Originally the Chicago Eight, the activists were on trial for crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, which took place from August 26–29. The were allegedly in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Trial of the Chicago 7 true story reveals that they had gone to Chicago mainly to protest American involvement in the Vietnam War and the fact that the Democratic presidential nominee, Hubert Humphrey, did not staunchly oppose the war. Other charges against the eight defendants included committing acts to impede law enforcement officers and instructing others on how to make incendiary devices.
The Chicago Eight included Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Bobby Seale. However, the last man, Seale, was eventually removed from the proceedings, which dropped the total number of defendants to seven. 16 co-conspirators were also named but never prosecuted.
Technically, yes. The protesters, mainly made up of the Youth International Party (Yippies) and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (Mobe), were only given a permit to assemble at the bandshell at Grant Park. They were denied permits to march toward the site of the Democratic National Convention, as well as hold rallies in various lakefront parks and close to the convention site. To this end, Mayor Richard Daley was largely trying to keep them out of sight and out of mind. His public response was that he was trying to ensure the safety of the convention attendees. Over the span of five days and nights, several thousand protesters defied the restrictions. They tried to march to the International Amphitheater where the convention was being held, among other locations, including police headquarters.
The protesters also defied the park's 11:00 pm curfew. Initially, police confronted the protesters in an effort to enforce the curfew and clear the park. One problem was that there were thousands of protesters and many didn't have money for a hotel, which were mostly booked due to the convention. Clearing the park meant forcing people into the streets, many with no place to go.
No. The movie makes it seem like a swarm of police were surrounding the statue of General John Logan at the top of the hill before the demonstrators charged. However, it actually happened the other way around. The police were not on the scene when the demonstrators charged the hill in Grant Park and began climbing up onto the statue and waving flags. It was only then that the police arrived to clear the protesters from the statue and the hill. This is depicted in the Chicago 10 documentary.
In reality, they were both at fault to varying degrees. The movie almost entirely depicts the police as the aggressors and the protesters the victims. As a result, we're shown a mostly one-sided account of what actually happened. Like in the film, the August 28, 1968 clash was dubbed by a commission as a "police riot." During the violent confrontations, there were indeed press and eyewitness accounts of police overreacting and indiscriminately attacking nearly everyone in sight, including reporters, as some officers seemed to enter into a state of panic. It didn't help that many of the officers had little training in riot control. In an attempt to control the defiant and at times aggressive crowds, police used verbal and physical means, including tear gas, mace, and hitting unruly protesters with batons. Footage of bloodied protesters was featured prominently in the media.
Yes. Defendant Bobby Seale, the National Chairman of the Black Panther Party, was upset that the trial could not be delayed so that his attorney, Charles Garry, could represent him (Garry was recovering from gallbladder surgery). Judge Julius Hoffman told seal that he was already being represented by attorney William Kunstler (Mark Rylance in the movie), who had represented Seale at the pre-trial hearings. However, Seale claimed that he fired Kunstler and didn't want a white lawyer.
When Judge Hoffman denied the postponement and told Seale he could not represent himself, Seale vehemently protested via a number of outbursts and constantly disrupted the trial. He called the judge a "bigot," a "racist," a "fascist" and a "pig." One month into the trial, the judge ordered the bailiffs to do something to stop the disruptions. They chained Seale to a chair, as well as bound and gagged him. To justify the action, Judge Hoffman referred to a precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois v. Allen., which ruled that a defendant has the absolute right to be present at his own trial, even if it means binding and gagging the defendant to make the trial possible. -FindLaw.com
While the movie only shows Seale bound and gagged for a short time, he actually appeared in court that way for several days, making muffled sounds and trying to get free, which prompted defense attorney William Kunstler to refer to the courtroom as a "medieval torture chamber." Many called Judge Hoffman's actions abuse, while there were others who wondered what else he could have done to contain Seale's outbursts. Observers argued that Judge Hoffman should have severed Seale from the trial instead of taking such extreme action.
Judge Hoffman eventually allowed Seale into the courtroom without his restraints, at which time Seale once again disrupted the proceedings. In Seale's case, Judge Hoffman was forced to declare a mistrial, calling Seale's actions "a deliberate and wilful attack upon the administration of justice in an attempt to sabotage the functioning of the federal judiciary system." Hoffman found Seale guilty of 16 acts of contempt of court, resulting in a sentence of four years in prison. He had to be carried out of the courtroom. Onlookers declared, "Free Bobby!" Seale was severed from the case.
With Seale no longer part of the trial, the Chicago Eight became known as the Chicago Seven. As a result of the judge's unconstitutional actions in denying Seale his chosen attorney, in addition to the ability to represent himself, the contempt charges against Seale were eventually overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals. While it was intended that he would be tried separately, the trial never happened.
Yes. While it's not shown in the film, this was another one of the judge's actions that served to exacerbate the fiasco unfolding in his courtroom. He ordered that the barbers at the Cook County Jail cut the lengthy locks of the defendants and their lawyers. It's not surprising that the film omits this, given that it might be harder to keep track of the characters.
Yes, similar to Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne's characters in the movie, the real-life Hoffman and Hayden didn't like each other. Tom Hayden was more restrained, civil, and non-violent, while Abbie Hoffman was a disrupter who didn't mind breaking the law to make a statement.
Yes. Judge Julius Hoffman was a stickler for order and etiquette in his courtroom. The Chicago Seven went out of their way to agitate him. They challenged Judge Hoffman and disrupted the trial on a daily basis. They did such things as read poetry in the courtroom and chant Hare Krishna. Exploring The Trial of the Chicago 7's historical accuracy confirms that Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin once wore judicial robes into the courtroom, at which point they threw them to the floor and stepped on them, only to reveal that they were wearing police uniforms underneath. Aside from Bobby Seale, who ended up not being tried with the others, Abbie Hoffman was the most problematic. He continually referred to the judge as "Julie" and told him he "would have served Hitler better." Later, he told Judge Hoffman, "Your idea of justice is the only obscenity in the room." Both Jerry Rubin and Rennie Davis told Judge Hoffman "this court is bullsh*t."
No. In the movie's climactic moment at the end of the trial, Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) stands and defies the judge's instruction and begins reading the 4,752 names of soldiers killed in Vietnam. It's a defining moment in the film, but according to court transcripts, Hayden didn't do this in real life. In reality, it was fellow defendant Dave Dellinger who read the names. It happened earlier in the trial on Moratorium Day, October 15, 1969, a day when nationwide demonstrations called for a moratorium to end the war in Vietnam. Dellinger stood and began reading the names before Judge Hoffman arrived in the courtroom. When the judge walked in he made Dellinger stop, and their back and forth remarks resulted in Dellinger getting a contempt charge.
The jury found all seven defendants not guilty of conspiracy. Five of the seven men (Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin) were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for inciting riots. All seven men, as well as their lawyers, were given hefty contempt of court sentences by Judge Julius Hoffman. However, aside from their attorney, William Kunstler, none of the men spent more than 3 years in prison. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions in 1972, citing that Judge Hoffman exhibited bias when he wouldn't let defense attorneys screen potential jurors for racial and cultural prejudices. The appeals court also cited the FBI's surveillance of the defense lawyers' offices as a violation of their rights.
As for the eighth man, Bobby Seale, who had been severed from the case, Judge Hoffman had sentenced him to four years for contempt. After two years, his sentence was overturned and the charges against him were dropped. In the years that followed, Seale was implicated in two murders, one of a fellow Black Panther who had an affair with his wife. He was never convicted.
80% of Americans at the time disapproved of the demonstrators tactics and blamed the demonstrators over the police.
What unfolds at the trial in the movie was largely taken verbatim from the original courtroom transcripts. The film also intercuts actual black and white news footage with its dramatized protests. However, there is still plenty of embellishment since cameras had not been allowed in the courtroom, in addition to the fact that much of the trial is not shown in the film. Director and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is clearly sympathetic to the protesters, portraying them as the victims and the police as the aggressors. However, the actual events that led to the Chicago Seven Trial weren't so black and white. Violence ensued from both sides, instigated in part by the police.
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