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?”

[related_posts post_id_1=”728037″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722721″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724399″ /]

***

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724577″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725724″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”715930″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”716515″ /]

“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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726362″ /]

***

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724444″ /]

***

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724420″ /]

***

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”724382″ /]

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”727556″ /]

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725117″ /]

***

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726362″ /]

***

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.” ❖

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

The Election-High Is a Bad Trip

The Press of Freedom: The Election-High Is a Bad Trip

Many of my friends expected to be in concentration camps by the end of summer. Some expected to be gunned down dramatically in the streets of Chicago in August while yippie-ing at the Death Convention. These visions lead to caution, and one some­times feels like he is living in Russia in the early part of the century.

There is a knock at the door. It could be the agent with our number up, and it could be a messenger bringing the news that Kennedy and McCarthy are going to fight it out for leader­ship of the anti-war movement! What a fuckedup country — we expected concentration camps and we got Bobby Kennedy.

I am more confident of our ability to survive concentration camps than I am of our ability to survive Bobby. Concentration camps capture our bodies tem­porarily but set our spirits screaming; Bobby injects a nerve gas into our veins, putting our body and spirit to sleep. The media overwhelm us with the reality of Bobby and Gene, and drug us into identification with THEIR thoughts, arguments, trips, crusades.

Elections in America are a mind-poison.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725060″ /]

The energy for a mass, people movement in which we begin to trust our own ideas and impulses, depend on our own strength, face the dilemma of making our own world … that energy is oozed out of us as we become voters, door-to-door vote sales­men, and spectators in the country’s greatest theatrical event: the elections.

Elections are authoritarian, the subjects elect their kings.

What’s wrong with America is that her total institutions overwhelm her people into impotence and isolation. We all live the dream of the celebrity-candidate. Yet only massive populist revo­lution can liberate the imprison­ed soul of the people of America. Revolution is not a result, but a process. In revolution man liberates himself and becomes free, creating and discovering his own identity.

Elections are modeled after the sports world. That’s why they are so mind-capturing. Candidates compete in contests which build up drama and suspense as The Day approaches. We are all baseball fans who vote for our team. The winner!  The loser! The front pages read like the sports pages. We the masses do not participate; we give consent; we argue; we root; we take sides; but we are little more than bystanders in a mass athletic spectacle and it’s called democracy.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726404″ /]

The twinkles in Bobby’s eye compete with the dark brows of McCarthy’s face compete with LBJ’s large nose competes with the uncompleted sexual act of JFK competes with Dick the Car Salesman competes with Johnny Carson competes with … is this what the Founding Fathers intended?

The most aware action toward the elections is (1) not to vote; (2) to vote for yourself, a na­tional “Vote for Me” campaign; (3) to vote for a close friend. The yippies may nominate a 300-pound pig for president. His pro­gram is garbage. After nomination we will eat him and be­come the candidate. The only answer to an absurd system is absurdity and laughter, followed by anger, and then absurdity and laughter. Anything else is playing by their rules, and their rules are oppressive and fixed­-in-advance.

I ran as a candidate for mayor of Berkeley last spring and fell almost unconsciously under the drug of the election-system. In order to answer the streetcorner question: “Are you serious?” — sort of a pre-condition for people listening to you — I had to concentrate on the commodity, soap-disguised-as-votes. I should have said I wasn’t serious. I should have used the election purely as a stage for farcical theatre. I should have dropped out of the race a week before the election and encouraged peo­ple to vote for themselves.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722241″ /]

The purpose of political life is to free the spirit and energy of man. Vietnam is a symptom of the American disease; the war is a symbol of violence and domination less dramatic. Vietnam is the mirror to understanding Detroit and South Africa. Our goal is to transform the quality of American life, the distribution of power, the content of the culture, the forms of decision-making, the top-heavy organization of institutions, and the tiny influence individuals have over their own lives.

Dealing with repression is far easier than dealing with tolera­tion and sweet bureaucracy. In reaction to the LBJ madness, America may be due for a national regeneration, a new FDR­-type period, the end of wild rule by guys like Hershey and Hoover, and the triumph of pub­lic relations-liberal parents-dol­lar-capitalism. This will mean a crisis for the repression-atrocity­-oriented movement. For whites the alternative is a national youth underground with new val­ues and life-styles — the pot ciga­rette its symbol — an under­ground exploding in creation but badly seeking definition.

In the end, however, reform will lead to revolution. America proposes to us, but she cannot  complete her promises. Reform creates hope, widens expectations, and then an inch demands a mile. JFK was a creator of the New Left. Bobby is going to invite us over for dinner and we are going to sleep with his wife, give his kids pot, and steal his money and send it to guerrillas at home and abroad. Today’s shaved nice McCarthy-RFK collegians will be tomorrow’s yippies.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724430″ /]

Categories
From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Blood in Chicago: Covering the Convention that Changed History

Lyndon Baines Johnson became president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Early on, LBJ told his aides that he wanted to expand on his predecessor’s policies for alleviating systemic poverty in the richest nation the world had ever known. His plans included Head Start, which supplied early education to poor children to give them a better chance to advance in society, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, which would provide healthcare to the elderly and to those who could not afford it. Johnson also wanted to combat racial discrimination in order to give every citizen equal opportunities in the marketplace. Some advised him against spending too much political capital on civil rights, but, having been a congressman and then senator since 1937, Johnson understood the levers of power. He replied, “What the hell’s the presidency for?”

Fighting against centuries of entrenched racism, LBJ accomplished much with his “Great Society” programs, but he was also spending vast resources on a war in Vietnam, a remnant of French colonialism that had mutated into a propagandistic conflict between capitalism and Communism. The loss of American lives in an increasingly savage war with murky moral underpinnings overshadowed Johnson’s slowly advancing progressive accomplishments. After almost five years as president, Johnson was too weary to fight the growing anti-war movement and so his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, who supported the administration’s war policies, ran for the presidency in 1968.

In the Voice pages from that time you can literally see the tension between the establishment’s status quo and young people who feel that social progress at home and peace abroad is taking too long. One ad in the paper exhorts students to come to the Democratic National Convention to demand change. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy — the charismatic preacher and the earnest politician who had both come out against the war — are fresh in their graves, the hopes of millions interred with them. Now, for those sick of the carnage of a geopolitical chess match, it is time to let the powers that be know that the death and destruction must stop. An ad from the August 1 issue reads:

THE CLASS OF ’68 CORDIALLY INVITES YOU
TO ITS COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES
CHICAGO – AUGUST 26 – 29

Two weeks later, the tone has changed from wry cajoling to righteous anger:

IF YOU WANT AN END TO THE WAR IN VIETNAM AND NOT ANOTHER ESCALATION

IF YOU WANT AN END TO THE OPPRESSION OF BLACK PEOPLE AND NOT CONTINUED RACISM

IF THE RULING DEMOCRATIC PARTY DOES NOT REPRESENT YOU

THEN YOU MUST BE IN CHICAGO, AUGUST 24 – 29.

YOU WILL NOT BE ALONE!

The eyes of the world will be on Chicago that week as the Democratic Party acts out its ritual of pretending to consult the people while escalating its aggression in Vietnam and continuing a policy of racism and poverty at home.

After that we get a bit of absurdist theater, as Chicago cops corral a pig let loose in Lincoln Park by the Youth International Party, more commonly known as the Yippies — the activists were running “Pigasus” for President. But another photo on the front page of the August 29, 1968, issue of the Voice conveys the grim business of practicing civil disobedience and self-defense tactics. An article by Paul Cowan and Voice stalwart Jack Newfield reports, “The boomlet for Teddy Kennedy turned out to be a fantasy of Bobby’s orphans.” They add that the liberals had been routed inside the convention center by the pro-war, pro–Hubert Humphrey forces, and the protesting kids had been repulsed on the streets by Mayor Richard Daley’s club-wielding police force. On the jump page the Voice writers explain that the cops arrested one of the protest leaders, Tom Hayden, on trumped-up charges. He’s released on bail, so they travel through back alleys to escape more officers and run into some prostitutes and their pimp, all wearing buttons for the anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy. Nick Von Hoffman, a Washington Post reporter, tells of witnessing the cops sadistically beating protestors: “You know that they don’t make arrests any more. They can’t be bothered with lawyers, courts, any of that stuff.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”563162″ /]

“Yeah, they just maim people and leave them hidden,” one of the convention delegates says.

Another politician, disgusted with what he’s seen, tells the assembled newsmen, “It’s up to you guys to keep reporting that stuff. There’s not much we can do any more — not the politicians, not even the kids. You have to keep telling the public what’s going on.”

By the September 5 issue, all the Voice reporters and photographer Fred McDarrah have filed their stories. A McDarrah photo of an armored troop carrier on the streets of Chicago is paired with images of the Soviet invasion of Prague that same week.

[related_posts post_id_1=”618075″ /]

On the inside pages reporter Steve Lerner tells a tale about men of the cloth joining the protest: “Having foreseen that they could only wage a symbolic war with ‘little caesar Daley,’ several enterprising clergymen brought with them an enormous wooden cross which they erected in the midst of the demonstrators under a street lamp.… During the half-hour interlude between the arrival of the clergy and the police attack, a fascinating debate over the relative merits of strict non-violence versus armed self-defense raged between the clergy and the militants. While the clergy was reminded that their members were ‘over 30, the opiate of the people, and totally irrelevant,’ the younger generation was warned that ‘by calling the police “pigs” and fighting with them you become as bad as they are.’ ” Then the police strike: “It happened all in an instant. The night which had been filled with darkness and whispers exploded in a fiery scream. Huge tear gas canisters came crashing through the branches, snapping them, and bursting in the center of the gathering. From where I lay, groveling in the grass, I could see ministers retreating with the cross, carrying it like a fallen comrade.”

Lerner’s story jumps to a spread with other reports of the assaults by the police, as well as four pages of McDarrah’s photos. If reporters are charged with providing “the first rough draft of history,” the ground-level, street-smart photojournalist McDarrah gave us some of the first contact sheets of the counterculture.

Along with McDarrah’s bare-knuckle images, Richard Goldstein’s eye-witness account — wittily headlined, “Theater of Fear: One on the Aisle” — analyzes the rationales and morals of civil protests: “If you want to experience the ecstasy of street-turmoil, you must first understand the reality of fear. Because no one could have come to Chicago without first fighting in his head the battle he would later fight in the streets.

“I made lists. Weeks before my first whiff of tear gas, I spent a night dissecting my motives and expectations, in two neat columns. On one side I wrote: adventure, good copy, and historical imperative. On the other: danger, loneliness, and cost.”

Cowan’s “Moderates, Militants Walk A Bloody Route Together” examines the radicalization of those who initially want to work within the system. Arrayed against an implacable power structure, they feel they have no choice: “After all, a Yippie or a member of the [anti-war] Mobilization is a civil rights worker or a McCarthy volunteer who has recently reached the far side of despair. He has grown his hair long, fastened a Viet Cong pin to his lapel, quit reading the Saturday Evening Post, and begun to underline editorials in the Guardian or the Berkeley Barb, he shouts ‘pig’ at a few policemen. Immediately Americans see him as the contemporary anti-Christ. But friends of Jerry Rubin’s say that the Yippie leader is still proud of the fact that he worked for Adlai Stevenson in 1956; Tom Hayden always sounds a little nostalgic when he recalls that he was present the night that John Kennedy announced his plans for the Peace Corps at the University of Michigan.”

Newfield had always considered the insult “pig” a “satisfying exaggeration. An example of in-group argot.” But after he saw the Chicago police indiscriminately beating demonstrators he changed his mind: “The Chicago police, with their thick heads, small eyes, and beery jowls, actually resemble pigs. And they surely behaved like animals in this city famous for its stockyards.” In “The Streets of Daleyland,” he reports on the wounded being brought back to the convention hotel: “Upstairs on the 15th floor, the girls who worked for Senator McCarthy were treating the bloody and the sick. They were ripping up Conrad Hilton’s bedsheets and using them as gauze and bandages. Jerome Grossman, a bureaucrat in the McCarthy campaign, asked them not to destroy hotel property, but nobody paid attention to him. A lot of the girls had bloodstains on their dresses, legs, and arms.”

And so it goes. Had Daley — an old-line political boss who could not stomach this young, vigorous generation with ideals that challenged his power base — restrained his police rather than letting them run amok, millions of voters across the country would not have been sickened and disillusioned by the bloodletting. And then maybe they might have found it in their hearts to vote for the flawed, but ultimately forward-looking Hubert Humphrey. Instead, Richard Nixon won a razor-thin victory, and his retrograde policies — and even more retrograde appointments of Supreme Court justices — haunt us to this day.

 

Categories
BOOKS ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES

Jerry Rubin’s Weird Road From Yippie to Yuppie

In early 1968, Abbie Hoffman said to Jerry Rubin, his partner in flamboyant protest, “I hate America enough to run the risk of getting killed.”

“No, no, no!” Rubin answered. “You don’t hate America the way that any black [person] you can point to does. America has been in large part good to you.”

That exchange helps explain both the duo’s effectiveness in ridiculing the federal government, the military, and the media, and the philosophical schism — part real, part an early manifestation of “fake news” — that later developed between these brothers in provocation. Hoffman was always eager for a fight or a joke; Rubin was always up for an enthusiastic debate.

In the copiously illustrated Did It! From Yippie to Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary, author Pat Thomas’s narrative ricochets like a pinball through Rubin’s collaborations, conspiracies, collisions, and friendships with many of the counterculture heavyweights of the 1960s — including the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, Bob Dylan, Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, and John and Yoko, to list just a few. Thomas chronicles seminal events from different viewpoints, assembled through multiple interviews with surviving associates as well as dives into Rubin’s personal archives of press clippings, datebooks, letters, canceled checks, and other ephemera.

Rubin’s father was a delivery driver for a bakery in Cincinnati; he won election to a leadership position in the Teamsters Union on the platform of reducing a six-day workweek to five. Years later, when Rubin (1938–1994) was at his height as a rabble-rousing freak, he would remember his father as “a real crusader, out there battling for the working man.” This work ethic rubbed off on Rubin, who landed a job covering sports for the Cincinnati Post shortly after he graduated from high school. In 1960 he was impressed by reports of students at UC Berkeley protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee’s witch hunts for so-called subversives. Years later, in his book Growing (Up) at 37, Rubin recalled that his goal became to leave his boring newspaper job and “go to Berkeley and help create events that would become radio headlines in between Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, headlines that would inspire other people like me locked up in the prison of no choice.” He finally made it to Berkeley in 1964, throwing himself into the burgeoning anti–Vietnam War movement; soon, he was organizing teach-ins against America’s increasingly brutal involvement in the conflict, and encouraging activists to lie on the railroad tracks to disrupt the movement of troop trains in Oakland. Equipped with an understanding of the power of the media learned from his earlier newspaper work, Rubin pointed out that if one of the more zealous protesters got run over by a locomotive, “it will be great publicity!” This particular scenario did not play out, but Rubin was proved right a few years later when protesters were gunned down by National Guardsmen at Kent State, turning more citizens against the war.

A young Jerry Rubin meets presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson on the campaign trail.

Rubin’s budding reputation as an anti-war provocateur got him subpoenaed by HUAC in 1966. Unintimidated, he rented a Revolutionary War costume and penned a barn-burning statement to read before the committee. His getup discombobulated Congress — they refused to let him testify, though he did manage to declaim, “I am wearing it because America is degrading its 1776 ideals.” The key question he had wanted to ask the committee was found near the end of his declaration: “With what madness does America equate destruction of Vietnam with freedom and victory?”

In the summer of 1967 Rubin found himself in New York City to speak at an anti-war rally. As author Thomas points out, “His rhetoric echoed a bit of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl-era poetry: ‘We are a dangerous country, a neurotic country possessing deadly power.’ ” There, he met Hoffman, who had already been working with civil rights activists in the South and honing his theatrical side with the Diggers, a San Francisco group engaged in political street theater and free community services. Rubin went along as Hoffman and some co-conspirators brought the New York Stock Exchange to a standstill by tossing dollar bills from the balcony and laughing as the traders pushed at one another to get at the money (though others booed and shook their fists at the agitators). Rubin and Hoffman quickly became friends, reveling in this guerrilla action that raised questions about the way American corporations were profiting from a savage and pointless war.

In the fall of ’67 the duo split for Washington, D.C., joining in the spectacle to exorcise the Pentagon by levitating it, with thousands of protesters chanting, “Out, demons, out.” As always, this street theater carried with it the serious intention of bringing more people into the protest, using absurdity to expose the risible lies about the threat the North Vietnamese communists posed to America. Next, Rubin and Hoffman (the Abbott and Costello of revolution) headed to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention, where they ran a pig for president under the Youth International Party (Yippie) banner. Mayor Richard Daley’s cops were not amused; they busted heads indiscriminately while newsmen, choking on teargas, recorded the grisly beatings as protesters chanted, “The whole world is watching!”

As the Sixties staggered into the Seventies, Rubin published his most famous book, Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution. He and his comrades endured trials and convictions, basically for disturbing the peace, and then appeals overturning those convictions. They celebrated the lowering of the voting age — those who were drafted into the war could now vote against it — then cheered the end of the draft, President Nixon’s fall, and, finally, the war’s end. But as the decade ground on, Rubin’s speaking engagements and book contracts dried up, and he needed to find a job. Because, as one old lefty pal pointed out, “radicals don’t have good pension plans.”

With his usual focused intensity, Rubin sent out hundreds of résumés, and eventually landed a job on Wall Street with the brief to investigate “new companies of the future, including those producing solar and other alternative-energy sources.” There were no end of folks calling the former stock-exchange prankster a “sellout,” but those who knew Rubin best saw his search for socially conscious companies as an extension of his earlier radicalism. By the 1980s he was organizing mass social-networking parties at Studio 54 (decades before Mark Zuckerberg dreamed up Facebook); photographs in the book show that there were more women and minorities trading business cards on the dancefloor than would ever be allowed onto the exclusive golf courses where the old boys’ network reigned. During this period, Rubin, clad in suit and tie, and Hoffman, still in tie-dye, would sometimes appear onstage together, debating the legacies of their glory days. Yuppies, those Young Urban Professionals of the Reagan era, were on the rise, and Hoffman groused, “You know, they cheer me, but they’re gonna do what Jerry says!” Although he wouldn’t admit it, Hoffman was following Jerry’s lead, too — making a killing in commodities trading.

A prescient booster of Apple computers, seeing them as another way to spread the progressive word, Rubin had moved into marketing health food, seeking — as Stella Resnick, an ex-girlfriend with whom he remained close, put it — a “connection between personal growth and social consciousness, between liberating the mind through therapy and having a healthy body and eating wholesome food.” By this time Rubin was living in L.A., and in the Nineties he began to think of a holistic approach to all he had learned from his years as an activist and a businessman. Resnick recalled, “One of Jerry’s last projects, begun just prior to his death — that of teaching inner-city kids to become entrepreneurs — might have united all the disparate personas of his life, if he had lived long enough.” Unfortunately, in 1994 Rubin was struck by a car as he was crossing Wilshire Boulevard. As Thomas writes near the end of his book, “Having been a New Yorker for most of his adult life, he exercised his God-given right to jaywalk — across eight lanes of L.A. traffic.”

In a 1970 essay, Rubin had summed up his conflicted love for the country he protested against: “I am a child of Amerika. If I’m ever sent to Death Row for my revolutionary ‘crimes,’ I’ll order as my last meal a hamburger, French fries, and a Coke. I dig big cities. I love to read the sports pages and gossip columns, listen to the radio and watch color TV. I dig department stores, huge supermarkets and airports…. I groove on Hollywood movies, even bad ones.” Only his diet would change when he grew up.

Now would be a good time for a Hollywood producer to see the wisdom of a big-budget Rubin biopic — we need it more than ever.

Did It! From Yippie to Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary
By Pat Thomas
Fantagraphics
272 pp.