chicago riots 1968 trial

The country was in turmoil, reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy and the worsening Vietnam War. The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago is most-remembered for what happened on the streets outside of it. Cookie Policy “It got a lot of attention, and should have.”. None were convicted of conspiracy, and although five of them were convicted of inciting a riot, an appellate court dismissed the charges because it found that the judge had been biased against them. He resides in Connecticut. The road to the trial began the previous summer, when more than 10,000 antiwar demonstrators flocked to Chicago for five days during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. [72] Football fans and blood balloons: how Aaron Sorkin recreated the 1968 Chicago riots The Trial of the Chicago 7 protest scenes were … “The effect of this ‘anti-riot’ act is to subvert the first Amendment guarantee of free assembly by equating organized political protest with organized violence,” it read. This time around he would also direct. Jeanne Dorin McDowell is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor. The letter was signed by 19 people, including Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Benjamin Spock, Judy Collins and Norman Mailer (Collins and Mailer would also testify at the trial). Charges against Seale were also dropped. With the tumult of the 2016 election, Sorkin was re-inspired to examine the story of defiant activists willing to stand up for their political beliefs. Under Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman), the government aggressively pursued the defendants deploying prosecutors Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Thomas Foran (J.C. Mackenzie). Professors John Froines and Lee Weiner (Danny Flaherty and Noah Robbins), who were only peripherally involved in planning the Chicago demonstrations (sitting at the defense table, one of them likens their presence to the Academy Awards. He also declared a mistrial in Seale’s case and removed him from the trial, turning the Chicago Eight into the Chicago Seven. CHICAGO (WLS) -- 1968 will forever be remembered as a year of conflict and heartbreak. Donald Clarke . Tom Hayden: Hayden died in 2016 at 76. Advertising Notice “Before a film can be anything else—relevant or persuasive or important—it has to be good,” says Sorkin. The trial of political activists accused of inciting riots during the Democratic National Convention of 1968 attracted national attention and exposed the depths of political and cultural divisions at a crucial moment in the nation’s history. Organizers were planning a non-violent demonstration. Fifteen years ago, Aaron Sorkin began laying the groundwork for a film based on one of the most compelling legal showdowns of the late 1960s. After the appeal, most of the Chicago Eight continued their activist work, with Rubin standing out as the infamous yippie who became a yuppie in the 1980s. “Nixon was throwing down a marker in order to intimidate the entire anti-war movement. © 2021 A&E Television Networks, LLC. T he 1968–1970 trial of the Chicago Seven seemed from the outset a made-for-TV farce, and the hippies who followed the trial closely quickly saw its theatrical promise. “SDS saw them as clowns with a following that had to be accommodated, but they weren’t part of strategic planning for what should happen,” says Gitlin, who also wrote The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. The judge was not only politically hostile towards the defendants but, historians say, tone-deaf to what was happening in the country and seemingly unaware of the symbolism of chaining Seale to a chair in his courtroom. The trial of the Chicago 7 was a court case that concerned the antiwar protests and rioting surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which was held in Chicago. The arrest of the eight defendants during the 1968 protests and the subsequent trial were part of the federal government’s efforts to punish leftists and organizers of the anti-war movement. In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin intentionally opts for broad strokes to revisit the story of the trial and the surrounding events. Through carefully crafted production, the film blurs the lines between 1968 and 2020, rightfully so. 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But the wheels of justice turned, and in 1972, all charges against the defendants were dropped. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! According to Gitlin, once Nixon became President in 1969, his Justice Department formed a special unit to orchestrate a series of indictments and trials. On February 18, 1970, the seven defendants were acquitted of conspiracy charges but fined $5,000 each. Froines argues Hoffman and Rubin’s robe incident “was basically a minor disruption,” and that “the main event in terms of disruption was Bobby Seale being chained and gagged.”. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. The image of a black man in shackles, rendered by courtroom artists because cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom, was circulated by media around the world. “It was like nothing could be done without the judge sort of stamping on them, so that sort of encouraged them to do it, I think.” By the end of the trial, the judge had charged all of the Chicago Eight as well as defense attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass with contempt of court. A week after Judge Hoffman first chained and gagged Seale in court, the judge sentenced Seale to four years in prison for contempt of court. Among other reasons, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cited Judge Hoffman’s “antagonistic” courtroom demeanor. "It was a watershed year," said Laurie Rubin, who photographed trial evidence. In shaping his portrayal, Cohen says he came to believe that despite his theatrics, Hoffman was a serious activist. The court heard testimony from comedian Dick Gregory, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, writers William Styron and Norman Mailer and singers Arlo Guthrie and Judy Collins. He pored over the original transcripts, read numerous books on the trial and the politics of the ’60s and spent time with Hayden (who died in 2016) as part of his writing process. They cooked up this indictment that made no sense,” he says. Kunstler’s defense strategy was one of disruption, and it worked. We put the government on trial.”. Vote Now! ... after riots broke out at the 1968 … We wanted to give up the illusion of change through the existing electoral system.”. 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' production designer Shane Valentino breaks down his biggest challenges on the set of Aaron Sorkin's drama. Another time, Hoffman unfurled a National Liberation Front (aka “Viet Cong”) flag on the defense table, and engaged in a tug-of-war over it with a court marshal who tried to remove it. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-trial-chicago-7-180976063 In the fall of 1967, members of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (often referred to as "MOBE"), which was directed by David Dellinger, proposed a massive anti-war demonstration to coincide with the 1968 Democratic National Convention.In early 1968, the National Mobilization Committee opened a Chicago office directed by Rennie Davis and Tom … And having five people found guilty and two people being acquitted—I cried at that.”. “What becomes clear is that in the end, Abbie is willing to challenge the injustice of the time,” says Cohen. We didn’t think there was any chance that McCarthy would be nominated. Sorkin takes some dramatic license is in his depiction of the emotional engine that drives the story: the relationship between Hayden and Hoffman. But when thousands, many of them college students, arrived in Chicago, they were met by the forces of Democratic Mayor Richard Daley and his law-and-order machine—a tear-gas spraying, baton-wielding army of 12,000 Chicago police officers, 5,600 members of the Illinois National Guard and 5,000 U.S. Army soldiers. Judge Hoffman (no relation to Abbie) was so angry that he continuously cited contempt. Bobby Seale: At 83, Seale resides in Liberty, Texas. We would get 30 death threats a day while on trial,” recalls Davis, who jokes that he wasn’t as nerdy as he is portrayed in the movie. The organizers were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and what followed was one of the most notorious trials in … Over 100 major U.S. cities experienced disturbances, resulting in roughly $50 million in damage. Give a Gift. Seale had chosen lawyer Charles Garry to represent him in court, and because Garry needed gallbladder surgery, he asked Judge Hoffman to postpone the trial. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. McDonald tried to sing the anti-war song in court, and when the judge forbid it, he recited the lyrics out loud. Privacy Statement “I interviewed [Clark] and he said he saw there was no evidence to try the defendants,” says Nick Sharman, a researcher at the University of Melbourne and author of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial and the Press. Portrait of the Chicago Seven and their lawyers as they raise their fists in unison outside the courthouse where they were on trial for conspiracy and inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, 1969. All Rights Reserved. Netflix's 'The Trial of Chicago 7' tells the story of a protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention that turned into a fight with police and the Nation Guard. Now that "The Trial of the Chicago 7" finally has been released, the writer and director told a National Press Club Headliners Virtual Newsmaker audience, it is unsettling to note parallels between what was happening in 1968 … There were no cameras allowed in the courtroom, but newspapers printed the shocking sketches of Seale bound and gagged in court. FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. In one instance, they showed up to court wearing judicial robes to protest Judge Julius Hoffman’s decision to revoke Dellinger’s bail. Massachusetts)—is a pot-smoking hippie who wears his politics on the tip of his tongue. Sorkin’s introduction to the Chicago 7 began more than a decade ago when director Steven Spielberg contacted him to talk about a movie on the trial. This has to be appealed.’”. “What I remember most vividly were Kunstler and Weinglass, who were doing the talking for the defense at the time, getting up a couple of times and before they could get a word out of their mouths [Judge] Hoffman overruled. Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was head of the Chicago Panthers, which leaned towards more militant methods. .This isn’t a biopic. David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch)—literally a Boy Scout leader—was a pacifist and organizer for the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), which had been formed the previous year to plan large anti-war demonstrations. On the first day, Hayden gave a fist salute to the jury. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the latest movie directed by Aaron Sorkin, with a scheduled release date in mid-October. The following year, the new Government of Richard Nixon – thanks to a hardline attorney general and a new administration keen to demonstrate its ‘law and order’ credentials – rounded up a smorgasbord of protestors and charged them with crossing state lines to incite a riot. ), This unforgettable scene is recreated in Netflix’ upcoming courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, which starts streaming on October 16—52 years after the real proceedings unfolded in downtown Chicago. “Potentially, this law is the foundation for a police state in America.”. He also served as director of a division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration . Here, we explore the true story that inspired Aaron Sorkin's 'The Trial of the Chicago 7,' which happened after the protests and riots at the 1968 … To make this point, the defense called over 100 witnesses, many of whom had been in Chicago during the protests. In the movie, the tension between the two men is palpable yet understandable given their stylistic differences. The two lawyers representing the defendants, William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman), were renowned civil rights attorneys. California Do Not Sell My Info Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix. The Trial Of The Chicago 7 Is A Timely & Riveting ... charges of conspiracy and crossing state lines to incite a riot in the aftermath of violent protests at the 1968 Chicago … In the years after the trial, Weiner worked for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in New York and participated in protests for Russian Jews and more funding for AIDS research He also worked as a vice president for direct response at the AmeriCares Foundation. From a left-wing point of view, the conflict between the “revolutionaries” and the Chicago establishment was a straightforward story of good vs. evil. However, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s attorney general Ramsey Clark didn’t think there was a case. For the sake of good storytelling, some timelines are rearranged, relationships are changed and fictional characters are added (a Sorkin-invented female undercover cop lures Jerry Rubin, for example). Three months before the Chicago Eight trial began, a group of prominent writers and thinkers published a letter to the editors of The New York Review of Books arguing that the anti-riot law set a dangerous precedent. Smithsonian Institution. Continue A subsequent investigation and report concluded that the 1968 demonstration’s bloody turn was instigated by the police. Jerry Rubin: Rubin went on to work on Wall Street and hosted networking events for young professionals in Manhattan. A subsequent investigation and report concluded that the 1968 demonstration’s bloody turn was instigated. As it turns out, the events from this past summer share many parallels to 1968. “Myself and others in [the antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society] (SDS)] went to Chicago to convince the kids in their teens and early 20s who had been campaigning for McCarthy to give up their illusions about getting change within the system,” says Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University who is currently writing a history of the Democratic party. Everyone (including the lawyers) already had prison sentences for contempt of court; and in addition to this, Judge Hoffman sentenced the five convicted men to five years in prison and gave each a $5,000 fine. It even heard testimony from Country Joe McDonald, a musician newly famous for singing the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” at Woodstock just a month before the trial began. Rennie Davis: Now 80, Davis founded the Foundation for a New Humanity, a Colorado-based project to develop a comprehensive plan for a new way of living. Franklin McMahon/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images. The next year, Richard Nixon took office and appointed John Mitchell as the new attorney general. Abbie Hoffman: After spending years underground, Hoffman resurfaced in 1980, lectured at colleges and worked as a comedian and community organizer, He died in 1989 at 52 from a self-inflicted overdose of barbituates due to manic depression. To Garry’s shock, the judge denied the request and assigned Seale a new lawyer. Judge Hoffman intended to try Seale separately for conspiracy in a new trial next year. The 1968 Chicago riots, in the United States, were sparked in part by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. President Lyndon Johnson, beleaguered and defeated by the war, had made the unprecedented decision not to seek a second term; after Kennedy’s death, Vice President Hubert Humphrey stood as the heir to the presidential nomination. “It was very intense, yet no one ever forgot that we were there for one reason only: our opposition to the war in Vietnam. The idea was tabled when both men had other projects in the works, but Sorkin wrote a draft in 2007. Married, he lives in Boerthoud, Colorado and also does personal growth coaching. “Had the government not brought them together at a conspiracy trial, I don’t think Hayden and Hoffman would have had much to do with each other,” says Gitlin. How could this happen? Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Davis (Alex Sharp), founders of SDS, lead a campus coalition of 150 organizations bent on changing the system and ending the war. You will get the essence of these real-life people and the kernel of who they are as human beings, not the historical facts. Even Kunstler received a four-year sentence, in part for calling Hoffman’s courtroom a “medieval torture chamber.”, “There was a lot of electricity in the air,” recalls Charles Henry, professor emeritus of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who attended the trial while in college. “Rennie Davis and I were hit on the head with night sticks.”. Three months before the Chicago Eight trial began, a group of prominent writers and thinkers published a letter to the editors of The New York Review of Booksarguing that the Courtroom drawings of poet Allen Ginsberg and musician Country Joe McDonald at the Chicago Eight trial. ), “It was a horrendous thing that occurred,” Froines says. When the judge demanded they remove their robes, they took them off and stomped on them. Rather than being happy with his acquittal, Froines says, “I was very upset by that because I wanted to be with my friends, of course. On February 18, 1970, the jury acquitted all seven defendants of the conspiracy charges, but still convicted five of them—Davis, Dellinger, Hayden, Hoffman and Rubin—of individually crossing state lines to incite a riot. The Chicago Seven defendants hold a news conference in Chicago, Ill., during their 1969 trial on charges of conspiracy to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. “His whole face was basically covered with a pressure band-aid, but he could still be heard through it trying to talk to the jury,” recalls Rennie Davis, a co-defendant in what became known as the Chicago 8 trial (later Chicago 7 when Seale was legally severed from the group and was tried separately. Before the convention began on August 26, Chicago Mayor Richard J. 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