“The Whole World is Watching!”
Have you watched Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 yet? If you haven’t or want more of the backstory, we’ll get you caught up. Warning: some spoilers below.
The film tells the story of the Chicago 7—David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—which was originally the Chicago 8 with Bobby Seale. In September 1969, under a new federal antiriot statute, the men went on trial in the Federal Building at Jackson Boulevard and Dearborn Street, charged with crossing state lines with the intent to incite antiwar riots and disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Judge Julius Hoffman ruled that “the substance of the crime was a state of mind.” The six-month spectacle included outspoken protests, the binding and gagging of defendant Bobby Seale (national chairman of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense), and federal marshals struggling with defendants and spectators. The jury dismissed the conspiracy charges, but found five defendants guilty of “intent.” The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the five for separate retrials, ruling that the evidence could as easily lead a jury to acquit as to convict. The government never retried the five.
What happened prior to the trial is just as important as what happened during it. From August 26 to 29, 1968, far from the cordoned-off International Amphitheater where Hubert Humphrey won the presidential nomination, protesters and police met in angry confrontations in the Loop. The worst occurred on August 28 after police stopped protesters from marching to the convention center. A crowd of some 10,000 ended up near Michigan Avenue and Balbo Drive. As protesters chanted “The whole world is watching” and television crews filmed, policemen beat hundreds of protesters bloody. Some 83 million Americans watching their televisions to see the democratic process at work instead saw a “police riot.”
To better understand The Trial of the Chicago 7, we’re highlighting some of our digital resources that capture the events during the 1968 DNC.
Chicago ØØ : The 1968 DNC Protests
Immerse yourself in the history of Chicago’s Grant Park on August 28, 1968, when protestors violently clashed with police during the final night of the Democratic National Convention. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the event in 2018, the Chicago History Museum, in partnership with Geoffrey Alan Rhodes of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, created Chicago ØØ : The 1968 DNC Protests, a virtual reality experience. See historical film and photographs superimposed on contemporary 3D virtual reality photographs of the site, with narration by Dr. David Farber, author of Chicago ’68. See the Experience
Chicago: Law and Disorder
The year 1968 was one of shock. Even during a particularly turbulent decade, it stood out with its major historic events, many of which set the stage for the Democratic National Convention in August. Amidst the protests against war, for civil rights, and for social revolution, there were the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April and Senator Robert F. Kennedy in June. In our Google Arts & Culture exhibit Chicago: Law and Disorder, see images of and archival materials from the DNC, Chicago 7 trial, and Days of Rage. Explore the Exhibit
Interview with Hoffman, Seale, and Dellinger
Studs Terkel interviewed the twentieth century’s most fascinating people in his forty-five years on WFMT radio. In 1988, he sat down to talk with Abbie Hoffman, Bobby Seale, and Dave Dellinger about their childhoods, the Civil Rights Movement, and their political activism. Listen Now
“The Park is Ours”
The whole world was watching Chicago in August 1968. Most of the focus, however, was on Grant Park as demonstrators faced off against law enforcement. But a few miles north, the scene in Lincoln Park and Old Town was also fraught with tension. The Festival of Life kicked off on August 25, and participants and police officers prepared for the worst with sometimes surprising results. Learn more about the festival and its legacy of activism in the neighborhood in our Chicago History magazine article “The Park is Ours.” Read the Article
Images, from left: Poster welcoming people to the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, August 1968. CHM, ICHi-037012. Protesters on and around the General John Logan Memorial monument in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, August, 27, 1968. Photograph by Gary Settle for Chicago Sun-Times, ST-17500716, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM. Poster created by the Youth International Party advertising the Festival of Life during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, August 1968. CHM, ICHi-006437.