meant to us. But the actual courtroom resistance didn’t come out of the pre-trial discussions. It developed organically and without much prior consideration. It became a real issue when Bobby Seale was bound and gagged. During the recess following the shackling, I argued that we shouldn’t go back to court willingly. If they wanted to drag us in, okay, but as long as they held Bobby, we couldn’t acquiesce in the business-as-usual routine of the court. Tom thought we had to learn like the Vietnamese to feel no pain, that our real job was to organize people outside and that symbolic acts of non-compliance with the court could only impede our larger purpose. My response was that unless we resisted each step which moved us further along toward a fascist state, we would end up in a hopelessly defensive position. But I also thought that showing solidarity with Bobby at that point was a form of organizing.

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“We were split on the issue of what to do and finally agreed that we would go back to the court for the afternoon session and then discuss it with Bobby that evening. Bobby insisted that we continue the trial, that one person locked up was enough.”

When I heard of the Dellinger-Hayden argument, having worked fairly closely with both of them, I thought, oh boy, are they ever in character. A certain caricature has developed depicting Hayden as a kind of revolutionary Bobby Kennedy, disdaining warmth and spontaneity and caring about nothing so much as raw power. I think this is an awful distortion of Tom and I don’t want to reinforce it. What is true, I believe, is that Hayden is usually thinking five, 10, even 50 years ahead and wants to be able to share his acute sense of what it will take to make a revolution in this country. He is, or at least used to be, terribly worried that personal indulgences would deflect the movement into fruitless culs-de-sac.

There is, in fact, a lot of Hayden in Dellinger. For more than 30 years, Dellinger has been a utopian, rejecting, where necessary, historical models as a guide for what is possible in human arrangements, and eliciting, throughout the ’40s and ’50s, patronizing contempt from left sectarians and realpolitik liberals for advocating such naive causes as unilateral disarmament, abolition of prisons, sexual freedom, and the like. Like Hayden, though, Dellinger has never succumbed to the precious irrelevance of the moralists, violent and non-violent, who kind of assume that maybe things will change when the rest of us are illuminated by their sanctity.

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There is a tension in both men which stems from, on one hand, an aching awareness of the destructiveness of the American system (not simply destructive to blacks and Vietnamese but to all of us) and, on the other, a fearful recognition of the force needed to undo that malevolence. It requires a prodigious balancing act of consciousness to keep a hold on both perceptions. (Try it. Most of us find it less demanding to fix one or the other or to ignore them both.) Dellinger, I suppose, represents the tradition more sensitive to the problem and Hayden to the solution, which may account for their different views on the matter of comportment in Judge Hoffman’s court. But Chicago was a crucible into which eight movement “leaders” were tossed. What emerged, says Dellinger, was not cleavage but a coming together, an incredible trust and love which transcended the real differences which distinguish Abbie Hoffman from Rennie Davis from Bill Kunstler. Six months ago, Dellinger said, it couldn’t have happened. ❖

1970 Village Voice article about the Chicago Seven Trial

1970 Village Voice article about the Chicago Seven Trial

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FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Expectation of Rising Revolutions

Report From Chicago

CHICAGO — In the gym of a seminary on the North Side, an ex-marine is showing a Baltimore Weatherman how to ram a heavy pole into a cop’s gut. There’s a Vietcong flag on the pole. The floor is littered with helmets, fatigue jackets, gas masks, goggles, canteens, gauze, and gloves. Most of the Weathermen are sitting tensely on the floor. A few practice karate kicks. No one enters the building without emptying pockets and being frisked.

At another church, only a few blocks away, the RYM II (Revolutionary Youth Movement) coalition of SDS is busy assembling its members as they trickle in from out of state, regis­tering bail contacts on neat index cards, and frisking everyone at the door. Groups are organizing to leaflet the area’s black and brown communities. Someone announces an hour when tetanus shots will be given. Someone else wants to know how many Weathermen have arrived in Chicago. The mood is more relaxed, the church friendlier.

Chicago itself is uneasy. The heated clashes between blacks and whites in the construction industry have just cooled. The statue of a policeman in Haymarket Square was blown apart Monday. Tilden High, on the South Side, is on the brink of racial war. Policemen have shot one Puerto Rican, and two days later, will kill his brother, starting a major gun battle in which eight cops will be shot. The minister of the church housing the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican gang turned political, has just been killed. The Panther office has been invaded, several Panthers arrested, one ending up in critical condition in the hospital. The SDS National Office has been raided, Weathermen jailed and beaten, several severely. And the SDS National Action is about to begin three days in Chicago.

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Wednesday night. The gathering is in Lincoln Park, scene of last year’s convention violence. Several hundred pick their way through the dark toward the giant bonfire in the park’s center. The light off a Weatherman’s helmet, the occasional flash from a camera, the static buzz from newsmen’s walkie talkies. More bodies begin to fill the gloom. There are no uniformed cops in the park. A large banner pictures a coiled snake with the inscription “Don’t Tread On Me,” symbol of Rising Up Angry, the new paper of a white revolutionary gang in Chicago. A tall figure in burlap robes with a staff and a yoke is going through an Old Testament-cum-revolution rap to cries of “Off the Prophet!” (The next day, 50 of the same will line the streets of the Loop, Chicago’s downtown, providing cute six o’clock news copy, and then disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.)

The rally starts at eight o’clock. There are intermittent speeches and chants. By ten o’clock the crowd has grown to four or five hundred. Tom Hayden appears out of the dark and takes the bullhorn. “It’s a lie that we oppose this Weatherman demonstration. It’s good to see people coming back to Chicago, back to Lincoln Park. We welcome any intensification of the struggle.” While about half of the Conspiracy Eight endorse the Weathermen, there is only tepid official sanction, due to Panther opposition. Jeff Jones, inter-organizational secretary of SDS, announces himself as Mario Delgado — pseudonym of the Weather Bureau — to knowing tit­ters. As he speaks, there is a shift in the crowd, and the helmets begin lining up. There has been no announcement of a march, but within minutes the Weather­men are pouring out of the park, heading south toward Chicago’s plush Gold Coast and, hopefully, the Drake Hotel, residence of Judge Julius J. Hoffman. Most of the crowd trails along behind as the phalanx of 300 helmeted Weathermen begins running toward the string of luxury high-risers. Stones and bricks are picked up at construction sites along the way. Already some bottles are being dropped from windows. The crowd quickens. Now plate glass windows are, being smashed by rocks. Heavy poles shatter car windows and windshields. As the squad cars scream up and police race to head off the Weathermen, the mob suddenly swings east toward Lake Shore Drive. There are clouds of tear gas and scattered gunshots. The Weathermen have split in two. Those by Lake Shore Drive are met by car after car packed with cops, many unmarked. Shattered glass fills the street. In front of 1212 Lake Shore Drive, a pile of injured Weathermen is lying face down in the dirt with groups of cops glaring over them. One cop is holding up a piece of concrete, one foot on the back of his victim. “The motherfucker tried to hit me with this!” A team or five medics from the Medical Commission for Human Rights tries to get through to the wounded, but is charged by two policemen with clubs and quickly retreats. (Weathermen announced that unless MCHR carried rocks in their bags, they didn’t want help. Another medic, his face painted in gaudy dayglo, is soon hustled off into a van for carrying boric acid.

Fifty-eight are eventually busted. Several Weathermen are gunshot victims, one is in critical condition with a bullet in the neck. Some 30 store windows are smashed — banks, restaurants, drug stores, shops. No one reaches through the splintered glass to loot. The area is inundated with police. A Rolls Royce sits in front of one of the plusher high-risers, ringed by a crowd of incredulous onlookers. Three of its windows are smashed. A block away, a scarlet Lamborghini goes untouched. Several injured cops are hustled into cars. The com­ments of bystanders are not friendly: “I’m getting out my goddamn rifle.” “They shouldn’t put them in jail; they should be killed.” “They ought to shoot every one of the bastards!” “It’s commie backed.”

The next day Mayor Daley will call up 2500 National Guardsmen.

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Thursday. The Weathermen’s Women Militia is scheduled to “tear apart” a major induction center in downtown Chicago. The women assemble in Grant Park below the Logan statue, across from last year’s site of the Battle of Michigan Avenue. There are a cluster of 50 or 60 women, army-dressed, helmeted, many with clubs. Ringed by newsmen and photographers, they sing and chant “We love our Uncle Ho Chi Minh, deep down in our hearts. We love our chairman Mao Tse Tung, deep down in our hearts …” And cry out “Oink, Oink. Bang, bang! Dead pig!”

The leadership of the group is late in arriving. When it does, the number of newsmen has swelled and cars of cops line Michigan Ave­nue. Her face shielded by raised hands, Bernardine Dohrn speaks from the center of the cluster: “For the first time in history women are getting themselves together. We’re not picketing in front of bra factor­ies. A few buckshot wounds mean we’re doing the right thing. This is not a self-indulgent bullshit women’s movement. We refuse to be good Germans. We live behind enemy lines.”

After a quick huddle, the group opens up, lines up, and heads briskly down along the length of the park chanting “the only direction is insurrection; the only solution is revolution.” Police race to cut them off at the road. When the women reach the sidewalk, there is a double row of 20 cops. The front women try to break through, are stopped, wrestled to the ground, and thrown into nearby police vans, yelling “Power to the People!” One girl, her face squashed into the concrete by a cop’s foot, is screaming “Off the Pig!” The women regroup, but more police have arrived now, and set up a surrounding horseshoe of cops, keeping newsmen out. The women are outnumbered, out­maneuvered, and outmuscled. As they lose their momentum, several begin weeping. The cop in charge is ordering the women to drop their gloves and clubs and take off their helmets. If they don’t they’ll all be arrested. Eventually the women agree, and the police escort the women three blocks to the subway where they are ushered underground, shaken and torn by the outcome of their action.

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

An hour later, the RYM II forces, making their first open appearance, are rallying at the Federal Building where the Conspiracy Trial is going on. RYM II is supported by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords and is attracting a comfortable coalition of movement groups. There is none of the tension that the Weathermen elicit. It is lunch hour, Abbie Hoffman is down from the 23rd floor, spotting cameras, greeting friends, running his monologue. “Hey, Dick Tracy, did you get the money we sent you? … Let’s go see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid … We wanted to support the Weatherman action but there’s the Panther thing … I can’t go tomorrow — I’m Jewish and I gotta go to church … ”

An army of newsmen and camera crews is on a rooftop across the street. Squads of cops surround the skyscraper tower. The building itself is impossible to get into — all four entrances are heavily guarded by federal marshals. Even the press is having a hard time getting into the courtroom, and defense attorney William Kunstler has just filed a motion charging that legitimate newsmen are being excluded in favor of certain friends of the judge. (The New York Times had just run a spread on society women turning up at the trial.)

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A Young Lord from New York addresses the milling crowd of 500. “Fascism is here. Look at the life and property the pigs protect. It ain’t my property and it ain’t my life. In Puerto Rico, students just blew up the ROTC building.” Wild cheers. “But we’re talking about revolutionary love. Revolutionary love says you gotta pick up the gun. We’re not racists or hate mongers or war mongers. But revolution is not a dinner party. We’re fighting for all of you in those glass offices.” Speeches by Mike Klonsky, RYM II coordinator, and Carl David­son, Guardian columnist. And then Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party: “We support RYM II only. We oppose the anarchistic, adventur­istic, chauvinistic, individualistic, masochistic, and Custeristic Weathermen. We don’t dig con­frontations that lead people into struggles they’re not ready for. We want government by the people, for the people, and of the people. Fuck this shit of government by the pigs for the pigs, and of the pigs. This town’s hungry, and we need a barbecue.”

The Weathermen meanwhile have reshuffled their schedule — it had been clearly laid out on two sides of a detailed information poster.

They have abandoned the “Wargasm” (a revolutionary youth culture celebration), have postponed their high school actions, and are now filtering into the Federal Plaza for what is rumored to be a rally to co-opt RYM II support. But security quickly alerts Hampton who is speaking. The rally is abruptly ended, and everyone is urged to show up at the International Harvester plant in an hour for a massive action in support of the workers. About 150 Weathermen are now left alone in the plaza under heavy police scrutiny. They huddle together for a while and then, slipping helmets under coats, move out as unobstrusively as possible. But as has been happening since Wednesday, several are picked off and busted, identified as part of the action the night before, by Chicago’s Red Squad (The “subversive” division of police intelligence).

The RYM II action at Harvester is an orderly, sedate rally of about 40, sandwiched between the massive Cook Country courthouse and jail and the sprawling Harvester plant. About 60 brown-shirted deputies line the steps of the courthouse and more than 100 blue-helmeted cops guard the fences and entrance of Harvest. There is the familiar spectrum of movement groups, hawking politics and papers, passing around hats for bail money. The movement’s banner­-maker YAWF (Youth Against War and Fascism), provides some satin splashes of color, a gaudy orange. The sound equipment has arrived and is working perfectly. There is the repeated invective against Weatherman, this time from an organizer within the plant: “They’re a bunch of fool-ass punks running around downtown breaking windows. We shut this plant down today without firing a single shot and cost the company a quarter of a million dollars.” (It was announced that enough workers had walked out of key production departments to shut down the plant for the day.) More workers rose and told of inhuman working condi­tions, an uptight company and working men sold out by the UAW.

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The Harvester Plant is going to be torn down and moved to the suburbs where it will be inaccessible to the many black and Puerto Ricans now working in the factory. Thirty-five hundred jobs will be lost. It is rumored that a jail will replace the plant. “So the worker’s got no job, he’s standing around, he’s busted, and he ends up living — in jail — where he used to work!” The rally ends with a singling of “We Shall Overcome” and “Solidarity Forever” “When we say the ‘union,’ we mean the union of working men, not the UAW.”

Thursday night. The Weathermen mysteriously call a 10:30 news conference at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel. Sensing a hot late news item, more than 60 newsmen push through the convention crowds and pile in the narrow Club Room amidst the usual tangle and clutter of mikes, cables, plugs, lights, tripods, meters, tape decks, and cameras. There is the familiar news batter, traded with light readings, juvenile obscenities (“Stop goosing my ass!”), clowning with a helmet and gas mask, and what passes for fourth estate humor: “Call me a racist pig, Charlie.” “SD — what?,” “I wonder where our little friends are.” “Honky news collective over here.” and “Let’s get this show the road so I can eat dinner.”

Four Weathermen arrive, announce they will make a brief statement, and answer a couple of short questions. Half the newsmen start to walk out. Order is restored, and with two men standing behind them, the women give their names. One was shotgunned in the leg the night before and announces that a brother has just been shot. “Who?” click the questions, but she won’t elaborate for security reasons. Several cameras turn off and mikes are pulled out. There is a “no comment” on the Black Panther attack, and a short rap about Third World struggles from the other girl: “White people have lived off the labor of black and brown people for centuries. This is theft, and we are giving up the fruits and privileges of that labor.” She displays an NLF ring, recites “Determined to fight, determined to win” in Vietnamese, raises her fist along with the others, then the four quickly walk out past the angry and astonished newsmen

Friday. The Weatherman high school action is now cancelled. Too many people have been identified and arrested, high schools are reportedly under heavy police guard, and a long Weatherman meeting Thursday night began to challenge some of the tactics employed so far. Primarily, it is clear that not as many Weathermen have come to Chicago as expected (ditto for RYM II, who had predicted “more than 5000″), and that what was planned as demonstration actions are turning into highly vulnerable cadre actions. The Wednesday night attack has exposed the Weathermen to continued identification and arrest.

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The RYM II action for Friday is at Cook County Hospital where organizers have charged medical genocide, forced sterilization of blacks, and the use of the hospital by doctors as a cheap educational steppingstone into suburban practice. “We are sick and tired of medical moonshots, like heart transplants,” says one doctor at the rally. “We want health care that serves the people.” A Black Panther announces the opening of a free health clinic, and there is an elaborate skit depicting the “systematization” under Pig Daley of a sick welfare woman with 25 children, followed by some “radical surgery” at the Panther clinic. Awaking from the operation, the woman slowly sits up on the table. “How do you feel?” asks the Panther doctor. A huge grin spreads over her face as she slowly intones, “Ho … Ho … Ho Chi Minh!”

Again, RYM II draws about 500 people, a noisy buzzing police helicopter, hundreds of police around the street and hospital entrances, and no trouble. Some doctors join the rally, a few heckle, and many line the streets or hang out of hospital and residence windows. Organizing at Cook County has been strongest in the non-skilled job areas.

After the rally, RYM II calls a press conference at their move­ment center, a church on the North Side (in fact, all SDS groups spent the three days operating out of churches). The purpose, explains Klonsky, is to get a little press coverage of RYM’s work which is being ob­scured by a “handful of people running crazy in the streets.” Klonsky tries to keep together the idea of SDS as mass organization with some internal struggles, and repeatedly denounces the growing characterization of RYM II as non-violent and pacifist. A Young Lord adds another Weath­erman criticism: “Whoever heard of people breaking windows in a store and not taking anything?”

While RYM II meets openly and continues planning for the finale march and rally Saturday, the Weathermen are on the run. They have been temporarily thrown out of Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston when 150 Weathermen turn up instead of the expected 30. They are tossed out of another church when the pastor finds them in the basement beating a cop who has infiltrated the center. And as the Chicago rains pour down Friday night, flooding streets and cellars, there is frantic racing from center to center, from church to church, to head off an expected bust. It eventually comes at two o’clock in the morning at an Evanston church when 100 police break in on the Weathermen (mostly from New York) and arrest 43. Four warrants have been issued; two of those named are found in the church, the rest are arrested on charges of mob action and inciting to riot stemming out of Wednesday’s clash.

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Saturday. The final day of the national action. Everyone is both exhausted and primed for the final offensive. Both RYM II and Weatherman have marches and demonstrations scheduled. Both reportedly have parade permits. RYM II goes through black and brown communities, attracting several thousand marchers and a heavy police escort. The windows are filled with clenched fists. It ends with a somewhat listless, overlong rally in Humboldt Park demanding independence for Puerto Rico and withdrawal from Vietnam. Those in RYM II feel that the support has been impressive along the way.

The Weatherman action is uncertain. Nobody knows how many are left, how many are out of jail, or how many are in hospitals. Weathermen have been having trouble communicating, finding safe refuges and untapped phones. Those walking the streets have resorted to jackets and ties and straight dresses. In Chicago there is an uneasy sense that every third person is a cop. The march is slated to start from Haymarket Square where the statue’s pedestal reads “In the name of the State of Illinois, I command peace.”

As Weathermen begin to gather at the statue, plainclothesman — most disguised as longshoremen heavies — wade through the newsmen and pull out clubs. They haul off four Weathermen, among them Mark Rudd, who is making a rare public appearance. Despite the quick bust, the Weathermen group grows. Bands of 10 and 20 march into the square chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!” and join the larger group. There are speeches, Marxist-Leninist cries, raised fists, chanting, and then the Weathermen suddenly swing into the street. The cop escort is especially heavy, in front, in back, and along the line of march that sweeps through the Loop and the financial district. National Guardsmen are poised at all nearby armories. Two baby-blue sanitation sweepers swing menacingly behind the marchers, their brushes twirling, but are unable to keep up with the pace of the Weathermen. Unlike Wednesday night, there are few stragglers or observers. Newsmen are keeping to the sidewalk.

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Halfway down the route, the march suddenly breaks east through policelines. Bricks, clubs, and pipes are pulled out. Windows are smashed and chaos erupts as the column disintegrates into wild skirmishes with the police. Cops pour into the streets, grabbing everyone they can, pinning them to the ground or against cars until vans race up to cart off the arrested and injured. Several policemen appear badly beaten, the city’s corporation counsel lies motionless on the street, paralyzed from the neck down. Clumps of Weathermen dot the street and sidewalk with cops standing over them. The violence this time is brief. No guns are drawn. One hundred and three Weathermen are arrested.

It is difficult to assess the impact of the action. RYM II has not made much of a splash. Their numbers are not impressive for a much-publicized national action, despite grass-roots organizing with the Panthers and the Young Lords. Among those caught between RYM II and Weatherman, there is criticism of RYM’s political rhetoric, of a non-revolutionary appeal to workers, and of rather staid, uninspired actions and rallies. RYM has devoted a lot of energy to disassociating itself from Weatherman violence and confrontation and finds itself labeled as non-violent and pacifist. Suddenly, the Panthers and SDS (RYM) are the good guys, the friendly revolutionaries. They have been temporarily robbed of their bizazz, upstaged. On the other hand, they have incurred no liabilities, have not been busted, and have undoubtedly built up a stronger base of support than they had before the action.

With Weatherman, of course, the reverse is true. Close to 300 have been busted, some several times. Sympathies are low and bail money scarce. All are identified, labeled, photographed, catalogued. They have captured the headlines of Chicago papers for three days. They have demonstrated a street gang force that can march into the heart of Chicago and attack the police. They have provoked the calling out of 2500 National Guardsmen. They emanate an energy far in excess of their numbers. They aim to polarize and clearly succeed. At the moment, of course, returns are only in from the establishment poll, where there is extravagant hostility to the “roughneck fanatics.” At least in Chicago, there is a new sense of middle-class communion with the police. Police are praised and clucked over. Daniel J. Walker, architect of the report condemning the “police brutality” at the Democratic Convention, issues a statement applauding their behavior. Mayor Daley is smiling comfortably; his troops were restrained — at least in the publicity of the streets — and behaved as instructed. And even within the movement, there is an abundance of open hostility and despair at Weatherman politics and strategies.

Weatherman actions, however, are designed to turn on high school youths, white street gangs, working class kids. But it is unclear to what extent they have succeeded. Many Weathermen believe they are accomplishing just that. Many believe the Chicago action was a success. They have demonstrated the seriousness of their intention to physically smash the state.

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There is much internal criticism of tactics, however. The women’s action was clearly a bust. The high school actions were aborted. And there is a growing feeling that Weathermen cannot expose themselves as publicly as they did in Chicago, that the only alter­native now is to go underground.

The key to much of Weatherman politics appears in their conception of Third World struggles and the ideal of a world in revolution. They are out less to create a revolutionary movement in this country than to identify all “behind the line” white revolutionaries with anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. It is this perspective that encourages a certain insularity from more “people-serving” organizing. There is a religious intensity to the Weatherman turn-on, a de­sperate exorcism of all mid­dle-class hangups and privilege, and a lunging attempt to magically raise the level of revolutionary consciousness through exemplary actions.

The impact of the Weathermen in Chicago is still uncertain. All returns are not yet in. ❖

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

Categories
From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Ringmaster is Sitting on the Bench

CHICAGO — An impressive ragout of the Legal Left poured into Chicago Monday, caucused, picketed, caucused, and came away with a major victory: contempt charges against four defense attorneys were abruptly dropped by Judge Julius J. Hoffman in the Chicago “Conspiracy Eight” trial. “We have changed the entire complexion of the trial,” exulted Michael Kennedy, one of the lawyers cited by Hoffman for withdrawing from the trial by telegram instead of in person. “The judge collapsed completely. He painted himself into a corner. If they ever try to bust another attorney, in Pig City or anywhere else, we’ll be there.”

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Briefcase Power in the streets. At least on the sidewalk. One hundred fifty lawyers from all over the country — crying “foul” at Hoffman and the trial — picketing the Federal Courthouse. Motions filed, letters presented, and petitions signed demanding an end to “the travesties of justice” in Hoffman’s courtroom. Committees formed, to “stop the trial,” to impeach Judge Hoffman, to organize more actions. A half dozen press conferences. Confrontations with federal marshals. And a mini-drama with Chief Judge William J. Campbell, who descended robed from his skyscraper chambers with the court reporter, marshals, and a clerk to order the lawyers out of the glassed-in lobby. (Since all had signed an amicus curiae brief, condemning the proceedings, the lawyers claimed they had “official business” in the building and requested a larger courtroom to accommodate their numbers.)

Lawyers marching outside, sifting through the heavily guarded building, caucusing at the Pick-Congress Hotel while 74-year-old Judge Hoffman, looking like a dehydrated Elmer Fudd, lurched on through the trial in the small antiseptic courtroom on the 23rd floor of the federal building. And throughout the day, machine-gun indictments from lawyer after lawyer: “The trial is a farce,” “The trial is a charade,” “The trial is an outrage,” “The trial must be stopped.”

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Since the trial opened last Wednesday, lawyers and observers have been stunned by Hoffman, by his overt hostility to the defendants, by his rejection of routine defense motions, and by his denial of fundamental constitutional rights. Leonard Weinglass, one of the two trial attorneys, had been cited for  contempt for his opening statement. William Kunstler, the other lawyer, was sharply admonished for describing the judge’s reading of the indictment as “prejudiced.” And Hoffman had refused to postpone the trial on account of the illness of Charles Garry, a third attorney, now in the hospital recovering from a gall bladder operation. Bobby Seale, one of the eight defendants, then dismissed all his attorneys until he could be represented by Garry, the West Coast Panther lawyer.

The whopper, however, had yet to come. Four other lawyers, retained for pre-trial work and motions, withdrew from the case by telegram last week. Not good enough for Judge Hoffman. If they wanted to withdraw, they had to appear in person. (One is in New York, the other three in California.) So Hoffman charged them with contempt, ordered warrants issued, and when two appeared in Chicago — one voluntarily, the other in handcuffs — he ordered them held over the weekend, without bail, until sentencing Monday. For icing, he agreed to release the attorneys if the defendants waived their Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel objections. (Hoffman later denied he ever offered such a bargain.)

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It was too much — A shotgun mobilization was initiated by the National Lawyers Guild, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, calling for a massive descent on Chicago, for a crusade for the lawyers. And late Sunday they began arriving. From New York, more than 50 loaded onto an early morning flight. They came from Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington. And the demonstration turned out to   be vigorous, cheerful, and unprecedented. “We have achieved a major victory,” cried Gerald Lefcourt, one of the four attorneys, when charges were dropped. “Lawyers have come to Chicago from all over the country, and the judge has crumbled under this massive pressure.”

Not surprisingly, however, there was disagreement on the nature of the attack on the trial. ACLU members preferred to confine their complaints to civil libertarian issues. The more radical Lawyers Guild wanted some political mileage out of the trial, to use it to dramatize more generalized issues. The slogan “Stop the Trial” was adopted at an afternoon caucus, but with less than enthusiasm by the ACLUers. In addition, a return action was set for October 17, with the aim of broadening the base of support and shifting the focus from the protection of attorneys to the exposure of other legal-political repressions. Such a shift may jeopardize the involvement of the ACLU.

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The media has been loaded with criticism of the extra-court activism, the exotic support demonstrations — Yippies on Monday dispersed free apples — and the sartorial excesses of the defendants. But among the achievements of Monday’s gray-suited, attache-cased demonstration was one dramatic message, if there is a circus going on, the ringmaster is sitting on the bench. ❖

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Bobby Seale Case

Legal Left Says the Heat is On

ASHEVILLE, North Caroline — Paranoia? Not according to attorneys Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler. Not if you’ve read the headlines for the past week. “I don’t want to sound like a Cassandra,” said Kunstler, speaking at a recent conference for movement lawyers, “but I don’t have to. It’s no longer a guess. It’s here.”

Kinoy outlined a cluster of grim developments that had staggered him over a 24-hour period: refusal by the government to postpone the trial of the Chicago “Conspiracy Eight”; indictment of Bobby Seale on a first-degree murder charge — “the first time the chairman of a national political party faces the electric chair”; refusal by a referral district court to reduce the $100,000 bail of 17 defendants from the New York “Panther 21” by the counsel for the House of Representatives that it had no intention of following the virtually unanimous Supreme Court decision reinstating Adam Clayton Powell, and the district judge then issued no order, saying this country “suffers too much from government by judicial oligarchy”; and finally, withdrawal by the government of its Mississippi desegregation plan, which prompted the revolt or half the lawyers in the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

And Kinoy paused, stopped pacing, his hands gripped the table, and his voice dropped to a whisper: “What the hell is going on?”

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Kunstler, also of the Law Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, focused on Seale. Movement leaders no longer face minor penalties, misdemeanor charges, and a few worthy months in jail. Seale, said Kunstler, faces the very real likelihood of execution. “The fun has gone out of our practice. We now face a deadening responsibility.”

The government’s case is good. There is incontrovertible proof that Seale was in New Haven on May 19, the night Alex Rackley was allegedly tortured and beaten for informing on the “Panther 21”; Seale was speaking at Yale. Police say they have the murder weapon, a .45. Police say they have tapes of the kangaroo “trial” of Rackley. And police say they have telephone proof that Seale was in the New Haven house where the trial and torture took place. Finally, police now have George Sams’s affidavit, and George Sams’s affidavit is strong stuff.

According to Sams, Seale stopped by the Panther house and, when told of Rackley’s treachery, ordered him to be killed. Legally, that means murder one. There is no room for self-defense or non-premeditation. There is no room for a mitigating defense, no room for reduction to manslaughter, as with Huey Newton.

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Sams’s affidavit could be strengthened if corroborated by one or more of the Panthers in the New Haven house. There are six girls age 16 and under. Faced with the possibility of death for murder, it is not inconceivable that one or more might cop a plea, get 20 years, be out in seven — at the age of 23 — and testify that Seale did order the killing.

And finally, there is the sensationalism of the crime itself. Rackley was reportedly tortured with boiling water. He was brutally murdered and dumped in a swamp. Seale himself was melodramatically picked up on a federal fugitive warrant for “unlawful flight to avoid prosecution,” at night, in his car, and arrested by about 20 FBI agents, with shotguns.

“These are enormous odds,” said Kunstler. ”I don’t know how we can overcome them. We need a major miracle, and that can only be the breaking of George Sams’s story.”

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So far, little is known about Sams. He was expelled from the party for stabbing another Panther in the leg, but was returned at the request of Stokely Carmichael. The circumstances of his capture, indicated Kunstler, are extremely suspicious. All the Panthers indicted for the New Haven plot were picked up almost immediately. Only Sams remained mysteriously at large, months after the crime, prompting a series of raids of Panther headquarters across the country. Then, quite extraordinarily, Sams is found in Toronto, not the most likely refuge for a fugitive Panther.

This summer’s raids and persecutions of Panthers by the government may stack up as child’s play if Seale is convicted. No one knows how much of a scare this could put into the movement, and no one knows how much it might alienate the broader base of Panther support. But few at the conference disagreed with the importance of Kunstler’s call for a crusade to Connecticut.

The speeches by Kunstler and Kinoy marked the emotional watershed of the 10-day conference organized by the Southern Legal Action Movement (SLAM). About 160 movement lawyers and law students shared notes, conferred, debated, and partied in this picture-book retreat in the North Carolina Smokies, with ideologies from ACLU to SOS. The focus of the conference was the South, but topics of discussion included the military, poverty law, school strikes, narcotics, political repression, housing, and new life-styles for lawyers. ❖

1969 Village Voice article about Bobby Seale and Chicago 8 -Chicago 7 trial by Jonathan Black

1969 Village Voice article about Bobby Seale and Chicago 8 -Chicago 7 trial by Jonathan Black

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Indictment and Protest

Spring’s Awakening 

It’s been a busy week. Thursday the Federal Grand Jury indicted eight “non-leaders” of the Chicago demonstration for conspiracy to break the law and incite a riot. Friday Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and Dave Dellinger held a press conference at the Hotel Diplomat welcoming the indictment as “the academy award of protest” and asking others to “join the conspiracy.” Saturday there was a demonstration at Foley Square while the conspirators surrendered themselves to the authorities. Saturday evening another protest sponsored by Alternate U. and a group called the Crazies ran from the New York Times to Grand Central to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park and then back again. And then late Sunday night Abbie Hoffman’s office on East 5th Street was busted for narcotics and guns.

Spring had come. After months of being restricted to indoor sports everything seemed to burst out into the streets. There was a great deal of excitement and agitation leading nowhere in particular. The events seemed to follow each other in no particular sequence. One after another they would capture one’s attention and then disappear as rapidly as they had arisen, leaving the impression that they were somehow tenuously strung together and yet tracing no discernible pattern.

The indictment came as something of a surprise. After having anticipated it momentarily, waited for it patiently, feared it endlessly, and finally dismissed it entirely, Rubin claims that he was really shocked when it finally descended from the higher courts. “I was into something new and now they bring this whole thing back to us,” he complained. “Will Chicago never end?”

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The evening of their indictment, Rubin and Hoffman met uptown in the plush offices of their defense attorneys. Everyone hugged everyone else, talked about how this trial would go all the way, how they’d push it to the Supreme Court, how it might take six months of trial and years of appeals, but how this was what they’d been waiting for.

Most of the speculation centered around why Bobby Seale, (one of the last Black Panther leaders who isn’t in jail or in exile) had been included in the list of those indicted. One of the theories was that the New Left had friends in high places who wanted to see all its various factions unified. Others claimed that whoever had been the architect of the indictment was just plain stupid and clearly had no idea what the consequences of this cross-cultural, cross-racial, cross-political indictment would be.

The lawyers seemed more jubilant about the indictment than the indicted. Here was the test case every liberal constitutional lawyer in the country had been waiting for. The 1968 Civil Disorders Bill had been pushed through Congress by Southern reactionaries who were convinced that there was a combined black power-communist conspiracy to burn down the American cities. The bill was passed in order to stop H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael from running around the country preaching revolution. Now, for the first time, it had actually been applied, and would probably face the test of constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

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Later that evening, back at Hoffman’s apartment, the grim reality of it all began to come down hard. At first, when his mother-in-law called to ask about the indictment, Hoffman said lightly, “It’s all right, it’s just in the line of work I do.” Then, sitting in front of a color television set, listening to various garbled accounts of the indictment by pink-faced newscasters, Hoffman chewed reflectively on a lamb chop and mentioned for the first time the possibility of jail. Abbie the clown was instantly replaced by a real person. Under the law he is eligible for a grand total of five years and a $10,000 fine.

Saturday morning I arrived at Foley Square in front of the courthouse where Rubin, Hoffman, and Dellinger were to surrender themselves. An impressive contingent of some 20 elite Black Panther troops were on hand to give evidence that the Panthers are not going to be quiet about Seale’s indictment. Standing in formation in the cold morning sun, their uniforms and discipline gave them a presence which the twice as numerous white protestors lacked.

Once the three indicted men disappeared into the courthouse, the Panthers moved up and faced off with the police who were jealously guarding the steps leading up to the halls of justice. Kafka must have been somewhere in the crowd. Each Panther stepped up nose to nose with a policeman, raised his crossed arms in front of him, and started chanting: “No more brothers in jail. Off the pigs.” Then they filed out.

Inside, Hoffman lit up a cigarette in front of the judge and was told to put it out.

Outside, Paul Krassner, editor of the Realist, complained bitterly about not having been included in the indictment.

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***

The demonstration Saturday evening in front of the New York Times came as comic relief when compared with the seriousness of the indictments. The police, however, did not take it as a joke and deployed such an arsenal of force in front of the truck loading platforms on 43rd Street that only an idiot would have made a move. The Tactical Patrol Force lined the barricades, paddy wagons were invitingly open at each end of the street, patrol cars were illegally parked all over Times Square, and there were more plainclothesmen than people.

The United States is probably the only place in the world where demonstrations have turned into a spectator sport. Sailors, prostitutes, newsmen, printers in four-cornered newspaper hats, passing motorists, theatre-goers, local bartenders, and the whole gang took time off to come out and watch the Crazies do their bit.

“What are they bitching about now,” a cross looking little old lady with a Macy’s shopping bag asked a plainclothesman.

“Are you in this demonstration or reporting on it?” a detective from the Red Squad questioned me as he examined my press card.

“What’s in the bag, kid?” a detective asked a long haired boy who was carrying a sign which read “The Saturday Load and the Sunday Bullshit.” The boy handed the officer the bag. Opening it he found to his eternal disappointment and minimal embarrassment that it was not a concealed weapon of infernal destruction but only a bologna sandwich.

“Move along, miss,” a young cop suggested politely to a beautiful blond girl who was standing on his corner watching the picket line. “I can’t,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him shyly. “l’m with them,” she continued, gesturing toward the demonstrators.

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Suddenly there was the very strong smell of puke at the Broadway end of 43rd Street. Apparently one of the stink bombs which the demonstrators had brought with them went off by mistake within their own ranks. It was not the only weapon which ran afoul that evening. Several plastic bags of yellow paint, intended for the windows of the trucks which were taking away the Sunday issue of the Times, fell on the ground and splattered several hapless demonstrators who stepped on them.

A pregnant woman who had been holding a toilet-paper-roll version of the New York Times was snatched out of the picket line and hustled away by detectives for no apparent reason. Attorneys who tried to accompany her were turned back. For a moment it looked as if something might happen. The demonstrators surged forward and the police pushed back, banging their clubs on the barricades in a manner which invoked no less than utter terror.

“Scotty Reston is a You Know What,” one poster teased, “All the News That’s Shit to Print,” someone else claimed, “The New York Times Disguises Bald Racism with a Liberal Toupee,” another whined.

But no one could really get it up for the Times. Everyone had their own little bitch, everyone read it with their own kind of skepticism, but the point was that the picketers knew in the back of their minds that after the demonstration was over they were going to slink off to their local newsstand and buy a copy of none other than the Sunday edition of the Times — the very one they hadn’t been able to stop from coming out. They would buy it Sunday and buy it again on Monday to see if their little display of annoyance had hit the Big Times.

By 9:30 p.m. things were beginning to peter out. The picket line was getting shorter and shorter between the rows of policemen and everyone was just about shouted hoarse. The general movement seemed to be toward Grand Central. There another group of Crazies promised to lay a wreath of flowers at the information booth where last year’s bloody riot had begun when someone had climbed up on top of the clock and ripped the hands off.

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At a meeting at the Crazies’ storefront in the East Village several days before, Hoffman had told the others who were planning the demonstration that he didn’t think it was a good idea to go back to Grand Central: “I was knocked unconscious there last year and I don’t plan to do it again. Let’s at least make it a different place next time. Once you’re inside the station the cops can block off all the entrances and you have to run the gauntlet in order to get out.”

“All I hear is fear, fear, fear,” a boy by the name of Danny who was sitting on the floor complained. “People are supposed to be afraid of us. Remember?” he reminded the others.

In the end it was decided that they would go ahead with the Grand Central demonstration in spite of its risks. As one bearded member of the group explained, the strategy of the Crazies is “to walk that thin line between getting your head bashed in and just managing to get away with it — that’s what it is to be a Crazy.”

But by the time the Crazies got to Grand Central on Saturday it was already effectively blocked off by the police who had locked most of the doors and asked for tickets at the few entrances they left open.

“Where’s your ticket, kid,” a policeman asked a Crazy who had decided to make a test of his constitutional right of free movement.

“I don’t have one, but if you let me go in I’ll buy one,” he promised.

“Uh uh, you got to have it with you.”

“But how can I have it if you won’t let me in to buy it?” he argued logically.

“Look kid, we don’t want your demonstration here.”

“I’m not going to demonstrate, I just want to go out to Long Island to visit my grandmother,” he lied.

“Try Penn Station,” the cop countered.

“Here we are at the Prague border, everyone take out their ticket, you can’t travel here without a passport, remember, you’re in Amerika,” the boy shouted at the other freaks who had been listening intently to the dialogue.

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According to Howard Smith, who arrived at Grand Central slightly later, the police were not the only ones who were guarding Grand Central against an invasion of crazies. A number of men wearing buttons which read “PFB” (Peter Factor Brigade?) were patrolling the area, promising demonstrators that if they got inside they’d be “only too happy to kick the shit out of you.”

“What does PFB stand for?” they were asked. “You’ll know when the time comes.”

“What time will that be?”

“When Lee gets ready to tell you.”

“All right, now I guess we have to ask who Lee is,” Krassner said.

The question remained unanswered. Lee will remain a mystery … “until the time comes.”

Meanwhile, outside, most of the demonstrators had grown tired of standing around and headed off uptown, some 150 to 200 strong, toward the park where they were scheduled to meet at midnight. Marching together up Madison Avenue they began to feel their strength and [the] disruptive possibilities of such a large mobile force. “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh,” they chanted over and over, as if the second verse (“The NLF is gonna win”) had been forgotten over the winter or had simply disappeared out of pessimism. A few marchers strayed out in the street dodging in and out of traffic, trash barrels were overturned, and then the police arrived. They drove alongside the march for several blocks and people began to think they were just giving them an escort uptown. No such luck. At 50th Street a gray car drove up onto the sidewalk, splitting the marchers in half. All four doors opened simultaneously and plainclothesmen poured out, grabbing whoever was nearest. Half the group was forced back downtown and the other half continued east. A few blocks later it happened again, only this time it became clear that there were police spotters in the ranks who pointed out the demonstrators they thought were ring leaders. Each time it was the same. The police would run toward the center of a group arresting one or two and leaving the rest to wander around wondering where the hell everyone else had gone to. By the time I arrived at the park I was with four other people.

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“This is all bullshit,” a boy next to me mumbled as we walked through the park toward the Sheep Meadow. “This isn’t a revolution, it isn’t even a decent demonstration. It’s an outing,” he explained as if he finally divined the truth, “a walking tour of New York City.”

“Maybe the revolutionary logic behind it all is to keep the troops physically fit,” I suggested, “like Mao leading everyone down to the river for a swim.”

“Yeah,” the boy agreed, “it could be listed in ‘100 Ways to Lose Weight,’ or whatever that bestseller is called.”

Sheep Meadow was a bummer. The cavalry had the high rocky ground to the south, plainclothesmen blocked off the east, scooter cops could be seen to the north, and patrol cars covered the west. “We’re surrounded,” someone observed in the dark.

“Let’s go home, the cops have made their point, they can have this place if they need it so desperately. The Viet Cong never try to hold a hopeless position when they’re out-gunned,” a dark-haired politico with a pointy goatee announced. “Go home, no one’s having any fun here anyways. This sure doesn’t look like any festival of life to me.”

After a huddle it was decided to take the young man’s advice. On the way out of the park, the wreath (which was supposed to have been planted in Grand Central) was placed in the hands of a lovely nude statue which stands in the plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel. Cheers went up and everybody got their thrill. Then we walked back down to Times Square again, where again the police insisted on intervening. A fairly large group then subwayed down to Sheridan Square and marched triumphantly over to St. Mark’s Place where they were greeted by those who had been too spaced out to make the trip. It had been a long walk and everyone was fagged out. No one except the most naive thought any of it had been worth it.

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***

The next night, Sunday night, Abbie Hoffman’s office on 5th Street — down the block from the police station — was raided and the police discovered a suitcase full of guns and blackjacks and a packet of heroin. It was all vaguely reminiscent of Rubin’s bust last year just before the Chicago convention when the police broke into his apartment, tore the posters off the walls, riffled his papers, and busted him for possession of pot.

While it’s still impossible to say whether the raid on Hoffman’s place was a frame-up or not (the young man who left the suitcase full of guns, for example, has mysteriously disappeared), we may never know for sure. However, Hoffman claims that “it is totally inconceivable that a person in my position would hide an arsenal of guns and dope a couple of houses away from a police station.”

To make matters even more mysterious, rumor has it that heroin was found planted in the Peace Eye Bookstore and at the Switchboard — both likely places for busts if there was to be a heavy crackdown on the Movement in the East Village. Nothing, however is revealed. ❖

Categories
THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Birth of a Conspiracy

Courtroom in Chicago

CHICAGO — Conspiracy. See conspire. To join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end. To act in harmony.

A conspiracy is what they throw at you when mere causality is not enough, or when the absurd becomes too painful to bear. The great explanation.

Conspiracy. Bear that word in mind. You’re going to have it shoved down your throat before the year is out.

Jerry Rubin is in Chicago because of the Conspiracy. He is charged, with Rennard (Rennie) Davis, and Bobby G. Seale, and John R. Froines, and Lee Weiner, and David T. Dellinger, and Thomas Hayden, and Abbot H. (Abbie) Hoffman, with crossing state lines to foment disorder or to otherwise violate the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end. To act in harmony.

“With my indictment,” he wrote in the underground press not long ago, “I join the list of outstanding world figures who have crossed state lines to create disturbance: the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the late Marilyn Monroe, rock bands, the President of the United States, and Joe Namath.”

Ever the Yippie. He wears a Jimmy Hoffa for President button over one nipple, a Jerry Rubin for Mayor over the other. On the plane to Chicago, he talks about Cincinnati (where he grew up, and where he plans to return for a visit in late April). He talks about television (both he and Hoffman own color sets and find the viewing experience essential — the watched watches). He expounds on why the assassinations must be viewed as positive events (they helped inch America toward a revolutionary context) and he speculates on the chance that he himself might some day be the object of someone’s insurrectionary ardor. He admits he is afraid of being killed, sometimes. I admit I am afraid to travel with him, sometimes.

In Chicago, we go to meet Bobby Seale’s plane. Three Panther bodyguards greet us in the lounge. The brother who is currently under indictment, charged with stealing 710 ice-cream bars, nods and whispers, “Power to yuh.” I lean forward and offer a bleached handshake.

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***

The lawyers meet their clients in a banquet hall on the fourth floor of a Y which stands in the shadow of the Conrad Hilton. From the window, you can see the hotel’s worn brick backside, and beyond that, Grant Park. You keep expecting to find a commemorative plaque along the walk, but the city fathers have done all they can to restore that strip of lake front to its former gentility. Freshly planted grass and newly sprouting flower beds face the hotel. The masquerade is reflected in the faces of pedestrians. They want very much to forget that the equestrian statue of General Logan, which guards the park, was ever aswarm with grimy, vulgar conspirators.

The attorneys sit around a long table, fortified with legal pads and iced tea. Even the veteran defenders seem like mavericks on this case. With good reason. To some on the left, the Chicago indictments represent the most brazen attempt since McCarthy to crush active dissent, and anything less than acquittal will signal the start of a massive governmental drive. Even those who are not about to read pogrom into the charges admit that a conviction would stunt the movement. “At the very least,” suggests one attorney, “it would have a chilling effect on those not really committed yet.”

This little scenario hangs over the proceedings as the defense begins to construct its case. It’s an awesome task, and the odds against aquittal seem formidable. Which could explain why the men sitting around that banquet table seemed so sober.

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***

Chicago’s Federal Building stands like a glass and steel truncheon. A skyscraper with style … polished gray stone lobby … the great seal embossed in black … the jails upstairs and outasight.

Ten marshals and 45 policemen keep the crowd outside the courtroom in order. I wait my turn, then file past the world’s spiffiest crewcut plainclothesman, who searches me for weapons and then lets me pass. The galleries are already filled with people — many black kids and a few unrepentant freaks.

“Take that hat off,” a marshal orders a brother in a purple beret.

The man points to a cop in uniform. “If he take his hat off, I take mine off.”

“Throw him out,” the marshal snarls, and the crowd begins to hoot.

The judge enters, Julius J. Hoffman, a balding, 74-year-old man who settles into his chair, casing out the surroundings. He stares hard at the press section, trying to fathom the presence of long hair. His eyes wash over the defendants, settling momentarily on Abbie Hoffman, who has come to court in a blue shirt with Chicago Police Department insignia affixed to the sleeve. Finally, he turns his attention to the attorneys, and even here, he is displeased to note the presence of facial hair around the earlobes.

“These men taking bread out of the mouths of our Chicago bar?”

William Kunstler, who defended Jerry Rubin at the recent HUAC hearings, stands and answers: “Your honor. It’s not bread. It’s only water.”

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And then the arraignments begin. This is a preliminary hearing, designed to set a date for trial. But there are crucial matters to be decided such as travel restrictions. The U.S. Attorney has requested that the defendants be confined to the district of Southern Illinois, and the defense intends to contest that motion, as an abridgement of free speech. The decision will serve as a fair indication of what the conspirators can expect from Judge Hoffman when their trial begins.

But now it is time to plead, and David Dellinger stands against the lectern. “Obviously not guilty,” he announces. “The guilty party has not yet been indicted.”

“Sir, you were asked to plead guilty or not guilty,” Judge Hoffman says. “There will be no speeches. How do you plead?”

“I said obviously not guilty.”

“Obviously has nothing to do with it,” the judge scowls, and then be instructs Dellinger’s lawyer to help his client out.

“Sir, he has pleaded.”

“No, he has not pleaded. There will be no speeches or embellishments.” Titters from the gallery. “If there is any further laughter or any other disturbance, I will have the courtroom cleared. Now, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” Dellinger mutters.

“Now that’s the way to do it.”

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The procession continues with Abbie Hoffman, who pleads not guilty in the softest voice I have ever heard him use in public. He has never been convicted in court. It’s a record he’s fiercely proud of. Now, charged with defacing the American flag by wearing a starred and striped shirt at HUAC, and charged with possessing guns and narcotics after a raid on an apartment registered in his name, he is not about to risk contempt of court.

Jerry Rubin grips the lectern and pleads with his fist raised. “Let the record show,” the judge intones, “that Mr. Rubin pleaded guilty with a fist raised in the air.”

“He pleaded not guilty, your honor,” Kunstler interrupts. “That was a Freudian slip.”

“I’m sorry, but that raised fist confused me. I didn’t know whether it was directed at me or not.”

“Sir, that is a symbol of defiance against certain things these defendants think is wrong.”

“Certainly they don’t think I’m wrong.”

Kunstler lets a quick sharp smile cross his lips. “I won’t even bother to answer that, sir.”

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***

It had been a small but energetic lunchtime rally. Four hundred people filled the courtyard of the Federal Building, and when the Conspiracy Eight (as they had already begun to call themselves) emerged from the arraignment, the shouts of “power to the people” managed to drown out the canned organ music which came from hidden speakers and was audible from blocks away.

First to speak was Bobby Seale, who denied that the Panthers were a racist organization, and buoyed his audience with the chant “Black power to black people; white power to white people.” Tom Hayden said the movement was expanding despite the indictments, and he offered as evidence a mutiny at Fort Carson, Colorado. He said 80 soldiers had gone over the wall with M-16s and ammunition, and had set up a camp somewhere in the Rockies. He said the Army knew about it, but was afraid of the publicity a confrontation might produce.

And Abbie called the hearing “the beginning of the spring offensive. We are joyful at this attempt to combine our forces,” he intoned, “and we thank these people for getting us together because these are the signs of a dying system and we shall dance on the graves of the empire.”

It was true. If the federal sweep had drained the movement of its jaunty brashness, it had solidified some unsteady alliances and created, in the eight men under indictment, a potential popular front for radical youth. The government itself had suggested, by its choice of conspirators, that the best defense lay in unity. And in the tradition of generational combat, the strongest response to a parental attack was to turn the oppressor’s weapons back on himself. Or as Jerry Rubin told the rally: “The only way to defend ourselves is offensively.”

So it looks as though the United States of America may actually succeed in creating a conspiracy in its midst.

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***

It had been a depressing morning and a grueling afternoon. They had to admit that Judge Hoffman had intimidated them. And it was true that the government had coerced the defense into negotiating, against its will, for the lifting of travel restrictions. Despite repeated appeals, the judge bhad refused to consider the defense motion on confinement, but he suggested rather broadly that the two sides work it out together. When the defense refused to engage in collective bargaining, the judge shelved the issue, and sustained a prosecution motion that the bonds for out-of-state defendants be transferred to Illinois. That seemed innocent enough, but when the actual transference was attempted, it became apparent that the law would require confinement anyway, as part of the process of re-establishing bond. With the futility of their resistance finally clear, the defense retired to the U. S. Attorney’s office, where it was agreed that the prosecution would drop its demand for travel restrictions if the defendants would keep the government informed of their whereabouts. This smacked of surrender, but the alternatives were exhausted, so the defense retired to a conference room to lick its wounds, when Tom Hayden and Gerald Lefcourt (an attorney) spotted a man with a transmitter outside the door. When they pursued him, a second man appeared and told him not to say anything. The prosecuting attorney identified the men — who were indeed FBI agents — and insisted that, while they had been relaying information on the defendants’ whereabouts, they carried no recording equipment.

But the incident set the mood for the rest of the day. By the time they left court, the charter members of the Conspiracy had achieved some measure of their own legitimacy. At least they knew when their trial would start (Judge Hoffman had set the date for September 24) and they knew what to expect from the court, the newspapers, and the government. And these were important discoveries, because a knowledge of your environment is the first step toward mastering it.

So they went off to have their picture taken in Grant Park, around the statue of General Logan. And as they got closer to the Hilton, each began to feel again something of the rush which was Chicago last August, and Jerry Rubin waved to the cars along Michigan Avenue, and Tom Hayden, in his new beard and his wrap-around shades with the purple lenses, looked at all the frowning faces on the pedestrians around him, and he hugged Abbie Hoffman and shouted: “It’s us. It’s us.” ❖