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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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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. ❖

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The Grand Central Riot: Yippies Meet the Man

Inside A Yip-In

All the brass was watching. Chief Inspector Sanford Garelik, shielded by a cluster of Tactical Patrol Force heavies, leaned against the wall in the 42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Station, intently watching the churning sea of demonstrators. Sid Davidoff and Barry Gottehrer, Lindsay’s roving sensory apparatus, roamed around the terminal for hours. And a dozen privileged persons of some sort lined the balcony above the escalators leading to the Pan Am Building, observing the melee below like Romans digging the arena. 

All the brass were watching, and the cops were having a ball. “It was the most extraordinary display of unprovoked police brutality I’ve seen outside of Mississippi,” Alan Levine, staff counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at a press conference on Saturday. “The police reacted enthusiastically to the prospect of being un­leashed.” Levine reported seeing several people forced to run a gauntlet of club-wielding cops while trying to flee from what has been characterized as a “police riot.” Spitting invective through clenched teeth, cops hit women and kicked demonstrators who had fallen while trying to escape the flailing nightsticks. It was like a fire in a theater. 

It was a Yip-In. “Its a spring mating service celebrating the equinox,” read a Yippie handbill, “a back-scratching party, a roller­-skating rink, a theater, with you, performer and audience.” The Yip-In was held for Yippies to get acquainted, and to promote the Yippies’ “Festival of Life,” which will coincide with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this summer. 

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The promotion was as heavy as the planning was weak. The Yip-In was announced at a press conference at the Americana Hotel, and several thousand handbills were distributed urging Yippies to come to Grand Central Station at midnight on Friday. Why Grand Central Station? “It’s central, man,” said one Yippie. How many Yippies would come? Well, it was a good way to test the pull of the media. 

The media pulls, and a lot of people came. Most came by subway, coming up out of the bowels of the 42nd Street station to fill the mammoth terminal like a diverted river might fill a dry lake. Soon it was a sea of heads, and it was hard to move. Balloons bounced above the crowd, as an estimated 6,000 people were jammed together under the vaulted ceiling.

The crowd stirred and the balloons bounced for almost an hour, while the terminal continued to fill. Occasionally clusters of people took up chants, ranging from “Yippie!” to “Long Hot Summer!” to “Burn, Baby, Burn!” Shortly before one, kids began to climb to the roof of the information booth in the center of the terminal, where they began to lead the chants, and one militant climbed to the pinnacle of the information booth, striking a “Workers, Arise!” pose, his fist raised in the air, and unfurled a banner which read, vertically, “Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!” Two cherry bombs exploded, and the sound was greatly amplified in the huge room. Now the balconies were packed, and the cops were quivering in formation in the 42nd Street entrance. 

There are four clocks on top of the information booth, and as the roof became more crowded the temptation to rape time apparently became irresistible. First kids turned the hands around, and then the hands suddenly disappeared. 

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I was standing close to the cops when they started to clear the entrance, shoving people into the terminal or out in the street, where more cops were waiting in formation. I ran around the corner to the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance, and came to the balcony that overlooked the terminal in time to see a wedge of blue slice into the crowd, nightsticks swinging, until they came to the information booth, where they paused. The kids slid off the roof and the crowd recoiled. The police surrounded the information booth and, in seconds, now rein­forced, charged the crowd again, forcing the demonstrators back into the huge corridor which led to the subway. The crowd simply made a U-turn in a connecting corridor and flowed back into the terminal, and the cops went wild. 

Now another formation of cops charged toward the stairs where I was standing, and I made for the street again, rounded the corner, and returned to the 42nd Street entrance, which was now entirely filled with police. I pinned on my press credentials and began to move through the police line. My credentials were checked twice, and I was allowed to pass. At that point, I was stopped a third time by two uniformed cops. They looked at my credentials, cursed the Voice, grabbed my arms behind my back, and, joined by two others, rushed me back toward the street, deliberately ramming my head into the closed glass doors, which cracked with the impact. They dropped me in the street and disappeared. My face, and my press card, were covered with blood. I went to the hospital to get five stitches in my forehead. 

So I missed the climax of the Yip-In, but I can pass on various accounts of witnesses. The police, it seems, continued to charge the crowd at random, first charging, always swinging the nightsticks, then pulling back, then charging again. Sometimes several formations of police charged simultaneously in different directions. The exits were jammed and the crowd was in a panic, desperately trying to avoid the nightsticks. The police kept charging.

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During all this time, arrests were being made. Within two hours, 57 persons were arrested, on charges ranging from felonious assault and criminal mischief to resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. At least 20 persons were taken to hospitals for treatment. 

The arrest procedure followed a brutal pattern. Most of the people arrested were automatically beaten with nightsticks. (The cops didn’t seem to want anyone to walk out after having been arrested.) “If you protected yourself, you were resisting arrest,” a witness said. “If you didn’t, you were knocked out.” A youth was arrested near the escalator leading into the Pan Am Building, and was dragged across the terminal, screaming with pain, while police kicked him in the groin. He finally collapsed, and police grabbed him by the back of the belt, and carried him out to the waiting paddy wagons. 

At another point, Voice columnist Howard Smith relates, the police made a charge toward the west side of the terminal, and a soda bottle came flying out of the crowd, striking a cop. Five cops grabbed a kid — ­the wrong one, Smith said — and shoved him into the door of Track 32, where they began beating him with nightsticks. While the kid, later identified as Jon Moore, 17, screamed “I didn’t do it” and “It wasn’t me,” the crowd shouted “Sieg Heil!” Still the beating continued. Some other cops approached and tried to stop the beating, Smith said, and then a police captain approached and made the guise of breaking it up. Moore, who was now hunched over protecting his head and groin, looked up, and the captain grabbed his head and cracked it against the iron grating of the door, cursing “you son of a bitch.” The captain then turned away, brushing his hands, and Moore was taken out of the station. He was later charged with felonious assault. 

These incidents were not exceptional. Ronald Shea, 22, was shoved by police through a plate-glass door. He raised his hands to protect his face, and the broken glass severed every essential tendon and nerve in his left hand. In six months, doctors at Roosevelt Hospital say, he may regain partial use of his hand. Shea was not arrested. 

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Witnesses charged that several plainclothesmen, who had infiltrated the crowd before the police charged, were even more brutal than the uniformed cops when the swinging started. They add that the plainclothesmen, who wore no badges, refused to identify themselves when questioned by accredited newsmen. Several instances were reported when cops struck or intimidated people seen writing down badge numbers. Witnesses emphasize that no warning or order to disperse was given at any time before or after the police charged the demonstrators, although a public address system was presumably available in the station. Ed Sanders of the Fugs contends that the people would have responded to a warning. “People who come to Yippie demonstrations are very reasonable,” he said. “There was no reason to rush in and crunch.” 

After the police first charged, Abbie Hoffman, YIP leader, report­edly approached Barry Gottehrer, assistant to the mayor, and asked to use the terminal’s public address system. Gottehrer replied that he thought Hoffman was “an hour and a half late,” and refused. Hoffman then asked that the police be pulled out, and Gottehrer presumably refused again. 

After an hour and a half, the cops calmed down, and the remaining demonstrators were allowed to remain in the terminal. Others went to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, also staked out with police, where the organizers of the Yip-In had planned to meet to “yip up the sun.” By 4:15 A.M., Grand Central Station was empty. 

Saturday morning, the key leaders of the YIP, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, and Bob Fass, left New York to fly to Chicago for a conference regarding the planning of activities during the Democratic National Convention. Later that morning, the 57 people arrested were arraigned in court. Most of the people were represented by Legal Aid. YIP had made no arrangements for lawyers or bail.

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There was a lot of garbage and buck-passing flying around during the following days. Gottehrer, at a YIP press conference Sunday night, placed considerable emphasis on the crowd on top of the information booth, the cherry bombs, and the damage to the clocks. He refused to concede any misconduct on the part of the police. YIP spokesmen complained about a breakdown of communications, insisting that they had never considered the possibility or violence. On Monday, the scuttlebutt at City Hall included rumors that some of the demonstrators were carrying dynamite Friday night, and privately city officials alleged that the police received two bomb threats at Grand Central Station. Now the rumors have gone even further, with representatives of both sides darkly referring to “provocateurs” who incited the police to riot. 

As I see it, the central issue — besides the astonishing brutality of the police — was a failure in planning on the part of both YIP and the city that borders on gross incompetence and irresponsibility. Although YIP had been in contact with the mayor’s office before the demonstra­tion, the city gave no indication as to what their response would be. The city urged YIP to consult with the New York Central Railroad, which owns Grand Central Station, which YIP did not do. The demonstration was allowed to form without interference or objection and, an hour later, without warning, the police viciously attacked the crowd. There was little direction or coordination evident in the cops’ attack; they seemed to be improvising. YIP did not even bring a megaphone so that they could address their own people; in the situation that developed, the leaders found themselves impotent. The cardinal insanity was the selection of Grand Central Station for an enormously publici­zed demonstration of totally indeterminate size. The Yip-In was the fourth and by far the largest demonstration to be held at the terminal. The first three all ran into cops. It was a pointless con­frontation in a box canyon, and somehow it seemed to be a pro­phecy of Chicago. ❖

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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. ❖

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Chicago 1968: Moderates, Militants Walk a Bloody Route Together

Moderates, Militants Walk a Bloody Route Together
September 5, 1968

CHICAGO — Eighteenth Street and Michigan Avenue to the 15th floor of the Hilton Hotel — a lot of lives were changed along that bloody route on Thursday night.

The National Guard’s tear gas and Mace, the cops’ nightsticks, brought at least 2,000 convention delegates and Yippies, McCarthy supporters, and political radicals into a new community where, for a few hours, the word “brother” was a standard form of greet­ing, even between strangers. But the community dissolved quickly; it was based on love and hope, and those sentiments seemed like luxuries in Richard Daley’s Chi­cago. It was replaced by a shared sense that to survive in America a political dissenter, even a lib­eral, would have to be cool and courageous, willing to fight.

By Friday morning even some of the moderates who had joined the street demonstrations, men who have always been determined to work inside the American po­litical system, had begun to won­der whether the government that had been symbolized all week by tanks and barbed wire wasn’t really their temporary enemy.

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***

At intervals throughout the week the streets of Chicago had resembled a new sort of chapel, the religion they contained a last, desperate hope for America. It was a sentiment that spanned po­litical groupings, as true of many of the Yippies whom politicians called “anarchists and terrorists” as it was of the McCarthy volun­teers who were praised as idealistic young people, credits to their country.

After all, a Yippie or a mem­ber of the 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. Most members of the American left have become revolution­aries because they see no other alternative —  they still want to save the country, not to destroy it.

Even in the early part of con­vention week when the McCarthy volunteers were still running er­rands in the Hilton Hotel, con­vinced that their man might win, and the dissenting delegates were plotting to force an open conven­tion on the bosses of the Demo­cratic Party, the radicals’ demon­strations were sometimes illuminated by a passionate spirit that has to be called patriotic.

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For example, on Tuesday night the Yippies held a rally — an un-birthday party for Lyndon Johnson they called it, perhaps recall­ing the scene in Walt Disney’s “Alice In Wonderland” they had enjoyed so much as children­ — which Phil Ochs temporarily transformed into a revival meet­ing. He urged the demonstrators not to call the policemen “pigs” (“behave with dignity on the streets,” he said), and received more applause than the adults who assume that everyone who went to Chicago was an inveter­ate troublemaker would have imagined possible.

Then Ochs began to sing “The War Is Over.” When he reached the line “Even treason might be worth a try” his audience began to applaud and cheer more loudly than it had all night. Then he went on to the next line, “This country is too young to die,” and the applause transformed into stomping, rhythmic cheering. Most of the people Ochs sang to had never worried much about politics until the war in Vietnam began to interfere with their lives; they were the children of Nixon supporters or of lifetime Democrats who had found John Kennedy glamorous but a little too radical, people who acquired their values from Playboy maga­zine; products of the anti-com­munist ’50s who were washed into junior colleges and state universities on the tidal wave of wealth that the Eisenhower years released. Some of them were beaten over the head by police, disowned by their families, when they began to protest the war peacefully. That was not the sort of thing that was supposed to happen in the America they had read about in their high school civics courses.

But still they believed they could redeem their country, so they were transported by the single line from Ochs’ song.

At once, thousands of people were brought to their feet, hold­ing their fingers high in the air in the “V” sign that was the week’s dominant symbol. Ochs quit singing, backed away from the microphone, and stood on the stage strumming his guitar a little abstractedly. One man burned his draft card, then an­other, then a third; it was an epidemic of passion, the sort of glorious disease that burns out men’s minds and cleanses their souls; it must have swept over New England during the years of the Great Awakening, or Russia after the Revolution. Soon more than 10 draft cards waved in the air, flags of freedom, and the people who had ignited them were hoisted onto the shoulders of their friends. They had been washed in the blood of the lamb, born again into a better world.

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Ochs walked off the stage. There was nothing more that he could do. Many of the kids who had stampeded the Coliseum when Ochs sang, and fought the cops up and down Michigan Avenue throughout Wednesday night, were part of Thursday’s march that was stopped at 18th Street and Michi­gan Avenue. Only now they had been joined by delegates and Mc­Carthy’s supporters, people whom the public considered more respectable. And the presence of the moderates and the speech that McCarthy had given to his sup­porters in Grant Park that af­ternoon altered the behavior of the militants. People who had thrown rocks at police cars the night before now insisted that the line of march remain orderly and calm. Members of the Establish­ment had gone onto the streets to be with them; they would act with remembered courtesy to make their new allies feel at home.

It was impossible to believe that the march to Dick Gregory’s house, led by delegates and digni­taries who wanted to prove that dissenters could walk freely on Chicago’s streets, would be dis­persed by force. It bore a much greater resemblance to the res­pectable civil rights demonstra­tions of the early ’60s than it did to the angry rebellions that had taken place earlier in the week. Indeed, the groups which Mayor Daley had characterized as “an­archist” and “terrorist” played no role at all in organizing the protest. Paul Krassner had al­ready declared the Yippies dead, and Rennie Davis had disbanded the Mobilization. The walk to Gregory’s house was led by the sorts of people whom militants regard as sell-outs when they are not seeking their protection; con­vention delegates like Murray Kempton and Peter Weiss of New York, Tommy Frasner of Okla­homa; dignitaries like Harris Woffard, former aide to Presi­dent Kennedy, and the Reverend Richard Neuhaus. One felt cer­tain that Mayor Daley would sup­port the march for the same rea­son Lyndon Johnson had sup­ported the last big demonstration in Selma. The protestors would gain nothing tangible — except, perhaps, a free soda pop at Gre­gory’s house — and the Democratic Party would be able to use the march as proof that Chicago was, after all, an open city.

But conventional wisdom was wrong. Daley decided to mar­shal all the force necessary to stop the march at 18th Street and Michigan Avenue, the rim of the ghetto, even if his actions of­fended a few liberals. Perhaps he felt that with Bobby Kennedy dead and Eugene McCarthy de­feated the opinions of the liberals mattered about as little as the opinions of the Yippies.

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But if the National Guard massed its forces to stop the marchers, it also refused to arrest them quickly. The first demonstrators, starting with Gregory, were taken one by one, at min­ute-long intervals. At that rate it would take at least two days for everyone to get to jail.

It was like being at the end of a long grocery line late on a Fri­day afternoon: even more frust­rating than dull. Of course that was the Guard’s plan — either to bore people so thoroughly that they dispersed or to annoy them so intensely that they provoked an incident. And the military understood the movement’s psy­chology perfectly. Soon a black militant leader began to urge people to cross the streets now, hurrying their arrests. He was expressing the exact emotions of most marshals. He was also giv­ing the Guard a chance to attack the demonstrators as fiercely as the police had the night before.

As the first group of people crossed the street there were about 15 seconds of shoving; then some loud explosions as canister after canister of tear gas hit the ground. Suddenly one’s eyes be­gan to burn. It was impossible to move forward any longer. What had resembled the joyously suc­cessful Selma March just half an hour earlier now, suddenly, re­minded one of those herds of refugees one has seen so often in World War II movies: crying, moaning as they ran to escape an insane military force. And everyone who inhaled a lungful of tear gas, or whose skin got drenched with burning Mace, must have felt for a few minutes that he would die even before the jeeps with the barbed wire sweepers that were rumbling down the dark streets could reach him and crush him. After you swallow some of the new, more sophisti­cated gas the army uses you feel certain you will never again be able to breathe. You gag, you pray to God you can vomit: you are breathing in and out so rapidly that a cross country runner’s pant seems a long, luxurious sigh. Instead of escaping the army you want to crumple up in some alley and wait for the seizure to end. But that is terrifying, too, for now you are desperately worried about being run over.

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But most people recovered from the Mace and the gas very quickly. By the time the Guards released their second barrage the demonstrators had become quite cool. Few of the recognized lead­ers of the Mobilization or the Yippies were on the street — Tom Hayden was in disguise over by Grant Park, Jerry Rubin was in jail, Rennie Davis was recover­ing from a beating by the police­ — so the demonstrators developed their own decision-making ap­paratus on the spot. All sorts of people took command — veterans of violent demonstrations in Oak­land and San Francisco; kids who had been working for McCarthy all year, rank-and-file Yippies, returned Peace Corps volunteers, members of the press. They might debate their ideological differ­ences in left-wing magazines, or even on the speaker’s stand in front of Grant Park, but now, on the street, with the barbed wire constantly approaching, they formed a coalition of necessity.

The new leaders developed a strategy which everyone seemed glad to accept. “Make them chase us all the way down to the Hilton”; the proposal was relay­ed to all the demonstrators. “Make them throw their tear gas where the delegates can see them.” Then, as the third barrage of tear gas swept over them, the street army relied on the primitive form of communication that had kept it together all week, the chant. “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching.” They sustained the steady chorus as the jeeps mov­ed closer and closer to them.

Despite their wounds and their tears the demonstrators were no longer desperate refugees, but calm soldiers of a non-violent army. Shepherding the jeeps down Michigan Avenue toward the Hilton, one remembered the news clips of the Russian troops entering Prague. If the walk to Dick Gregory’s house had not been as successful as the Selma March it had not been a rout either. It had been a new sort of demonstration, a revelation of America’s present condition: a form of muckraking by deed that was relayed by the communica­tions media into the homes of 50 million people.

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***

“Part-time fascism,” one demonstrator called it. An hour earlier he had walked into some tear gas with his eyes partly open, and had actually lost his vision for several minutes. Now, back in Grant Park, he was describing the vacation he planned to take on Martha’s Vineyard. The annual bass fishing tournament is about to begin there. The air is a bit crisp, but the swimming is still splendid: this is a wonderful time to visit the island. As he was talking, the troops, with no visible provocation, released a fourth barrage of tear gas. “Those fucking monsters,” he cried out. “How can they keep doing that to us?”

But he didn’t flee — almost no one did. People remained in the­ back of the park for several min­utes. They began to edge for­ward when a speaker’s stand was erected and Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary began to sing. Soon thou­sands of people were sitting on the park grass which sprayed tear gas whenever anyone stepped on it too heavily, enjoying the free concert. It might have been a be-in at Central Park or the Newport Folk Festival, except for the rifles, jeeps, and barbed wire fences that separated the park from the street. Even after the master of ceremonies announced rumor that the troops had been ordered to load their guns — per­haps with blanks, perhaps with bullets — almost no one seemed to be afraid. Despite the repeated tear-gassings it seemed almost impossible for that group of Americans to believe there was a genuinely vicious spirit behind the military symbols. There might have been a little violence at 18th and Michigan, a little trouble the night before, but it couldn’t hap­pen again in Grant Park, so close to the protection of the Hilton Hotel, the delegates’ rooms, the candidates’ headquarters. “We are all together now,” Peter Yarrow said. “The soldiers will not dare pass our line of song.”

Peter and Mary were the per­fect symbols of the group that had retreated from 18th Street to Grant Park. There were more McCarthy volunteers, young pro­fessionals, delegates, and digni­taries than there were Yippies or political militants. And many of the radicals were still displaying their company manners in defer­ence to the members of the Es­tablishment who had joined them. There were not nearly as many taunts at the police and the sold­iers as one had heard the day before, and relatively few radical speeches.

The dominant mood of the group was almost prayerfully gentle, intensely conciliatory. Every time a light flashed from the Hilton Hotel, expressing a delegate’s solidarity with the demonstrators, the response was a prolonged burst of applause. Whenever a car passed by honk­ing its horn to show sympathy the crowd seemed almost as excited as it would have been if Eugene McCarthy had won the nomina­tion. The people gathered in Grant Park wanted desperately to remain a part of America, not to oppose it actively. Their slo­gan all night was “join us,” and the plea was issued to everyone; relinquish your place in the world that Lyndon Johnson, Richard Daley, and Hubert Humphrey re­present and join our community of love. Please. Together we can build a better, more generous America.

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The feeling was even more reli­gious than it had been in the Coliseum. The demonstrators kept singing “God Bless America,” “This Land Is My Land,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” waving the “V” symbols above their heads, asking the soldiers to join in. They never did, but if you walked down the line of troops you noticed that not a single man could look you in the eye. They seemed moved and confused.

When Phil Ochs got onto the speaker’s stand he almost trans­formed the rally in Grant Park into the same sort of prayer ses­sion he had inspired in the Coliseum. Facing the soldiers, not the protestors, he begged “one man among you to lay down your arms and come over to our side. The army is making you into Germans, into men who only obey orders. It is not treason I’m urg­ing, but real patriotism. I know you’ll have to go to the stockade for what you do but at least you’ll be a free man, free from the war machine. In the name of Robert Kennedy I ask: Isn’t there one soldier who is a real American, one man who is willing to come over to our side?”

When Ochs began to sing “I Ain’t Marchin’ Any More” the demonstrators chanted “join us” softly, as if it was a litany. “Call it peace or call it reason, call it love or call it treason, but I ain’t marchin’ any more,” Ochs sang. It was a prayer that a single soldier might be as inspired to make a decision of peace, to lay down his rifle as kids had burned their draft cards earlier in the week and join in song, and that way cause the entire military machine to begin its decay.

The hope was a chimera. Not a single soldier crossed over.

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***

Five hours after Ochs sang, a squadron of policemen took an elevator up to the 15th floor of the Hilton Hotel, raided a party that some McCarthy workers had organized, and beat the kids who had kept clean for Gene just as viciously as they had beaten the Yippies and radicals the night be­fore.

Their claim that beer cans and defecation had been dropped to the street below was clearly a pretext for violence: they dragged sleeping kids from rooms that were not even facing Michigan Avenue, and used their night sticks on them, too. The invasion seems to have been premeditated. Half an hour earlier all telephones to the 15th floor were disconnected, ac­cording to McCarthy workers, and now there was no way for the volunteers to call for aid.

Perhaps the raid was a symbol, perhaps it was a signal. With the last moderate candidate gone the police could close in even on the liberals who had maintained their belief in America’s’ poltical system.

The invasion of McCarthy’s headquarters seemed, in effect, a declaration of war directed at the people who had been begging the soldiers, the police, the dele­gates, and every other American who could hear them or see them to “join us” in an effort to change this country peacefully.

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Categories
From The Archives From The Archives Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Chicago 1968: Blood, Sweat, & Tears

A Visit to Chicago: Blood, Sweat, & Tears
September 5, 1968

CHICAGO — At half past midnight last Tuesday, the occupants of Lincoln Park were stormed by the Chicago police. It was not the first day, nor was it to be the last, that the Old City­ — the Lincoln Park area — had come under attack. During the previous two nights the Mayor’s ordinance to clear the park by 11 p.m. had been vigorously enforced with nightsticks and tear gas.

Around midnight on Tuesday, some 400 clergy, con­cerned local citizens, and other respectable gentry joined the Yippies, members of Students for a Democratic Society, and the National Mobilization Committee to fight for the privilege of remaining in the park. Sporting armbands decorated with a black cross and chanting pacifist hymns, the men of God exhorted their radical congregation to lay down their bricks and join in a non-violent vigil.

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. Three of them assumed heroic poses around the cross, more reminiscent of the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima than any Christ-like tableau they may have had in mind.

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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.” Although the conflict was never resolved, everyone more or less decided to do his own thing. By then the demonstrators, some 800 strong, began to feel the phalanx of police which encircled the park moving in, even the most militant forgot his quibbles with “the liberal-religious sell-out” and began to huddle together around the cross.

When the police announced that the demonstrators had five minutes to move out before the park was cleared, everyone went into his individual kind of panic. One boy sitting near me unwrapped a cheese sandwich and began to stuff it into his face with­out bothering to chew. A girl standing at the periphery of the circle who had been alone all evening walked up to a helmeted boy with a mustache and ground herself into him. People all over the park were shyly introducing themselves to each other as if they didn’t want to die alone: “My name is Mike Stevenson from Detroit; what got you into this?” I heard someone asking behind me. Others became in­creasingly involved in the details of survival: rubbing Vaseline on their face to keep the Mace from burning their skin, buttoning their jackets, wetting their handkerchief and tying it over their nose and mouth. “If it’s gas, remember, breathe through your mouth, don’t run, don’t pant, and for Christsake don’t rub your eyes,” someone thoughtfully an­nounced over the speaker. A boy in the center of the circle got up, stepped over his seated friends, and made his way to­ward the woods. “Don’t leave now,” several voices called in a panic. The boy explained in embarrassed tone that he was just going to take a leak.

Sitting in a cluster near the main circle, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Terry Southern were taking in the scene. Ginsberg was in his element. As during all moments of tension during the week, he was chanting OM in a hoarse whisper, occasionally punctuat­ing the ritual with a tinkle from his finger cymbals. Burroughs, wearing a felt hat, stared va­cantly at the cross, his thin lips twitching in a half smile. Genet, small, stocky, bald-headed, with the mug of a saintly convict, rubbed his nose on the sleeve of his leather jacket. I asked him if he was afraid. “No. I know what this is,” he replied. But doesn’t knowing make you more afraid, I asked. He shook his head and started to speak when the sky fell on us.

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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. Another volley shook me to my feet. Gas was everywhere. People were running, screaming, tearing, through the trees. Something hit the tree next to me, I was on the ground again, someone was pulling me to my feet, two boys were lifting a big branch off a girl who lay squirming hyster­ically. I couldn’t see. Someone grabbed onto me and asked me to lead them out of the park. We walked along, hands out­stretched, bumping into people and trees, tears streaming from our eyes and mucus smeared a­cross our face. I flashed First World War doughboys caught in no man’s land during a mustard gas attack. I couldn’t breathe. I felt sure I was going to die. I heard others choking around me. And then everything cleared.

Standing on the sidewalk at the edge of the park I looked back at a dozen little fires which lit up the woods, still fogged with gas. The police were advancing in a picket line, swatting at the stragglers and crumpled figures; huge trucks, usually used for cleaning the streets, swept to­ward us spraying more gas. Kids began ripping up the pavement and hurling snowball-size chunks at the truck windows. Then they flooded out into the streets, blocking traffic, fighting with plainclothesmen who awaited our exodus from the park, and bom­barding hapless patrol cars which sped through the crowds.

The ragged army split up into a series of mobs which roamed through the streets breaking win­dows, setting trash cans on fire, and demolishing at least a dozen patrol cars which happened to cruise down the wrong street at the wrong time. Smoke billowed from a house several blocks from me and the fire engines began arriving. A policeman ran from an angry brick-throwing mob, lost his cap, hesitated, and ran away without it. At the inter­section of Clark and Division, four cop cars arrived simultan­eously and policemen leapt out shooting in the air. From all four sides the demonstrators let them have it; most of the missiles were overthrown and hit their com­rades or store windows on the other side of the street. Diving down into the subway, I found a large group of refugees who had escaped the same way. The tunnel looked like a busy bomb shelter; upstairs the shooting continued.

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***

Everyone knew that Wednesday was going to be the big one. Rumors circulated among the police that a cop had been killed in Tuesday’s “white-riot.” The demonstrators had their own beef: not only had they been gassed and beaten, not only had one of their leaders, Tom Hayden, been arrested twice on tramped-up charges of inciting to riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and letting the air out of the tires of a police vehicle, but the police had also broken into their community centers up near Lincoln Park.

Finally, the demonstrators were also set on marching to the Amphitheatre where what they called the Convention of Death was going through the motions of nominating Hubert. Crossing the bridge from the park in front of the Hilton to the bandshell in the middle of Grant Park, dem­onstrators filed into their seats listening to the prophetic words of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing.” The police had already surrounded the park, the National Guard held all the bridges leading across the railroad tracks to Chicago’s downtown Loop area, and helicopters filled the skies like hungry mosquitoes.

The Mayor had been good enough to circulate the announcement telling the demonstrators that they were wel­come to stay at the bandshell all day and enjoy themselves, but that no march on the convention would be tolerated. His instructions, however, were apparently too subtle for his henchmen who saw the demonstrators as the enemy and couldn’t wrestle the idea of a truce into their image. Accordingly, when a demonstrator replaced the American flag with revolutionary red, the police became incensed at the unpatriotic slur and moved in to restore decency and the American way of life. (Jerry Rubin, accused of “soliciting to mob action” and out of jail on $25,000, says that one of the demonstrators who claims to have taken part in the lowering of the American flag was his personal bodyguard, assigned to him by the Mobilization. The same young man later turned out to be an under cover agent who had been keeping Rubin under surveillance.)

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In the police charge which was ostensibly aimed at lowering the red banner, the police went con­siderably out of their way to crack the skull of Rennie Davis, spokesman and leader of the Mobe, along with four or five others who had been sitting on their benches in the open air au­ditorium listening to anti-war speeches by Vietnam veterans and the ever present Phil Ochs. Medics scrambled over broken benches (later used as ammuni­tion against the police) in a display of greater enthusiasm than efficiency. Within minutes the program continued as if nothing extraordinary had occurred.

“The merchants of death are try­ing to make themselves present in the delivery room of our movement,” Carl Oglesby, once chairman of SDS, screamed over the microphones as the police withdrew to the periphery of the crowd. Hayden, furious at the indifference with which people learned that Davis was “stretch­ed out,” exhorted the People’s Army to break up into small groups and invade the streets of the Loop, “to do what they have to do.” Some of the hard heads followed him, but the vast ma­jority of the demonstrators stay­ed with Ginsberg who was or­ganizing a non-violent march to the Amphitheatre.

Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden, trailed by Hayden’s “bodyguard”

While Genet, Burroughs, and Southern chose to stay with the marchers, Norman Mailer pro­vided brief comic relief when he made his excuses, saying that he would not march because he was writing a long piece about the convention and demonstration, and that he couldn’t write it from jail. “But you’ll all know what I’m full of if I don’t show up on the next one,” Mailer said with his characteristic hurumph for emphasis after the last word in the key sentence. Mailer ended by comparing the Chicago demonstrators favorably with those he had written about at the Pen­tagon march last October.

Once outside the bandshell and onto the sidewalk of a highway which runs through the park, the marchers were immediately halted by a line of Guardsmen who blocked the route. Seeing a confrontation emerging, hundreds of newsmen rushed to the front of the line to be in on the action. Instead they formed a protective barrier between the troops and the demonstrators, a pattern which was to be repeated frequently during the next two days. After hours of frustrating negotia­tions which led nowhere, the demonstrators moved in a block toward one of the bridges which lead back to the Hilton. It too was barricaded with troops as were the next four bridges, where tear gas was used to keep the demonstrators from try­ing to break through.

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Most of us got across the fifth bridge and joined the mule-drawn covered wagons of the Poor People’s Campaign which were headed for the Hilton. Michigan Avenue, for the first time in anyone’s memory, clearly belonged to the people. There was a sense of victory and momentum as the mob of some 8,000 to 10,000 people converged on the Hilton. Everyone was still sneezing and spitting from the gas, but they felt high at having out-foxed the police who had clearly meant to isolate them in the park or split them up before they got to the Hilton.

A police line across Michigan Avenue on the doorstep of the hotel finally halted the march and people began to mill around, undecided on the best strategy.

Finally the police solved the problem by taking the initiative. To put it neatly, they decided to clear the street. In the pro­cess of allowing for the circula­tion of vehicular traffic they sent some 300 demonstrators to the hospital with split skulls and broken banes. When the charge came there was a stampede toward the sidelines. People piled into each other, humped over each other’s bodies like coupling dogs. To fall down in the crush was just as terrifying as facing the police. Suddenly I realized my feet weren’t touching the ground as the crowd pushed up onto the sidewalk. I was grabbing at the army jacket of the boy in front of me; the girl behind had a strangle-hold on my neck and was screaming incoherently in my ear.

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Across the street, the other half of the crowd was being squashed against the walls of the Hilton. The pressure was so great that a plate glass window shattered. Terrified demon­strators were pulled through the window by a Life correspon­dent and a sympathetic waitress who gave them instructions as to where they could hide. Within minutes police piled into the hotel to protect the clientele by beating the protesters senseless in the plush conidors of the Hilton.

Outside, demonstrators were being peeled off the wall one at a time, sprayed with mace, beaten, and occasionally arrested. More forays by the police into the park across from the hotel sent people headlong into trees. During one of these maneuvers I watched a medic throw himself over the bloody head of a demonstrator — like a GI clutching a live grenade to his gut. When I saw him emerge from the fracas, the medic’s head was in a worse state than the patient’s.

By 10 p.m. the National Guard had pinned one group in the park in front of the Hilton and pushed the other two groups north and south down Michigan Avenue. A paddy wagon was caught in one of the mobs and demonstrators started rocking it back and forth in an attempt to overturn it. A busload of police got to them before they succeeded.

Down the side streets groups of 50 to 100 demonstrators broke off from the main action to disrupt the town. They moved quickly, leaving a trail of overturned garbage and shattered glass in their wake. Chased by police, they would split up and reform with other groups. One contingent, calling itself the Flower Cong, was particularly well organized and effective. I was following them up State Street when I caught sight of a blonde girl, a member of the Resistance, whom I’d talked to earlier in the day. I caught up with her just as the street filled up with cops. We turned to run in opposite directions and I lost sight of her until it was all over. Having seen that the police had blocked both ends of the street, I took refuge in a drugstore with several others. When I came out she was trying to sit up in the street, blood soaking through her hair, running down her chin and neck, and collecting in her collar. A car stopped and offered to take her to the hospital, so I carried her over and laid her out in the back seat. The car owner wanted to put news­paper under her head so she wouldn’t stain the seats.

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My hotel was nearby so I decided to go up and get rid of my shirt which was covered with her blood. At the main entrance I was stopped by a security guard who wouldn’t let me in. I showed him my key but he still refused. After two similar rebuttals I was finally allowed to sneak in the back entrance and up the service elevator. “We don’t want you walking around the lobby like that,” one of the hotel police­men advised me. Up in my room I turned on the tube just as Daley was being asked by an interviewer if there was any evidence of brutality. Outside my window I could hear screams. I opened the shades and leaned out as the police pinned a bunch of demonstrators against the wall of the hotel. From the window above me someone heaved a roll of toilet paper and screamed “Pigs.” When the street cleared, four bodies were lying in the gutter. Daley’s voice droned on about how he had received no indication of police brutality.

Later that evening the McCar­thy delegates, having lost the football game, as one Flower Cong put it, joined the demonstrators in a dramatic candle-light procession. It was irrational but I hated them. I hated them for having come to the blood fest late. I hated them as I hated every necktie in the Hilton. I hated them not because they had tried to win the football game, but because their very presence among the real demonstrators co­opted and made respectable the blood and snot that speckled the streets of Chicago. The earlier crowd, the scruffy-hippie-commie-beatnick-agitators, were the ones who had exposed the military backbone of the liberal system. It took blood to prove to the prime time viewers that Civil Rights, the right to dissent, the right to assemble, the right to pass freely in the streets, the right to be tried before being clubbed, were all okay as long as you didn’t actually try to use them.

The delegates were received with mixed feelings. Outwardly almost everyone welcomed them, even those who earlier had shout­ed “McCarthy is not enough.” They represented a kind of vin­dication of the demonstration. In addition they lent respectability and a certain amount of protec­tion to protestors who had been kicked around for five long days. But in spite of this there was a feeling among most of those who had been initiated by violence that the support of the delegates would only be tolerated as long as the movement in the streets remained the property of those who had grown and suffered with it.

***

Wednesday was the bloody catharsis, Thursday was farce. There is a certain credible na­ture about a policeman’s nightstick which inspires a kind of de­fiant respect. But a tank is hard to take seriously. I know a lot of people who cracked up when they saw the tank sitting in the middle of the street pawing at the pavement like a lost rhinoc­eros who has wandered out of the jungle into the city by mistake. Mortars, flame throwers, machine guns, and bazookas, who are they kidding?

Standing in line, waiting to be arrested in Thursday’s march to Dick Gregory’s house, I happen­ed to end up next to a very stoned young couple groping at each other and taunting the troops with their sexual freedom. “Fuck don’t fight,” the young man pleaded with the troops as he fondled his woman. A black army medic finally responded with a smile, “Is it true that all you people run around with­out any clothes on up in Lin­coln Park?” Then the jokes were over and they turned on the gas. Four times in all until they had pushed us back to the Hil­ton. Then another three times in front of the Hilton just in case the TV crews had missed any­ thing.

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The absurdity of the police and military over-reaction to the demonstrators had been driven home to me earlier in the day when I was stopped by five po­licemen under the tramway on Wabash Avenue. One of them grabbed me and looked at my press credentials, making some wise-assed remark about the hip­pie underground press from New York. His buddies laughed and I thought I was going to be let go. ”Let’s see your underarms, kid,” my interrogator said. Earlier in the week I had heard some Yips complaining about a similar request, but I never had figured out why anyone wanted to check their pits. Taking my jacket off I held my hands over my head thinking that maybe this was the new slang for “reach for the sky.” But that wasn’t it. They wanted me to take off my shirt, and when I refused they ripped it under both arms and by God they checked my armpits. Satisfied, I guess, that I wasn’t carrying either concealed weapons or drugs, they chased me away with a warning. After that nothing sounded too absurd.

Walking past a group of Guardsmen who were resting up for their next stint of duty, Ab­bie Hoffman, a Yip leader, was being razzed about his appear­ance. Finally, without a blink, Hoffman walked up to one of them and said, “Hey listen, I’ll lay a nickel bag that you guys could whip the cops any day of the week.” A pensive look came across the trooper’s face.

Categories
From The Archives Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Chicago 1968: Blood Outside the Arena

Chicago in August: Prelims are Bloody

CHICAGO — The lid blew off Monday night.

In the Amphitheatre:

Hubert Humphrey made his pact with the South and John Connally became his Strom Thurmond.

Eugene McCarthy’s badly organized campaign continued to unravel.

The boomlet for Teddy Kennedy turned out to be a fantasy of Bobby’s orphans.

In the street:

The cops chased, Maced, tear-gassed, and shot blanks at the kids who were in Lincoln Park an hour after curfew.

All over the city people were randomly stopped and questioned.

Tom Hayden was arrested on charges which three witnesses including two lawyers insisted were false.

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By 3 a.m. Tuesday the liberals had been routed at the convention, the kids had been repulsed on the street. Everywhere you walked, from midnight on, there were plainclothesmen. They frisked you with their eyes like whores strip potential clients, and if you looked the least bit suspicious they tailed you as you continued down the street. Almost every noise was martial: fire sirens, the squawking of two-way radios, cop cars racing from place to place, the idle chatter of police on duty.

We were with Tom Hayden when he got arrested, at 11:55 p.m. in front of the Hilton Hotel. He had come by for a few minutes intending to go straight on to Lincoln Park, when he ran into some friends who were staying in the hotel. They invited him up to their room, but as Hayden sought to enter the hotel through its revolving doors a middle-aged man in street clothes stopped him.

“We don’t want this man here,” he told Hayden’s friends.

“But he’s our guest,” one of them answered.

“No, he’s not welcome at this hotel,” the security officer insisted.

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One of Hayden’s friends followed the security officer into the hotel to complain about the decision to his superiors. For a few minutes Tom stood around talking with a small group of people. Then suddenly, Ralph Bell, a plainclothesman dressed in khakis and a red and yellow checked shirt, came running down Michigan Avenue yelling, “He’s our man, arrest that man.” A uniformed policeman who had been directing traffic grabbed Hayden and threw him on the ground. He was arrested, according to the arrest form at the 114th Precinct Station in Chicago, because he “called the police names and spit at them.” We were present during the entire scene and we are certain that Hayden never called the police a name. Since he was grabbed from behind it would have been difficult for him to spit at the arresting officer.

It is clear that the moment that Hotel Hilton’s security officer saw Hayden he decided to call the police. Since this was Hayden’s second arrest of the day on extremely tenuous charges it is apparent that the Chicago police have decided to harass the Mobilization leader throughout the convention week.

For three weeks both Hayden and Rennie Davis have been followed 24 hours a day by detectives. Hayden says that his tail has repeatedly threatened to kill him. But the police’s harassment of the Mobilization is far more extensive than that. Photographs of Hayden, Davis, and other key figures in the radical movement have been distributed to all hotel doormen in the city, and at bus terminals, train stations, airports. (The “Red Squad” of the Chicago police force is one of the most efficient in the country, according to people who live here. During a demonstration against the House Un-American Activities Committee three years ago, for example, policemen took pictures of every participant and put them in a film of people who were likely to assassinate the President or Vice-President of the United States, the Chicago American reported at the time.)

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Now the harassment seems to extend to people who are just casually involved with the radical movement. A taxi driver who took a young couple to the office of the National Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam was questioned by police about the conversations he had overheard. It is widely assumed here that the telephones of everyone connected with the Mobilization are tapped.

We got to the precinct station where Hayden was booked and were let inside because we had come to bail him out. We over­heard the police mocking the kids they had arrested. “We had to fumigate this place after we led all those animals through,” said one. An officer apparently nicknamed “Killer” who carried a revolver on each hip and smoked a long cigar, was complaining that he had been scheduled to screw two airline stewardesses that night. “I’m going to kill those Yippies who lost me that good lay,” he said. Ten minutes later be came back into the room. “Well, one of them said she would meet me later on. I guess I can wait till tomorrow night to get me some action.”

We stood around the precinct station for two hours waiting for Hayden’s bail to be set. Finally, one of the police told us that the procedure would take at least two hours more while Hayden was fingerprinted. “But he was already arrested once today,” Newfield said. “Oh, we didn’t know that,” the officer answered. “Since that’s the case we’ll bring him down here right away.”

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We spent the next hour walk­ing with Hayden through down­town Chicago, trying to dodge his tail. Every few minutes we would hear fire trucks setting out to chase down some false alarm that bad been set off by the hip­pies. After one particularly com­plicated trek through back alleys and down side streets we were stopped by two detectives who got out of their car to ask u where we were going. It wasn’t clear whether they recognized Hayden or suspected any strang­er who walked along an unusual route. James Ridgeway of the New Republic showed the detec­tive his White House press pass and Newfield took out his official press pass to the convention. “We’re just trying to show this friend of ours the back streets of Chicago,” he explained.

Walking down Clark Street we met a black pimp and two black whores, all of them wearing McCarthy buttons. The chicks were wearing gaudy pink sun­glasses. “Say, man, you want to meet some girls?” the pimp asked, “No, not tonight man,” said Hayden, “I just got out of jail.”

“Oh yeah, what jail?” the pimp asked. “The 11th Precinct Station,” Tom replied. “Man, I know those parts real well. I’ve been in every jail in this city,” the pimp said.

At about 3:30 Tom got into a taxi, hoping to evade the tail who threatened to murder him. We went hack to the lobby of the Hilton Hotel where we ran into a weary and depressed Fred Dutton, former aide to RFK and JFK. Dutton told us that he saw no hope for stopping Humphrey. He had just spoken to Edward Kennedy, he said, he was convinced that the movement to draft the Massachusetts senator was a pipe dream.

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Dutton, who surely must have felt that it Robert Kennedy had lived this convention would be nominating him, showed his despair with the events of the evening. He had been listening to Nick Von Hoffmann, a reporter for the Washington Post who bad been watching the police beat the Yippies on the Near North Side. Von Hoffmann was visibly angry. “I was over at the pig palace watching the pig master at work,” he said. “But I got too disgusted so I decided to watch his hired sadists on the beat. You know that they don’t make arrests any more. They can’t be bothered with lawyers, courts, any of that stuff.”

“Yeah, they just maim people and leave them hidden,” added a delegate from New York.

Dutton turned to Von Hoff­mann and told him passionately that “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.”

Meanwhile, a cherubic-faced teenager walked between the drunks and the celebrants, try­ing to distribute Ted Kennedy for President leaflets. There were few takers.

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Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FEATURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Paranoid Notes on the Strange Death of Bruce Lee

The gray-haired judge presiding in Arraignment Room No. 2A had spent the better part of the morning listening to the same old story about how this defendant put a voodoo spell on that plaintiff’s gypsy cab, thereby causing the vehicle to lose its steering column while making a 40-mile an hour U-turn on the FDR Drive. The stuff was pretty routine for the gray-haired judge.

Now, however, he was up against something really tough. The plaintiff, Alan J. Weberman — aka A.J., well-known garbologist, as­sassinationologist, and semi-leader of the Youth International Party (YIP) — was charging that defendant William H. Depperman — former YIP fellow traveler, now leader and close-to-only member of the Assassination Information Committee (AIC) — had menaced him with a six-inch blade on Bleecker Street.

The pulling of a shiv was well within the gray-haired judge’s frame of reference. The reasons for the alleged crime, however, were somewhat baffling. According to Weberman’s statement, Depperman is in the midst of waging “a one-man counterinsurgency campaign against the Yippies because he claims we’re not Communistic enough.” Depperman, a hairy hulk of frazzled nerves, dismissed these allegations as impossible since Weberman is no “legitimate leftist” but rather “a CIA agent.” Depperman countercharged that it is actually Weberman who plans violent action. As proof, Depperman waved a WANTED — ­DEAD OR ALIVE, WILLIAM H. DEPPERMAN, AKA THE DIAPERMAN poster in front of the judge, a poster supposedly distributed by Weberman and his Yippie cohorts. The text of the WANTED poster depicts Depperman as a “rat-faced, asshole, scum­faced NAZI pig Narc.” It goes on to charge that Depperman is nothing more or less than an “FBI informer.”

With each new assertion by Depperman that it was really Weber­man, not he, who worked for the intelligence arm of the United States government, the gray-haired judge rolled his eyes. He had been cast as arbitrator in a War of the Paranoids, and he was not too happy about it.

My interest in this case is many-fold. First of all, paranoia, the leftover sixties variety, is news this week, and I always make an effort to stay current. I also have a deep-running passion for paranoids, an obsession which began to creep one Early Show afternoon following a Hebrew school class on the Holocaust as I watched Ralph Meeker open a black box full of seething uranium. Since then I have come to take a religious view of paranoia and its adherents. The belief that nothing in the universe happens by chance strikes me as essentially theological. Trilateral Committee, Rockefeller, God, Satan, Reverend Moon — it’s all the same kettle of Prime Movers to me.

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During my paranoia research I have run across some good one­-liners. Jackie Mason, the noted paranoid who once gave Ed Sullivan the finger on national television, has said he doesn’t like to go to football games because when the players huddle he’s positive they’re talking about him. Michael Corleone was famous for not wanting to “wipe out everybody, just my enemies.” Personally, I can pass on the more dangerous paranoids like Corleone and Jim Jones. I prefer to stick with less harmful types like Weberman and Depperman. After all, it was A.J. who voiced the true credo of the slightly gone: “Just because you don’t think they’re out to get you doesn’t mean they’re not.”

But it was not my appreciation of Weberman’s stand-up style that attracted me to his case against Depperman. It was my consuming interest in the strange death of Bruce Lee.

I first became aware of the awesome cross-cultural power of Bruce E. Lee while watching Enter the Dragon at the Lyric Theatre on Forty-­second Street. The vengeful Bruce was on the verge of killing a bad white boy who earlier in the film had tried to rape a Lee sister, causing the woman to commit suicide. Now, however, the hoodlum was staggering on one edge of the Cinemascope screen, while on the other Bruce was winding himself into a corkscrew of death. Then Lee flung himself, feet first, toward the bad guy. Bruce slow-motioned through the air for what seemed an eternity. Just before Bruce planted his dynamite feet into the white guy’s soon-to-be-demolished rib cage, a cry came from a black wino sitting behind me. “Don’t hurt him so bad, Bruce. Kill the motherfucker. But don’t hurt him so bad.” All movie long the wino had been rooting for all the whiteys to get dead, so his show of mercy for the chief bad white guy puzzled me. The only conclusion was that somewhere down deep the wino had connected with the notion that Bruce Lee possessed within his seemingly slight body a cosmic force far more terrible than a battery of M-16s. Even a Forty-second Street wino doesn’t want to be eyeball to eyeball with that kind of power.

This incident occurred soon before the fall of Nam. I coupled the calendar reference with the fact that audiences for Bruce Lee movies have always been almost exclusively black and Puerto Rican — even when the films were only playing down in Chinatown — and came up with the Third World Alliance Theory. The theory postulates that blacks and Puerto Ricans in New York were giant Bruce Lee fans because the United States lost the Vietnam War. Sense could be made of it: For years blacks and Puerto Ricans hadn’t been getting squat in the city due to a heavy white boot heel. Now they were checking the Daily News and seeing little guys, a bunch of egg-roll makers, kicking whitey’s butt in Nam. Kicking whitey’s technological butt. But how were they managing it? What secret weapon did they have? The answer was clear to anyone watching The Chinese Connection or Fists of Fury.

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To any student of paranoia (those with some instinct for pop culture, that is) the Third World Alliance Theory had to seem tenable. After all, times were changing. The Nam War exposed the folly of blindly relying on a computerized military. Balances were turned upside down. No longer could the Anderson family sleep soundly snuggled beneath the thick metal sheets of vaunted American technol­ogy. Jimmy Stewart and the SAC were not up there ready to ward off real and imagined cascades of plague. If they were, they were cooping. It was every man for himself — I mean, how capable are you with your hands and feet, buddy? To the student of cross-cultural paranoia, this situation was fascinating. Kung fu could be the ultimate weapon of these new times, and Bruce Lee its Messiah. And before Lee was finished preaching in the drive-in and sleaze Temples of the Inner City, Western civilization could go down the tube in a flurry of sidekicks and nunchakas. Would the CIA allow a menace to exist? Obviously, something had to be done.

Perhaps that something was done back in 1973 when Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong under distinctly mysterious circumstances. The first report of Lee’s death said he succumbed to “marijuana poisoning.” This had to be the most laughable cover story ever invented. Later the cause of death shifted to “water on the brain,” whatever that is. I decided to do some checking. I went to Aaron Banks’s New York Karate Academy, then and now located above a male burlesque house and Spanish-language theater on Seventh Avenue. Banks, who looks like Dracula and once claimed to have held the record for the most boards broken within a given space of time, turned out to be a valuable source. He said, “quite confidentially,” that Lee had died of the Iron Fist. “An ancient martial arts ritual,” Banks intoned as he shoved several monthly fees into his pocket.

Banks’s story went as follows: Several of the elder Manchu Dynasty martial arts teachers were worried about Bruce Lee. Having watched several of his films, they decreed Lee — who was no fake, but rather a kung fu genius who developed his own style of jeet june do — was giving away too many of the ancient Oriental secrets. The Masters acquired some box-office figures from Variety and saw that Lee’s movies were cleaning up in America. This was terrible, the Masters decided, since Americans are inferior, potentially mindlessly violent people, and thus not to be trusted with these secrets to ultimate power. Then, according to Banks, the Masters dispatched an emissary to reason with Lee. Bruce, however, was already as big as Valentino in Hong Kong, and arrogant to boot. He would not agree to stop making films. So the emissary, a Great Master, simply laid his hand on Bruce’s shoulder for a moment. This, Banks said, was the Iron Fist, a martial arts technique only the Great Masters, with their consummate knowledge of brain-­and-body waves, can apply.

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Weeks later, as if a slow-working poison were pushing through him, Lee’s body functions began to ebb. Eventually, they stopped dead. That was why, Banks said, the doctors could never successfully determine the cause of Lee’s death. This sounded a little odd to me, but a quick check of dojo around the city indicated that, almost to a man, martial arts students believed in the Great Masters’ Theory. Surprising, too, was the fact most students believed the Masters’ findings. They believed they were unworthy of such great knowledge.

This Great Masters’ Theory sounded morally logical on the surface. But natural paranoia told me not to accept it wholesale. Someone, I suspected — probably Rockefeller — had to savvy the significance of the Third World Alliance Lee was forging through his films. The fact that Lee died while making Game of Death, in which he co-starred with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — a pairing that would have cemented the Alliance — added to my suspicions. I figured the Great Masters were paid off to off Bruce Lee, assuming Great Masters can be bought.

So, you can dig my surprise and all-consuming interest when I first came upon the slew of wall posters currently plastered all around downtown claiming BRUCE LEE WAS MURDERED BY HONG KONG AND WORLDWIDE FILM KING, MULTI*NATIONAL CAPITALIST* BANKER RUN RUN SHAW.

The poster goes on, at great length and copious detail and in minute type, to outline how Bruce, once a low-wage contract employee for the Shaw Brothers’ Hong Kong cinema combine, broke away and formed his own production corporation. This new company, spearheaded by Lee’s own fabulous box-office appeal, soon was on the verge of eclipsing Shaw’s empire. Shaw, according to the wall poster, “a monopoly capitalist like the Rockefellers, Mellons, Duponts, and Rothschilds,” had no choice but to destroy Lee. Shaw had no compunction about murder, the poster says, once being responsible for blowing up “a planeload of Cathay Productions executives over Taiwan.” Shaw contacted one Betty Ting Pei, a girlfriend of Lee, and a Dr. Chu-Pro-hywe (described as a “contract killer”). Together these two cooked up an elaborate poisoning scheme that succeeded in killing Lee on July 20, 1973.

As outlandish as these charges appear to be, I made it an interesting document. While the poster does not take into account the cross-­cultural significance or postulate paranoia by right-wing factions over the potential Third World Alliance, it refuted the accepted Great Masters’ Theory. At the very least, the poster was the equal of much of the recent graffiti around town, including the WORSHIP GOD scrawl on every pay phone from here to Sheepshead Bay, SAMO, and the BECOME A CATHOLIC legend on the majority of abandoned buildings in Harlem. Besides, wall posters, too, are in the news this week.

A small sidebar on the poster said it was the work of a group called “The Assassination Information Committee.”

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The AIC described itself as “originally a government counterin­surgency group that ‘formed’ after a Mark Lane talk at NYU in the spring of 1975. The AIC was taken over democratically on October 23, 1975, when members voted by secret ballot to present the Dealey Plaza ‘tramp’ photographs and Watergate ‘burglars’ photo-overlays [positive transparencies which line up the ear cartilages on Frank Fiorini Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt] at a talk again to be given by Mark Lane, but sponsored by the NY AIC. Lane refused. Government people… ran off with the keys, mailing list, and checkbook of this supposed ‘grass­roots’ organization, but by doing so they lost control, and discredited themselves and their methods. Consequently, the AIC of NY is probably the only legitimate assassination research group in this country.”

I read the above and couldn’t make head or tail of it. But then, recognizing telltale paranoia phrases like “counterinsurgency,” I re-read it with a more informed (i.e., paranoid) headset. After which I concluded I was most likely dealing with a termite left group convinced that Mark Lane is a government plant attempting to divert “real” investigation into the John F. Kennedy assassination. I was not far wrong. After glancing at other wall posters under the AIC banner, including LARRY FLYNT SHOOTING IS LATEST CIA PUBLICITY STUNT, I spied a more revealing one. This said: Total Media Blackout… with trumped-up charges. Capitalist state harassing William H. Depperman, coordinator of the Assassination Information Committee of New York… First Assassination Researcher Arrested.” Then I dug that if I was to get information on the Great Masters’ and Third World Alliance theories, I would have to deal with this Depperman.

At the outset I knew nothing of Depperman other than he sometimes gave out leaflets in Washington Square and was rumored to have once broken Bob Fass’s (late of WBAI) nose with a short right. But, being an auteurist, I was determined to ferret out the possible role of Raymond Chow, the director of Enter the Dragon, in Lee’s death. So I went to ten East Sixteenth Street, the address given on the AIC posters. The place, a gray apartment house nestled amongst ware­houses, turned out to be Depperman’s home. I rang the bell under his mailbox and was buzzed in. After an unpleasant ride in a cattlecar elevator, I knocked on Depperman’s door. Nobody answered. I assumed the guy was paranoid so didn’t blame him for not opening the door for someone he didn’t know. I slipped a note under the door describing who I was and my interest in the wall posters.

The next day I got a call from Depperrnan. Before he even let me say word one about the Third World Alliance Theory, Depperman commandeered the conversation. In a voice that had all the resonance of feeding time in Iowa, he said, “Don’t tell me you’re interested in Bruce Lee. I know who you are. I’ve checked you out. You work with Weberman. You are straight from Central Intelligence. If you want to talk to me, you’ll have to put up money, big money. Five thousand dollars. Maybe ten thousand dollars. You might not have the money, but your boss does. So, listen, you agent, pay. Cash. No checks.” He hung up.

This was the first time I had ever been accused of being a CIA agent. It was no fun. Sure, I knew calling other people government agents is common among assassination researchers. Once Mae Brussell, who calls everyone an agent, said I.F. Stone was a CIA operative at the Elgin Theater. That just about killed her credibility amongst the old-line leftists, and Brussell’s career suffered afterward. Still, I was only after a few scraps of information and did not like being called an agent of any government — especially since I was not drawing a check for my supposed services. I was certainly not “with Weber­man.” Once when I marched in a Yippie Smoke-In Parade up Fifth Avenue a Yip reached over the picket fence surrounding the sidewalk cafe of the St. Moritz Hotel, thrust his greasy hand into a Madison Avenue lady’s spinach salad, gobbled a fistful of leaves, and then stuck his green-specked tongue out, saying, “Your lifestyle stinks.” But I wouldn’t exactly call this being “with Weberman.” Who was this idiot Depperman to call me a CIA agent?

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I decided to find out. Discounting talking to Depperman directly, inasmuch as I doubted Rupert Murdoch’s people would look too kindly on an expense report listed “talking to paranoid, $10,000,” I called Joel Meyers. I got Meyers’s name from a Depperman poster entitled TAKEOVER FROM WITHIN OF ASSASSINATION INFORMA­TION COMMITTEE BY COMMUNIST-CADRE “MARXIST” IS DEFEATED. In this poster Depperman accuses Meyers, an old-line Trot whose group was the only one to support Lin Paio at the recent City Center Mao rally, of being the leader of a “government group designed to pace, contain, manipulate, sabotage, and neutralize the Assassination Information Committee of New York.”

Meyers responded by painting Depperman as a right-wing son of a “rock-ribbed Republican family” in a counter-poster affixed to the blue formica wall of Whalen’s at Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street. He said Depperman, somewhere in his middle thirties, had gone to medical school in Kentucky but allegedly was thrown out for smoking pot. Meyers said Depperman’s left-wing activity was new, and that he “voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Nixon twice, in 1968 and 1972.” According to the poster, Depperman previously had worked in a “united front” with Meyers’s group, but split after a tactical dispute over an incident with police in Washington Square Park. The poster goes on to say the Assassination Information Committee “consists of only Depperman and one dogged follower,” the teenaged Brian Huber “whom Depperman calls Brainless.”

On the phone Meyers had a somewhat more charitable view of Depperman. “Well,” he said, “I have no evidence that he is hopelessly psychotic as of yet. We have hopes of making a Bolshevik out of him yet. Trouble is, Depperman has a conspiratorial theory of history. He thinks everyone is an agent until proven otherwise. But we’ll keep trying to bring him to his senses. Small groups tend to be desperate for members. We will spend huge amounts of time trying to win over a very few people.”

About the Bruce Lee material, Meyers thought, “It’s something out of the ordinary for Depperman. He probably read some kung fu magazines and made the rest up.” This was not encouraging news.

Still, I pressed on for insight into the Depperman character, talking to John Zirinsky, a lawyer, and David White, a union official. According to his wall posters, Depperman has been “the target of a coordinated attack by many arms of the state,” as well as “twenty-four­-hour telephone harassment and a mail cover.” Part of this harassment, Depperman says, was his recent arrest on criminal mischief charges for allegedly stenciling the Washington Square arch with slogans to the effect that the Moonies and Yippies are government agents. Depper­man claims the “endless series of pretrial hearings (ten to fifteen) are… one of its [the govt.’s] prime ways of neutralizing legitimate leftists.” He further charges he has been sabotaged in much more elaborate and nefarious ways, saying, “On every court date a demon­stration was planned and on every court date it rained!” Then Depperman adds, in parenthesis, “USA admitted to increasing the monsoon rainfall on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.”

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In any event, John Zirinsky, legal aid lawyer and member of the Lawyers’ Guild who has often been identified with left causes, was assigned to represent Depperman in this case. Zirinsky says he did his best, but all sorts of arguments arose with his client. “Soon,” Zirinsky says, “the guy was plastering the entire courthouse area with posters attacking me as a government plant. And all during that time he was pleading with me to continue with his defense. Everyone was asking me what was going on.” Zirinsky, a sober type, did not see the humor in this situation. He says, “Besides, it was clear to me the guy didn’t have even the rudiments of leftist thought.” Eventually, Zirinsky withdrew from the case, prompting a triumphant Depperman wall poster saying, “Zirinsky’s withdrawal reflects the failure of the state and the Rock­efeller family strategy against Depperman…”

Woe is the Dep. A few months ago, he was fired from his job as a cardiopulmonary technician at the Hospital for Joint Disease. Depper­man says it was for his “political activities,” primarily his drive to organize R.N.’s at the institution. The management claims Depperman “falsified records” to avoid getting caught for coming in late. Depper­man has described the case in two lengthy wall posters, one entitled DEPPERMAN CASE GOES TO ARBITRATION, MANAGE­MENT LOSES AT 1ST HEARING, and another explained WHY THE CIA IS LIKELY TO BE BEHIND MANAGEMENT’S NEW STRATEGY. Both of these posters were signed by the “Save the Jobs Unity Coalition,” not the AIC.

As of now, Depperman has yet to be rehired. David White, of the medical services union No. 1199, represented Depperman at his arbitration hearing. In the wall posters, Depperman implies that White was acting in collusion with management. White says, “He thinks I was working with management? Oh, boy. I don’t know. I’ll tell you, there was no reason we should have lost that case. Management really didn’t have a thing on Depperman. He said he filled in the wrong time because his watch was slow. That’s not grounds for firing someone. But during the hearing, Depperman just wouldn’t shut up. I had to stop the proceedings a dozen times to tell him to quiet down. He kept jumping up and calling the arbitrator a tool of the oppressors.” White agrees that most likely management was “just trying to get rid of Depper­man.” But not because Dep was union-organizing. “Are you kidding?” White says. “He almost killed our drive. He was going around talking about general strikes and preparing the workers for revolution. You can’t talk to workers like that.”

With each new piece of info I picked up on Depperman, I became more convinced a freshly slivered section of the Dep medulla sold to an independent laboratory might fetch a handsome price. For sure the cat was going into the Paranoia Hall of Fame on the first ballot. I was beginning to give up on ever getting any intelligence out of this guy on either the Great Masters’ or the Third World Alliance theory.

But the most damaging anti-Depperman testimony was yet to come. It was provided by Depperman’s arch-enemies, the Yippies. In his wall poster campaign, Depperman regularly derides the Yips as a govern­ment-funded group attempting to “sidetrack people on drugs and counterculture,” thereby leading the masses “back into the fold of the Republican party.” The most recurring and bizarre Depperman charge, however, is that A.J. Weberman, the Yippie theoretician, is “suppressing his own book.”

The book, Coup d’État in America, written by Weberman and Michael Canfield, details how the CIA allegedly seized control of the United States government on November 22, 1963. Depperman claims Coup d’État, which contains the famous “tramp” pictures and photo-overlays that supposedly prove Frank Sturgis and Howard Hunt were on the scene that day in Dallas, is an example of “controlled release” of assassination material. He says A.J. “must be” a CIA agent to gain access to the overlays in the first place, and that since “exposing” the evidence Weberman has done much “to make the information contra­dictory,” thereby confusing real assassination researchers.

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Now I must admit, I am somewhat biased in this particular matter, since A.J. Weberman, while without a doubt a world-class paranoid, is also one of the most entertaining and hamisha guys I know. And knowing A.J. as I do, I could see that these book “suppression” charges were really getting under his skin. Going into one of his hour-­long stare rages, Weberman barked, “What a Daffyman the Depper­monster is! Why would I fucking suppress my own book? I worked months on that book. It’s the hardest thing I ever did. Harder than a garbology project. Suppress my own book? Only a moron with a low rate of metabolism like the Daffymonster would think that.”

Then A.J. discussed Depperman from the historical perspective, saying “he first came around in 1974, around there. He said he wanted to help put out the Yipster Times. You know, he’d do any shit work. Dana [Beale] was suspicious of him, but I was taken in. I went by his pad and he had all the Dylan records and the Dylan bootlegs, I thought he was cool. It was a moment of weakness. But after the book came out, he started acting suspicious. He put out stickers for the book everywhere. He was overzealous. He put stickers all over the book­stores and they started calling me saying they wouldn’t stock the book anymore. I didn’t know what was happening, then I find out it’s Depperman. We told him to stop, but then he gets his own stickers printed up. Then we realized he was waging some kind of campaign against us. He was spreading all kinds of disinformation. Then he started beating up Yippies. He broke Fass’s nose. He gave Aaron [Kay, the Yippie pie-thrower] a black eye. He’s tough, he’s a fucking powerful guy. We knew he couldn’t be a Yippie, he’s too crazy to be a Yippie. We had to investigate him.”

Then A.J. pulled out part of his FBI file. A.J. obtained the file under the Freedom of Information Act, a statute he makes use of quite often. FBI files supposedly contain most of what the government has on you, but the names of the “informants” and anything you really want to know is blacked out with magic marker. The Yippies have spent many evenings over a piece of hash the size of a deflated football attempting to remember if it was really Sally from Madison or Jim from California who was present on the nights described in the file. On this particular page, however, A.J. claims, the “informer’s” name was insufficiently disguised. “Look,” he said, pointing to a Xeroxed smudge, “you can see the D and the top of an E, also, look, there’s the two Ls. It’s Depperman, no doubt about it. He’s an informer sent to infiltrate us. Probably got into it after he got kicked out of medical school. The reason the FBI sent us this file with the name not completely blacked out is even they couldn’t stand the Deppermouth anymore. The Deppermonster is too obnoxious even for the feds!”

Try as I might, however, I could only distinguish half an L, no D or E. I smoked two more joints, after which I did spot another L, which was not enough to convince me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was actually Depperman’s name beneath the blur. I did, however, agree with Weberman that Depperman’s Yippie-beating activities were to be scorned. And I also promised to show up a few days later when A.J. said Depperman would have to be in court to answer charges of knife-wielding.

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I left the Yipster mansion thinking it was kind of ironic that Depperman, in his unwavering bleat that A.J. has “suppressed” his own book, had, more or less, taken over the role in Weberman’s life that A.J. himself once played in Bob Dylan’s. Back in the days when the Dylan Liberation Front assembled on MacDougal Street screaming “Hey, Bob, crawl out your window,” A.J. stole the singer’s garbage as a “people’s act.” Dylan always yelled at Weberman to “stop hassling me, man,” and eventually beat A.J. to a Greenwich Village sidewalk with karate blows. Thinking about this left one question unanswered: If Depperman is Weberman’s Weberman, who is Depperman’s Weber­man? Someone, I figured, always has to be around to keep you honest.

In spite of it all, I felt a little sorry for Depperman. My heart goes out to anyone who sincerely feels the government is manipulating the weather just to harass him. After all, Depperman really was being “persecuted” for politics, whatever they may be. I decided to attempt to open the dialogue with Depperman again, affording him a chance to tell his side of the story and possibly giving me a shot at obtaining his Bruce Lee information. After learning from a reliable source that Depperman had once been approached as a potential mensa member, I wrote him a closely reasoned letter asking him to give free press a chance. I was, however, still smarting from Depperman’s accusations about me, so, just to be a bastard, I crossed out several passages in the letter and did a cut-paste job. I figured, being the paranoid he is, Depperman would spend a few anxious minutes holding the letter to a naked light bulb, attempting to see what was missing. I taped the letter to Depperman’s mailbox.

This was Sunday. Monday I stayed by my phone hoping Depper­man would give a civil call. He did not. Tuesday was the hearing date, so I trudged over to the Tombs at 9:30 A.M. Near the second floor DAT intake room, I ran into Aaron Kay. Aaron pointed out two guys standing below, leaning on the circular first-floor information desk. “It’s Daffyman and Brainless,” Aaron said. Depperman looked pretty much as I expected except that he was wearing a paisley tie and seemed to have not slept in a month. Brian Huber, or “Brainless,” could have passed for a Tex Watson double.

I went downstairs to engage the pair in conversation. Depperman was in the midst of abusing Huber. Soon as I identified myself, however, he recoiled and clutched his tan attaché case as if it was doll stuffed with money. “Get away from me, you government, government pig,” he said as he edged around the circumference of the information desk. Huber followed Depperman. “I just want to ask you a couple of questions,” I said, trailing both of them. We must have went around that desk three times with Depperman shouting “Stop harassing me. Beat it. Stop harassing me,” before I gave up the ghost.

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Soon the courtroom drama, which I have given you the gist of at the top of this tome, ensued. Depperman, demanding to defend himself and using some legal terms lifted out of Perry Mason, did most of the talking. A.J. was content to play the injured citizen. And, sure enough, Depperman hung himself, getting close to a contempt citation on more than one occasion. The judge told Depperman, “Look, the court is not your adversary.” To which Depperman raised his eyes as if to say, “You expect me to fall for that?” The judge held the case over until next month, prompting Depperman to quote loudly and extensively from a book called The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove. These quotes threw the West Indian court officers into giggling fits.

There will, however, be quite a bit more court in Depperman’s immediate future. After this case was adjourned, the Yippies, who were afraid to stare at Depperman during the proceedings, unfurled their sneak attack in the person of one Detective Guariello of the Sixth Precinct. Guariello was waiting in the hallway outside AR 2A to arrest Depperman on charges that he assaulted Yippie electrician Robert Druskin. Upon having the cuffs snapped on his wrist and told he was “under arrest,” Depperman screamed, “By whom, by whom?”

Then he yelled, “It’s more harassment, it’s more harassment of legitimate leftists,” as Guariello hauled him into the DAT intake room. Just before disappearing, Depperman shouted in panic to Huber, “Brian, Brian, my briefcase.” Huber, who seemed stunned by this turn of events, was slow to react, prompting Depperman to a more frenzied plea. Finally, Huber picked up the case. As he did, one of the court officers pointed to Depperman’s head and then to the briefcase, intoning, “Tick, tick, tick.”

Moments later, Depperman was gone, except for a few muffled protests emanating from the other side of the door. He would spend that night in the can. Huber waited a few moments, then split aimlessly with Depperman’s briefcase. The kid looked like Renfield lost a master. The Yippies left, too, celebrating their victory. And I figured what a drag it all was. Dealing with paranoids is a thankless task. Depperman saw me talking to Guariello before the pinch and probably, knowing his mania, thinks I was in on the arrest. Plus, who knows, we may never find out who killed Bruce Lee.