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7 Reasons Why the Chicago 8 Trial Mattered

September 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

The arguing that the anti-riot law set a dangerous precedent.

“The effect of this ‘anti-riot’ act is to subvert the first Amendment guarantee of free assembly by equating organized political protest with organized violence,” it read. “Potentially, this law is the foundation for a police state in America.”

The letter was signed by 19 people, including Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Benjamin Spock, Judy Collins and Norman Mailer (Collins and Mailer would also testify at the trial). Because the Chicago Eight had begun referring to themselves as “The Conspiracy,” the 19 signers dubbed themselves the Committee to Defend the Conspiracy. They pledged to raise money to fund the Chicago Eight’s legal defense and encouraged readers to make donations.

3. There was a clear cultural clash between the judge and the defendants.

Judge Julius Hoffman, 1969.

During the trial, yippies Hoffman and Rubin sometimes used unusual tactics to draw attention to their arguments. In one instance, they showed up to court wearing judicial robes to protest Judge Julius Hoffman’s decision to revoke Dellinger’s bail. When the judge demanded they remove their robes, they took them off and stomped on them. Underneath, they were wearing Chicago police uniforms. Another time, Hoffman unfurled a National Liberation Front (aka “Viet Cong”) flag on the defense table, and engaged in a tug-of-war over it with a court marshal who tried to remove it.

Sharman says the media tended to emphasize moments like these because they were so unusual. However, he thinks it’s important to understand these incidents in the context of the judge’s behavior toward the defendants.

“Even on the first day, Tom Hayden gave a fist salute to the jury and he was given a contempt of court citation,” he says. “It was like nothing could be done without the judge sort of stamping on them, so that sort of encouraged them to do it, I think.” By the end of the trial, the judge had charged all of the Chicago Eight as well as defense attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass with contempt of court.

4. The judge ordered Bobby Seale to be chained and gagged in court.

Courtroom drawing of Bobby Seale bound and gagged during the trial, by Franklin McMahon.

Froines argues Hoffman and Rubin’s robe incident “was basically a minor disruption,” and that “the main event in terms of disruption was Bobby Seale being chained and gagged.”

Seale had chosen …read more


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Washington assumes command

September 24, 2019 in History

By Editors

On Cambridge common in Massachusetts, George Washington rides out in front of the American troops gathered there, draws his sword, and formally takes command of the Continental Army. Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War, was appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In serving the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses.

George Washington was born in 1732 to a farm family in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His first direct military experience came as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia colonial militia in 1754, when he led a small expedition against the French in the Ohio River valley on behalf of the governor of Virginia. Two years later, Washington took command of the defenses of the western Virginian frontier during the French and Indian War. After the war’s fighting moved elsewhere, he resigned from his military post, returned to a planter’s life, and took a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses.

During the next two decades, Washington openly opposed the escalating British taxation and repression of the American colonies. In 1774, he represented Virginia at the Continental Congress. After the American Revolution erupted in 1775, Washington was nominated to be commander in chief of the newly established Continental Army. Some in the Continental Congress opposed his appointment, thinking other candidates were better equipped for the post, but he was ultimately chosen because as a Virginian his leadership helped bind the Southern colonies more closely to the rebellion in New England.

With his inexperienced and poorly equipped army of civilian soldiers, General Washington led an effective war of harassment against British forces in America while encouraging the intervention of the French into the conflict on behalf of the colonists. On October 19, 1781, with the surrender of British General Charles Lord Cornwallis’ massive British army at Yorktown, Virginia, General Washington had defeated one of the most powerful nations on earth.

After the war, the victorious general retired to his estate at Mount Vernon, but in 1787 he heeded his nation’s call and returned to politics to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drafters created the office of president with him in mind, and in February 1789 Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States.

As president, …read more