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Chicago Seven

The Chicago Seven, aka Chicago Eight were seven (originally eight) defendants charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in Chicago, Illinois.

The convention, in late August, 1968, was the scene of massive demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War, which was in full swing. Thousands of people showed up with signs and banners, tie-dyed shirts, music, dancing, and poetry. A pig was brought into the city to be "nominated" for President. At first it was a carnival atmosphere. The police were edgy. Some people responded to a night-time curfew announcement with rock-throwing. Police used tear gas, and struck people with batons. People were arrested. In the aftermath, a grand jury indicted eight demonstrators and eight police officers.

The original eight protester/defendants, indicted by the grand jury on March 20, 1969, were: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. The defence attorneys were William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass. The judge was Julius Hoffman. The prosecutor was Tom Foran. The trial began on September 24, 1969 and on October 9 the United States National Guard was called in for crowd control as demonstrations grew outside the courtroom.

Throughout the trial, the defendants (and to a certain extent, the defence attorneys) generally mocked the court and the judge through word and deed. They would not stand when Judge Hoffman entered the court; they dressed informally, ate jelly beans, blew kisses at the jury, slept, etc.

On October 29, the Judge Hoffman ordered defendant Bobby Seale bound and gagged, after Seale had shouted repeated epithets at him. Then, on November 5, the judge ordered Seale severed from the case. Hence, the "Chicago Seven".

In the end, on February 18, 1970, all seven defendants were found not guilty on the conspiracy charges, two (Froines and Weiner) were acquitted completely, and five were convicted of inciting to riot. These five were each sentenced to five years' imprisonment and fined $5,000 on February 20, 1970. Finally, the convictions were all reversed on appeal by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on November 21, 1972. The reasons for the reversal involved bias by the judge and his refusal to permit defence attorneys to question prospective jurors regarding cultural bias. During the trial, both defence attorneys had been cited for contempt (the convictions were later overturned).

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