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.
No. The female undercover agent in The Trial of the Chicago 7 movie, Agent Daphne Fitzgerald (Caitlin Fitzgerald), is an almost entirely fictional character. The real Jerry Rubin was never seduced by a female undercover agent. Daphne seems to have been introduced in the movie to bring levity to the story after Jerry Ruben (Jeremy Strong) discovers the truth about her. In real life, there were three undercover agents who infiltrated the demonstrators. An agent by the name of Robert Pierson became a bodyguard for Jerry Rubin. He posed as a member of a motorcycle gang.
Yes. The true story behind The Trial of the Chicago 7 confirms that the standoff indeed happened in real life. The protesters were met by an armed battalion of police officers outside the station. Like in the film, activist Tom Hayden was released on bail.
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.
No. There's no record of Fred Hampton being there and giving advice to Bobby Seale. While some Black Panthers were probably at the trial, the movie introduces Hampton in order to later tie in his death at the hands of the police. In the film, Hampton's death provides the motivation for Seale to become more defiant at the trial.
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 three 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.
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.
According to real-life accounts, this happened on Wednesday, August 28, 1968, the day the Convention week violence was at its peak. Tom Hayden reportedly told the audience of 10,000 to 15,000 who had gathered at the bandshell at Grant Park, "This city and the military machine it had aimed at us won't permit us to protest. ... Therefore, we must move out of this park in groups throughout the city and turn this excited, overheated military machine against itself. Let us make sure that if blood is going to flow, let it flow all over this city. If gas is going to be used, let that gas come down all over Chicago. ... If we are going to be disrupted and violated, let this whole stinking city be disrupted and violated." The movie implies that Hayden was referring only to the protesters' blood flowing in the streets and forgot to use the pronoun "our" when referring to the blood. However, the real Hayden wasn't as nonviolent as the movie makes him out to be. He had made other incendiary comments in the build-up to the convention.
We then see a small group of protesters, including Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) and Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), make their way across an unguarded bridge toward the convention. In real life, a much larger group of protesters crossed the bridge and confronted the police, which ignited what became known as the "police riot."
In the film, Abbie Hoffman attempts to clarify in court what Tom Hayden meant to say. However, we found no record that the "If blood is going to flow" quote was ever uttered in court, nor did Hoffman ever quote from the Book of Matthew. We also found no evidence that a tape of Hayden saying this actually existed in real life or was introduced in court.
The incident around the flagpole seems to have been fictionalized somewhat in the film. In real life, the flagpole incident happened around 3 p.m. Demonstrators had tried to replace an American flag in the park and raise a red or blood-splattered shirt in its place. As police officers moved in to retrieve the American flag, Jerry Rubin shouted, "Kill the pigs! Kill the cops!" At some point, Rennie Davis was indeed clubbed unconscious, but this appears to have happened after some of the demonstrators formed a line between the police and the crowd. Officers then charged the line to get to the flagpole. It's true that Rennie Davis getting clubbed is what led Hayden to make his remarks.
While Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne's characters are at odds with one another in the movie, the real-life Hoffman and Hayden weren't as different as the film portrays them to be. It's true that Tom Hayden was more restrained and civil than Abbie Hoffman, but like Hoffman, Hayden had a tendency to say explosive things at times. He also wasn't as clean-cut as Eddie Redmayne's character.
No. As stated in the movie, Dave Dellinger was a Boy Scout Leader and a pacifist. Unlike what's seen in the film, he didn't betray his penchant for nonviolence by punching a bailiff. In fact, the beginning of this scene with Michael Keaton's character, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, appears to be mostly fictional as well. The court transcripts reveal that while Clark did appear in a voir dire proceeding (an examination without the jury to assess a witness's qualification to give testimony), Clark never discussed a call with President Lyndon Johnson. He only answered questions about his discussions with city officials and federal planning in preparation for the convention. His bombshell testimony alluded to in the movie that could contradict the entire proceedings and prove that the case was largely a witch hunt is a fabrication.
While it's true that Judge Hoffman did not allow Ramsey Clark to participate in the trial, the decision never led Dave Dellinger, a pacifist, to punch out a bailiff. Dellinger never punched anybody during the trial.
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.
In researching the fact vs. fiction in the movie, we discovered that eight police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury. They were then charged with violating the civil rights of the demonstrators due to their use of excessive force.
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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