This week marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the actions of the Chicago 7 (originally the Chicago 8, as my parents always pointed out) whose protest against the Vietnam War landed them in the courtroom.
The group included anti-establishment Yippie activists Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden (who would later serve in the California state senate and be one of Jane Fonda‘s many husbands) and Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, who had the distinction of being bound and gagged in the courtroom after calling the judge a “racist” and a “pig”. (Seale was eventually evicted for being in contempt of court and sentenced to an astonishing four years in prison – unheard of for such an offense.)
The trial was notorious for the Yippies’ fun-loving (others would say “ball busting”) antics. For example, Hoffman and Rubin famously showed up to court one day dressed in traditional judicial robes.
The trial lasted several months, finally resulting in acquittals for all seven on charges of conspiracy. However, five of the defendants were convicted of a new violation: crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot, a crime instituted by the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (and to date, they are the only people who have ever been charged with that offense). Those charges were later dropped.
The Chicago 8 story has already been the basis of several movies – anyone else remember the cheesy 1987 docu-drama produced by HBO/ DreamWorks recently announced it’s working on its own version with funny man Sacha Baron Cohen in the role of Abbie Hoffman.