1968 CHICAGO HILTON RIOT GALLERY 1  2  3  4  5  6

Chicago 10 is a 2005 theatrical film "Adapted from the court transcripts of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VS DAVID T DELLINGER, RENNARD C DAVIS, THOMAS F HAYDEN, ABBOT H HOFFMAN, JERRY C RUBIN, LEE WEINER, JOHN F FROINES, AND BOBBY G SEALE" from September 1969.  The defendants were charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot for their organization of the "protests" at the infamous 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. 

Partly this will be notes about the art of the film, but mostly about the characters and issues of the riot/protests.  I've read some about these events, but this more or less documentary movie was very good in the first place for presenting the narrative of events for the two years or so of planning through the actual convention and the subsequent trial. 

I was skeptical of the film going in on a couple of grounds.  My main concern was that I knew this film was made and presented to represent for the rioters, and how great they were and how awful The Man was.  In addition, they used a lot of animation - leading me to suspect some psychedelic nonsense.  But it all actually seemed to come out more or less legit.  A lot of it was archival footage of the actual events.  They seem to have presented more or less the whole story, with only a modest amount of additional spin.  The extensive footage of the convention activities is very useful in showing both the actual provocations of the hippies - very important to see - as well as the busting of heads by Daley's police force. 

The film was framed through the subsequent trial - for which there were no cameras or recorders.  Thus, the animation was mostly basically simple representation of the trial, with actors reading from the transcripts.  Now, certainly there was some spin involved in the animation and in the delivery of the lines from, among others, Hank Azaria as Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg.  But the whole film was based on actual court transcripts, which gives it all some basic legitimacy.  There seems to be very little scripted dialogue written for this movie.  One way or another, it's mostly actual vintage documentary footage, or readings of court transcripts.  Mostly just that basic artistic discipline alone establishes pretty good credibility, even allowing for the obvious sympathies of the filmmakers.

Roy Scheider may have made Judge Hoffman sound like a weenie, but even the pro-defendant filmmakers presumably studying the transcript for things to make him look like an ass didn't come up with anything.  Even as edited by the other side, this judge sounded at least 99% reasonable.  Partly this can perhaps be credited to the integrity of the filmmakers - but especially to the basic discipline of using the transcripts of his actual words.  Following his actual words, was Judge Hoffman supposed to be judged ill for insisting that the defense lawyer William Kuntsler stick to defending the defendants innocence, and refrain from carrying on about the supposed motives of the government in prosecuting them? 

From prosecutor Thomas Foran's opening statement "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the government will prove in this case the plan of the eight defendants, who encouraged people to come to Chicago during the Democratic convention from August the 26th through August the 29th, 1968.  There plan was to bring people into Chicago to protest, and then create a situation where these people would riot.  In doing so, the defendants crossed state lines with the intent to start this riot."  This prosecutorial statement seems to have a pretty strong basis in fact, based even just on what the defendants not just admitted but boasted of.

Hoffman responds in interview footage, "It's a state of mind trial.  I mean, we're being tried for our thoughts."  In animated footage of some kind of standup show, Hoffman expounds, "We're charged with carrying certain ideas across state lines.  Not with carrying machine guns or carrying little girls, or little boys or any other kind of shit.  We're charged with having a certain state of mind." 

These words documented in a pro-Hoffman movie alone - besides anything else in the movie or the rest of his public career (such as it was) - pretty firmly establish that Abbie Hoffman was a lying, dishonest schmuck.  Even if you completely disregard any hippies talking about or having weapons -which they certainly did - it was the Yippies clear and express organizational intent to see how much they could disrupt the city and how close they could come to just walking in sheer mass and taking over the convention hall and shutting down the Democratic convention. 

hippie rioters at the 1968 Democratic convention in ChicagoThey purposely and expressly set up to put public authorities in the position where they would HAVE to rough up the hippies.  Hoffman and Hayden et al set about making a threatening mob of thousands of out of control young people attempting to, for one thing, absolutely walk in and overrun the Hilton hotel where most of the delegates were staying.  They had no beginning of any right to do such a thing - and that sure as hell has nothing to do with "freedom of speech."  Hoffman knew the police could not simply let them physically overrun the city like this, and sending mobs on a low-violence rampage was still an aggressive and violent act. 

Yup, they lured the cops into sometimes looking bad and overreacting - but only by the most careful and purposeful provocation.  It's just flat lying bullshit for the likes of Abbie Hoffman to pretend that it was all just about exercising "free speech" or expressing ideas - cause their expression of their "ideas" went far beyond passive-aggressive into plain old aggressive.

On the other lying hand, Mary Ellen Dahl, undercover police officer, was put on the witness stand where she testified about Hoffman laying out plans to storm the Hilton hotel - carrying rocks and bottles and bricks for weapons.  There certainly were hippies throwing rocks and acting in a violent manner, and not without intent from the organizers.  But this sequence in particular demonstrated probably more than anything else in the film the basic dishonesty of police with this testimony.  "Did you see any policemen beat any demonstrators?" "No sir."  "Did you see any policemen do anything wrong?" "No."  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Officer Dahl was obviously a lying bitch.  Looking at the footage in the movie, there's pretty much no possible way you could have been there on the scene and NOT have seen officers beating demonstrators once or twice.  You might argue subjectively as to whether such beatings were "wrong," but c'mon. 

So this gal in particular goes a long way toward discrediting the entire prosecution.  The demonstrators certainly well did plenty of bad stuff, and well documented.  They pretty much had the defendants dead to rights.  So this lying and who knows for sure what other prosecutorial dishonesty was, more than anything else, plain stupid.  They threw away their own credibility needlessly - giving some actual legitimate arguments of prosecutorial lack of good faith and honesty to use on appeal. 

Defense attorney William Kuntsler, from his opening statement, "We will demonstrate that free speech died here in the streets, under those clubs, and that the bodies of these demonstrators were the sacrifices to it's death."  I can only say that Kuntsler has an asinine idea of "free speech."  For example, Tom Hayden was arrested for disorderly conduct early on for letting the air out of the tires of police cars.  This was followed by footage of thousands of young idiots automatically setting out for the jail to free their leader.  Calling this vandalism and threatening mob behavior "free speech" is beyond any point of reasonable argumentative description -  really just plain lying.

Some of the Yippies, most notably Abbie Hoffman (by far the most witty and articulate of them) repeatedly expressed it as their vision that they were creating "street theater" on a massive scale.  Everybody is an actor.  The kids were playing the "demonstrator" role, testing to see how the cop and city actors would fill in their parts.

Abbie Hoffman - "I have to reduce myself to being 15 or even seven or eight confronting my third or fourth grade English teacher who wants to make me do fucking ovals - round, round ovals, you know, when I want to go out in the schoolyard and play."

Except of course that the police were not children getting to play as they wished, whatever the consequences.  The police and Mayor Daley absolutely had to keep some public order - which is not to say that they may not reasonably be judged to have gone way overboard - or maybe not.  But that footage of the demonstrators directly across from the convention hall looked and acted more like a mob threatening to overrun the joint than demonstrators making speeches or displaying signs.  This wasn't a damned child's game for the cops.

It was a fairly clever Yippie PR game to use mostly just force of unwieldy and unco-operative mass numbers and minimal direct violence from their side to pretty much force the authorities to use violence to contain them so they can play martyr over having gotten their asses whipped.  Their parents should have done this individually many years ago, and we wouldn't have had this nonsense in the first place.  But they WANTED the police to gas and beat them.  They went to great lengths to back the cops into doing it.  You can hardly blame the cops for obliging them.

One place though where the authorities, which is to say Daley, pretty much definitely just screwed up unnecessarily was the bloody scene where he had the city insist on enforcing the closing hours of 11 pm to 4 am in the park.  They HAD to stay somewhere - cause there were tens of thousands of young idiots with no place to stay - demanding that the city figure out where they can stay, and this was well away from the convention.  He could have just overlooked them simply being in the park overnight for a couple of days during the convention rather than giving the hippies the bloody massacre they wanted.  But of course, the Yippies pushed even this point in advance by insisting on asking for a permit to not just be there, but, among other dumb things, expressly authorize public sex "wherever there is an aroused appendage and a willing aperture."

That clearly unnecessary police violence in closing the park tends to make them look bad even during the mostly justifiable use of force.  There's lots of footage here of cops teargasing, manhandling, and beating back demonstrators.  Bad pigs beating up poor unarmed kids.  But what other options did the pigs really have in much of this?  Were they supposed to simply let several thousand idiots just walk in and physically occupy the Hilton or the convention hall or overrun the jail and free Tom Hayden? 

Walter Cronkite at the 1968 Democratic convention in ChicagoThese dumb punk kids got to do what they did with minimal consequences because they knew their parents were chumps who would not tolerate a serious police crackdown.  Kuntsler carries on about the bodies of the demonstrators, as if the cops had killed them.  Don't think they killed even one.  They knew their worst provocations of basic civil order would be childishly indulged with mostly a minimum amount of force, a few mostly minor beatdowns and teargas. Hoffman gets to joke about gallows being built at the courthouse exactly because he knew they would never get close to such a thing.  They have cheesy footage of Walter Cronkite covering the convention and describing it somberly as a "police state."  Yeah, well, in a real police state these idiots would have faced real consequences for their actions.

I have to give a special shout out for entertainment to Black Panther founder and co-defendant Bobby Seale.  He was a real hoot.  He was like an episode of The Boondocks, a one-man continuing Col Stinkmeaner "nigga moment."  This violent thug insisted on his right to represent himself without a lawyer.  Then he insisted on interpreting that to mean that he had a constitutional right to take over the court and blather on about whatever irrelevant and openly disrespectful nonsense he wanted whenever and as much as he wanted in whatever hostile tones he wanted - which would basically appear to be ALL of the time.  I was about half expecting Seale to start jumping up and down on the defense table hollering "Fuck your court, nigga!"  That Stinkmeaner moment was actually not far from the dumb shit Seale was doing in court. 

When this constant aggressive nonsense ended up with him gagged and bound, why look at the horrid inhumane oppression!  Were we to understand that it was the moral or legal obligation of Judge Hoffman to let this fool take over his courtroom whenever and as desired to indulge his childish tantrums?  But of course, being black and "oppressed" he couldn't be expected to behave in a civil manner and speak in turn like everyone else. 

Also, being a black revolutionary leader, he was of course a great hero and the filmmakers gave him the last words in the film, from a rally after an appeals court eventually overturned the seemingly lenient four years of prison Judge Hoffman gave him for various charges of contempt of court - and everyone else's convictions and contempt citations as well. 

"With all these people here, I think the most appropriate very human revolutionary thing to first say, like we always say is, 'All power to the people.'"  Wow, man - that's DEEP.

Bobby Seale

Eventually, all of the defendants were found not guilty of conspiracy.  Five of the defendants - Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin were convicted of violation of the 1968 Anti-Riot Act.  They were sentenced to five years apiece.  Plus, Judge Hoffman sentenced each of the defendants and their attorneys to various seemingly richly deserved contempt of court charges. 

Judge Hoffman removed Seale from the original charges, but gave him four years+ in prison for multiple citations of contempt of court.  Two years later, his sentence was overturned and all charges dropped.

In 1972, the Seven Circuit Court of Appeals threw out all the convictions and contempt charges. 

Sorry excuse for a police state.


"The way I understand it, the white people is always hollering about how the colored people act and everything, but now thing's that it's turned around to show you who it really is"



1968 CHICAGO HILTON RIOT GALLERY 1  2  3  4  5  6




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