The Chicago Seven were seven slobby hippies charged with a conspiracy to incite other unkempt hippies to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Those tried for their thought crimes—Abbie "Iron Abs" Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—were obviously guilty of all sorts of conspiracies, including trying on each others hats and repeatedly negotiating with pizza establishments to "hurry up" and "deliver". They were tried as adults, although they were all mentally ten-year-old creative geniuses. And then there was the sad case of Bobby Seale, an angry young black man and the eighth defendant charged, who had his case and his head severed during the trial.
This all happened once-upon-a-time in Chicago, the toddlin' town of Mayor/Boss Richard J. Daley, whom the hippies greatly upset by pointing out the truth. So Daley stirred from his rest, raised up the beefy hand of injustice, and let it fall upon the hippies and the black guy. But especially on the black guy.
The 1968 Democratic Convention was held, by coincidence, at the same time that the Democratic Party was meeting in Chicago to select its candidate for president. Before the convention a few New York bred hippies and a folk singer named Phil Ochs emerged from their marijuana haze long enough to think about stuff. They staggered around, bumping into visions, until they accidently organized themselves into several anti-war groups and then somehow made it to Chicago to confront the Democratic Party about their war policies. Before coming to the Windy City they had politely petitioned City Hall for 670 permits (give or take a few hundred) to march from downtown to the convention center.
What they really wanted to do was camp-out girl scout style in Lincoln Park. Their camp would be near the zoo, which they secretly planned on occupying. The city denied all their permit requests except for one: an afternoon sex-while-stoned rally at the old bandshell in Grant Park near the Field Museum on Lake Shore Drive, which the hippies also planned on occupying.
Despite being buffaloed and insulted by City Hall, during convention week many anti-war rallies, demonstrations, marches, some more rallies, and attempted marches and attempted rallies took place. These rallies consisted of hippies who couldn't just settle down and mind their elders. They had to go out and make a scene, whaa whaa whaa, whining about President Lyndon B. Johnson's and William Westmoreland's Vietnam War and its genocidal policies. With music, costumes, and marijuana at the ready, they thought they could change the world. Or at least change a few square acres of Chicago for a week or so.
All of these events and pre-flash flash-mobs occurred at least five miles from the site of the convention, which an average hippie couldn't run if you paid him. But this was still too close for the old man, Mayor Daley, who didn't want a hippie within a marathon's length of him.. So "da mayor" humorously decided to take matters into his own hands, and ordered his police to enforce an 11:00 p.m. curfew on the demonstrators camp in Lincoln Park—an hour when most hippies and militant black activists were just waking up.
The police gleefully and with malice of nothought emptied the park, and, for good measure and the sport of it, stopped the marches, politely escorted the crowds from the streets and the zoo, and then gathered in study groups to read the constitution to find more things to crack down on. This whoop-ass went on for a couple of days, until it finally came time for what everyone was waiting for: the sex-while-stoned rally.
August 28, 1968
While the other anti-war actions had involved hundreds, or at least dozens of people, the Grant Park rally on Wednesday, August 28, 1968, was attended by about 15,000 protesters/stoners/wiccans. It didn't last long. The head of the national guard, from a perch atop the roof of the Field Museum, mistakenly on purpose pretended that he saw hippies having sex and ordered that the rally be broken up by a police riot. A few thousand protesters were chased across the park and down Michigan Avenue by the police, but were met on the other end by the National Guard. So the hippies said "Yikes!" and ran back, playing monkey in the middle, finally finding themselves corraled like wild horses. But, hereby by the nine-coins of coincidence or by the hand of Goddess herself, they were trapped right across the street from the Conrad Hilton Hotel!
The Conrad Hilton was where the four presidential candidates—Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and William Jennings Bryan—were living and had their campaign headquarters. It was also the home-away-from-home of the biggest and most important state delegations, like Guam. The hippies had the good luck of being randomly chased down the street and then getting boxed in right across from Democratic command central, a hundred feet away from the holy grail itself!
They stayed there for a few hours, chanting and singing and letting it all hang out. The police, finding it hard to keep people bottled up like fireflies in a jar, kept pushing the protesters off the edge of Michigan Avenue until some of the skinnier hippies began to leak through and ooze onto the street. The aptly named beat-cops entered bulldog mode, and commenced to serve and protect by clearing Michigan Avenue with tear gas, batons, hippie-head bustin' and the full weight of an obese Chicago Police force.
All of this commotion and discord resulted in hundreds of arrests, the tear-gassing of people as young as nine-years-old, and lots of broken hippies. Television cameras were right there staring at it all, single-eyed observers at a one-sided prizefight, and since blood was worth an extra seven rating-points, the networks cut away from the presidential nominating speeches to broadcast the clash. Soon the whole world was watching as the hippies chanted over and over again "The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching".
That was the main 15-round battle of the convention. But over the course of five days, hundreds of police got touchy-feely with the protesters. Even watching from the peanut gallery was dangerous. Dozens of journalists, including Hugh Hefner and Robert Anton Wilson, were clubbed, gassed, greased and pantsed by the police while having their cameras smashed and their press badges stuffed way up into where the sun, she no shine.
In the aftermath of all this mayhem—actions which were later characterized as a "police riot" by the U.S. attorney general and a governmental commission--a federal grand jury indicted eight demonstrators.
Goddess must have still smiled on this particular series of events. Because, believe it or not, the events kept going. August 28th, 1968, in the vicinity of Michigan and Balboa, was a particularly powerful night.
The Charges in the Indictment
The eight defendants were charged under the anti-riot and anti-long-hair provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and were said to have committed three types of crimes:
- They allegedly conspired—together with sixteen thousand unindicted co-conspirators—to cross state lines to incite a riot (i.e. driving America's highways); to teach the making of an incendiary device (HowTo:Light a Bong With a Stick), and to commit acts to impede law enforcement officers in their lawful duties (two hippie babes—Wildflower and Sunshine—were recruited by Abbie Hoffman and Rennie Davis to show male policemen their breasts, thus slowing down their forward momentum and instigating googily eyes).
- Abbie Hoffman, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale were indicted for individually crossing state lines to incite a riot (i.e. Took the red-eye in from New York).
- John Froines and Lee Weiner were indicted for instructing other persons in the construction and use of an incendiary device (showing Wildflower and Sunshine HowTo:Light a Bong With a Stick).
Among the unindicted co-conspirators who stood in front of a war daring it to cross--Red rover, red rover, Robert McNamara come over.--were thousands of other advocates of free speech and the right to assemble, including Thomas "Touch Me" Jefferson, James "Stretch" Madison, Ben "Hemp Now!" Masel, Martin Luther King "Jr.", Benjamin "Checkin' out the la-dies" Franklin, James "Badass" Bevel, and John Adams, who all spoke quite freely and assembled pretty regularly in their time.
Who were these hippies anyway?
Calling themselves Yippies and acting the fools, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner and lots of other vagabonds, bohemians, and beatniks had taken to the streets of New York City earlier in 1968 and dared to show concern for their fellow man. After that bit of nonsense ran its course, and after throwing money off the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange, the Yippies, either on a dare or for the lutz, took on the American government and the Vietnam War.
Earlier, in October of '67, they and their friends huffed and puffed and blew the house down against the war by trying to levitate the Pentagon with magic and sex. So before even leaving for Chicago they'd already made the establishment look worn down, grumpy, and in dire need of an enema—which the Yippies then proceeded to perform. That stirred up a lot of shit.
The trial was a circus. The hippies' two Jewish defense attorneys—William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass of the newly-formed "Center for Just WTF Did You Do To My Constitution?"—got ready to jew bait the Judge, 80-year-old Julius Hoffman (Abbie's senile uncle who no one in the family talked about). The defendants loaded up on seltzer bottles, whoopie cushions, and that gum that turns your tongue black. The press, seeing this, put on steel jockstraps and face masks. The trial began on September 24, 1969, and ten minutes later the Illinois National Guard was called in for crowd control as demonstrations grew both inside and outside the courtroom.
Early on in the popcorn farce, Bobby Seale, the black defendant, na-na-nanana'd Judge Hoffman in court, calling him a "fascist dog," "fascist panda", and a "fascist New Yorker with a fascist Chicago accent". "I know you are but what am I?" countered Judge Hoffman, stumping Seale.
Seale, a Black Panther Party activist, had his hissy fit because he wanted the trial postponed so his own attorney, who himself was Jew-baiting a judge in Chile, could represent him. Judge Hoffman laughed in Seale's face, spit on his beard, slashed a ten-inch gash in his 'fro, and refused to allow him to represent himself. When Seale kept complaining, the judge had him bound, gagged, and anally raped in the courtroom. He then had him chained him to a popular long-haired singer (inspiring Graham Nash's song, "Chicago", which opened with "So your brother's bound and gagged and anally raped and they've chained him to Cher"). Then, dancing on top his desk and singing "Send the 'coon to his room, strap the darkie in Old Sparky", Judge Hoffman sentenced Seale to eternity in prison for contempt of court—one of the coldest sentences ever handed out for that offense in American history. Thus, by the blunt force of blunt force trauma and pure mathematics, the Chicago Eight became the Chicago Seven.
The trial went on, and the defendants had the time of their lives! Particularly Yippies Hoffman and Rubin, who made a practice of mocking courtroom decorum. One day Abbie and Jerry appeared in court dressed in judicial robes. When the judge ordered "Remove those robes, you scalliwags!", they complied, only to reveal Chicago police uniforms underneath, French Maid costumes underneath those, and then turtles all the way down. Abbie then blew kisses at the jury while pretending to pee into a cup labeled "First Amendment", which Tom Hayden drank in Solidarity.
The trial had a big fan base, and attracted a growing number of protesters. The defendants addressed the crowds outside in daily rallies attended by hundreds of undercover police and National Guardsmen. The spectators formed political parties and plotted to overthrow whatever needed overthrowing. And everybody hit on and exchanged phone numbers with hippie babes Wildflower and Sunshine.
Good sideshows usually last several months, and in this one the prosecution came on strong, presenting ironclad evidence that all of the defendants were in Chicago at one time or another. They proved beyond anybody's reason of a doubt that all of them had mentioned to other people that there was going to be a gathering in Chicago to protest U.S. war policy in Vietnam. And then, in a piece de resistance of criminal prosecution, they called witness after witness to testify that each defendant—each and every one—had walked the streets of Chicago to get from one place to another. With their well-prepared case falling perfectly into place, and as proof emerged that all seven defendants had the capability of speech, the jurors looked over in disdain at the hippies only to find that guilt was written all over their faces (Abbie Hoffman had used blue magic marker, Rennie Davis, orange).
There was general consensus that the jig was up (Bobby Seale's corpse was clearly visible swinging from the courtrooms rafters). Everyone knew the government had easily made its case: people had talked with people. There was no denying this. So the defense did the next best thing. They kept on talking...
...and talking, and talking. The defendants took the stand as a group, set up a picnic table in the courtroom, and played touch football with the bailiffs. Abbie Hoffman took the stand, and had to be chased a block before they got it back. Many celebrities from the American counterculture testified, including commie folk singers Phil Ochs, John Lennon and Wild Man Fischer, writers Norman "Norm!" Mailer, Ken "Further! Further!" Kesey, and Allen Ginsberg (Ginsberg's complete testimony: "Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmm Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmmm"), actors Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman (again with the Hoffmans!), and hippie babes Wildflower and Sunshine.
Writer and psychedelic drug guru Timothy Leary would have testified for the defense, but stood outside the courtroom, looking in.
On February 18, 1970, all seven defendants were found, and then they were all found guilty of conspiracy. They were lined up, pantsed, fined $5,000 each, sentenced to five years in prison, and given coupons to a pizza place down the block. At the sentencing Abbie Hoffman recommended to Judge Hoffman that he try sacred mushrooms on his pizza, and offered to set him up with a dealer he knew in Florida. The judge almost took him up on it, having fond memories of searching the woods of Mayor Daley's Michigan estate for shittakes.
As luck would have it, all the convictions were reversed by the United States Court of Appeals, who proclaimed that Judge Julius Hoffman was biased because he wouldn't let the defense ask prospective jurors about their racial hatred, extreme political and cultural bias, and belief in goblins, ghouls, and ghosts. Richard Nixon's Justice Department threw up its dirty hands in a frustrated hissy fit, and gave up, deciding in a pout not to retry the case.
During the trial all the defendants, their attorneys, and three bailiffs had been cited for contempt of court, some of them hundreds of times. They were sentenced to either decades in jail and/or summer work on the Daley estate. These convictions were also overturned, and later retried before a different judge. This judge, unrelated to any Hoffman whatsoever, found the hippies, the lawyers, and the bailiffs guilty of contempt—which everyone agreed was a fair assessment of what they felt—but instead of jailing or fining them he took them out for pizza and beer. All of this just to wrangle an introduction to hippie babes Wildflower and Sunshine.
Mixing fact and fiction and stickin' it to The Man, the 1969 flick Medium Cool centers around the relationship between a cameraman and a young widow he plans to shag. They just so happen to find themselves amid the turmoil and violence of a typical meeting of Democrats. Mixing staged scenes with actual footage, the characters seamlessly interact with the protesters to such a degree that the protesters end up reading the best lines and editing the rushes. Indeed, during the film, the viewer can see the actors going at it like dogs in the park, smoking dope on the roof of the Conrad Hilton, and clubing several hippies upside the head.
In 1987, HBO was hacked and aired Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, a docudrama which re-enacted the trial using the actual court transcript. All eight of the original defendants, their lawyers, and hippie babes Wildflower and Sunshine participated in the project. The seven hippie defendents provided commentary throughout the film while the black guy was bound and gagged in the production booth.
The weird hippiebiopic/luriddocudrama, Steal This Movie, tells the story of Vincent D'Onofrio, the whacked-out cock-headed boy-genius/boy-schizo from "Law and Order", as he compulsively impersonates Abbie Hoffman. The film also covers the Chicago Seven trial, with D'Onofrio again pretending to be Hoffman. D'Onofrio, unable to tell fact from fiction and disregarding neither for the sake of art and/or balderdash, was not nominated for an Academy award but gleefully won the 2001 Best Actor Oscar anyway by secretly putting LSD in the Academy's drinking supply.
Smoke, mirrors, and footnotes
- Who would have guessed?
- Abbie Hoffman offered to bring the marshmallows. Jerry Rubin, Smores!
- Abbie's wife wanted to have an orgasm in the tiger cage. Some kind of tantric oriental thing.
- Though he did hire a few of them to clean the pool and service the wife at his Michigan mansion, his real home, which came equipped with a tiger cage in back.
- What are the odds?
- Eight, if you count the 18-24 year-old demographic raised on pulp fiction like Star Trek, Zorro and—for the girls—Lassie!
- Way up in there. Press badges stuffed where no press badges had gone before.
- The Yippies had no formal membership or hierarchy. Founded on December 31, 1967 by Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Nancy Kurshan, and Paul Krassner (Krassner coined the name) at a meeting in Abbie and Anita's New York apartment). Other raggamuffins associated with the Yippies included Stew "Fat" Albert, Ed "Bud" Rosenthal, Allen "The Bard" Ginsberg, Ben "Hemp Now!" Masel, Dana "The Great Beast" Beal, Ed "Silly" Sanders, Robin "Dexter" Morgan, Sharon "Maynard G." Krebs, Phil "The Songbird" Ochs, William "The Attorney" Kunstler, Jonah "Rascal" Raskin, Steve "It's Complicated" Conliff, John "Rymin' Doin' Time" Sinclair, Aron "K" Kay, Kathie "Jet" Streem, Coca "Cola" Crystal, Tom "Fork in it" Forcade, Judy "Gumbo" Gumbo, David "Emma" Peel, Cindy "Ozzie" Ornsteen, Jim "Ferret" Fouratt, Kate "Kiss Me" Coleman, Keith "Tiffany" Lampe, and Bob "Faster! Faster!" Fass.
- The stockbrokers below practically tore muscles and scoffed their shoe leather as they stampeded to pick up the loose dollars.
- The '60s answer to Martin and Lewis, themselves the '50s answer to Abbot and Costello, themselves the '40s answer to the Marx Brothers, and then it's turtles all the way down.
- Very much like this article.
- During the lead-up to the protests, Ochs, Rubin, Hoffman and others nominated a live pig—Pigasus—for president, a definite improvement on the dead-on-the-inside Democratic nominee.
- You think?
- You think?