1969 September 24

Chicago 8 (7) Trial Opens; Anti-Riot Act Tested


The trial of leaders of the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention (August 28, 1968) opened on this day. They were charged with violating the new Anti-Riot Act, which was passed on April 11, 1968. The defendants, anti-Vietnam War activists, Yippies, and other activists, included Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin (founders and leaders of the Yippies), Tom Hayden (a founder of Students for a Democratic Society), Dave Dellinger (pacifist and conscientious objector), Bobby Seale (Black Panther Party leader), Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner. Because of Seale’s outbursts in the courtroom, the judge had him bound and gagged; he then severed Seale from the trial. Images of the gagged Seale bound came to symbolize the bias of the judge and the injustice of the case. Seale was eventually convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

The trial became a tumultuous affair, including clear bias on the part of Judge Julius Hoffman, who cited the two defense attorneys for contempt on February 15, 1970. All seven of the remaining defendants were found not guilty of conspiracy, but five (all but Froines and Weiner) were convicted of violating the Anti-Riot Act on February 18, 1970. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.

See a documentary on the protests and the trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a-sFuzmloE

Wikipedia has a full list of the films based on the protests and the trial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Seven

Read about the trial: Jason Epstein, The Great Conspiracy Trial (1970)

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