Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Trial of the Chicago 7


It was a long, long time ago now. Many of my readers were not even born when this shitshow went down in Chicago, after the police riot encouraged by Mayor Daley. Eight of the rather amorphous group of “leaders” of the protests were picked out either from their notoriety or seemingly just at random, and charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot. They were Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner. Some of them had never met each other. Oh, don’t forget Bobby Seale, the eighth “conspirator.” He seems to have been thrown in because it would be neat to have a Negro in the group. The Kangaroo Kourt “Here come de” Judge, Julius Hoffman, forced him to stand trial with the rest of them in spite of the fact that he rejected their lawyer, William Kunstler (who agreed with Bobby) and insisted on his own attorney, Charles Garry, who was too ill to attend. Don’ make no nevermind to me, sez Hoffman, and made Bobby sit there bound to a chair and gagged. Oh, my friends, it was sickening. Outside of Southern lynching “trials,” it was the worst travesty in a courtroom in decades.

Bobby was never convicted of anything, but was sentenced to four years for contempt of court. Seldom has a court been more worthy of contempt. That was overturned. Five of the seven were convicted of inciting, and given long sentences. All of which were overturned. In fact, everything was overturned, much to the government’s embarrassment.

This is a great production, and to someone of my generation it is interesting and sad to hear these names and see these people, many of whom I haven’t thought of in a very long time. It follows the events leading up to the riots, and the trial pretty faithfully, as far as I can tell. The casting is good, with standout performances by Frank Langella as Hoffman and Sasha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, the clown in the tent. See it for nostalgia if you are my age, for a history lesson if you are younger.