Bobby Seale and the Chicago Seve
Bobby Seale and the Chicago Seven trials
By Earnest McBride
©2006. Earnest McBride, Jackson Mississippi
Chicago in 1968 witnessed the culmination of the explosive social protest that had been welling up since the Watts Revolt of 1965. Watts was essentially a black thing. Black ire had risen even higher with the assassination of Martin Luther King in April of 1968. Then came the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, shattering the last hope for a peaceful shift of power.
Eight people who came to Chicago in protest of war, racism and political manipulation in the summer of 1968 found themselves in jail the following year and charged with inciting to riot.
The Chicago Democratic National Convention brought to the streets of the Windy City a coalition of the predominantly white antiwar crusade and the militant Black activism under the leadership of Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale. Added to this mix was the newly created Yippies -- the Youth International Party -- a species of anarchist rejectionists whose political credo was, "Trust no one over 30." The street activists had a number of allies inside the convention halls also, including the Mississippi Freedom Democrats and a strong slate of antiwar candidates and delegates led by party regulars Eugene McCarthy and Teddy Kennedy.
They had all come to challenge the Democratic leadership conducting the 1968 Presidential Convention and continuing the war in Vietnam. And they were equally determined to defy the brute force that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had threatened to unleash on them in defense of the old political establishment, of which he was a key member.
"Chicago officials, led by Mayor Richard Daley, saw the Democratic National Convention as a grand opportunity to promote their city to the world," political writer Douglas O. Lindner says. "They resolved not to have anti-war demonstrators spoil their plans."
All the city's parks were to be closed at 11 p.m. and public order and decency would be strictly enforced, including the newly passed Riot Act of 1968. But the protesters continued to rally in the parks late into the night anyway. The head-bashing by Chicago police and the furious resistance by the political activists became a regular feature in the news media.
Undercover policemen infiltrated various protest groups and concocted specious cases against the key group leaders. Future California legislator Tom Hayden, a political theorist, was arrested for letting the air out of a police car. Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale was arrested for urging the besieged people to arm themselves. David Dellinger and John Froines, leaders of nonviolent factions of the antiwar mobilization, were arrested for advocating passive resistance to the head-bashing.
Brought to trial in federal court in September 1969 at the insistence of Mayor Daley, all the defendants treated the trial as a travesty of justice.
"Black Panther defendant Bobby Seale continuously, and in increasingly angry tones, insisted upon his right either to represent himself or to have the trial continued until his own counsel of choice, Charles Garry (who was hospitalized for gall bladder surgery), could represent him," Douglas Linder says. "Seale hurled frequent and bitter attacks at Judge Hoffman, calling him a "fascist dog," a "pig," and a "racist," among other things. On October 29, the outraged judge ordered Seale bound and gagged. Finally, on November 5, Hoffman severed Seale from the case and sentenced him to four years in prison for contempt."
With Seale gone, Abby Hoffman then began agitating presiding Judge Julius Hoffman by calling him "Julie," and on one occasion wearing black judicial robes into the courtroom before ripping them off and trampling them underfoot.
An interesting sidelight to the Chicago Seven trial was the December 3, 1969, murder of Mark Hampton and Fred Hall, two Chicago Black Panther leaders, at the hands of Chicago police. The police had paid a black informant to set up the two men. Thus, while Panther leader Seale was being railroaded through the justice system, his close associates were being set up to be killed. It has since been revealed that the FBI and large urban police centers like Chicago and Los Angeles were determined to annihilate the Black Panthers.