Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix film dramatizes famous 1969 political trial with many players Use this guide to understand the people and the issues
Dozens of demonstrators in the streets of the country An impending presidential election Violent confrontations between the police and the citizens they had sworn to protect And, amid the prospects of political and cultural change, a canvas frightening and inescapable background: thousands upon thousands of dead Americans
The summer of 2020 has obviously been historic But for some it is a season that looks remarkably similar to the summer of 1968
Instead of President Trump, it was Lyndon B Johnson, replaced by Richard M Nixon The tragedy that claimed the lives of Americans was not a pandemic but the war in Vietnam Racism was at the heart of the protests Rev Dr Martin Luther King jr had been assassinated a few months earlier – but so were a relentless project and demands for peace
In late August, tensions peaked in Chicago, in the shadow of the Democratic National Convention The National Guard, US Army troops and 12,000 Chicago police were mobilized against 10,000 protesters (Who, yes, s called ‘outside agitators’ then too) – Everything from Chicago, – New York Times reporter Tom Wicker wrote a year later, ‘has had a new intensity’ that of polarization, confrontation, antagonism and fearâ ????
Seven organizers – give or take â ???? have emerged as leaders federal justice could indict Their litigation slog through the courts is dramatized in Aaron Sorkin’s â ?? The Trial of the Chicago 7, â ???? which started streaming Friday on Netflix Sorkin, who wrote and directed the film, has stayed relatively close to the facts of the case Sorkinese twisting his tongue aside – and extracting some of the dialogue straight from the courtroom transcripts.But for anything that doesn’t fit in two hours onscreen, here’s what you need to know about the case and its defendants
The protesters at the convention were not a monolith, but a collection of several factions: among them, the Youth International Party, or Yippies; Students for a democratic society; and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam All were focused, at least in part, on pacifism and the end of the war
The Chicago 7s were prominent faces in the various groups Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (in the movie, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong) were the founders of the Yippies – ???? a party that, like its leaders, had a flair for the theater At one point in the trial, Hoffman and Rubin showed up with judges’ robes matching those of Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) The two Hoffmans were not related , which did not prevent the accused from calling the judge his « illegitimate father » in court
David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) led the National Mobilization Committee and was two decades older than Hoffman, the next oldest accused During the trial, The Times wrote in Dellinger’s obituary in 2004, it hovered over his co-defendants in age, experience, weight and severity…
Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) were in charge of the National Mobilization Committee office in Chicago, and both were former student leaders for a democratic society Hayden was an established organizer of student protests, including the occupation of the Columbia University campus buildings Davis, the only defendant other than Hoffman to testify, presented the court with a powerful account of his experience at Grant Park during the week of the convention, when several officers beat him to the point of losing consciousness
Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) and John Froines (Danny Flaherty) were both academics: Froines was a professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon, Weiner was a research assistant in the sociology department at Northwestern University. were involved in the National Mobilization Committee, but unlike the others, none was a group leader And also unlike the others: both were cleared of all charges against them at the end of the trial
Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a founder of the Black Panther Party, was the last â ???? and the most confusing â ???? defendant He had never met some of the seven before the trial, although all eight had been accused of conspiring with each other to incite a riot
Seale and Judge Hoffman were continually at odds during the trial Seale’s attorney Charles Garry was stranded in California for health reasons and unable to travel Seale repeatedly asked to be represented and was refused several times by the judge (whom he then described as « pig », « fascist » and « racist ») ??)
After weeks of bickering, Judge Hoffman ordered Federal Marshals to bind and gag Seale during his appearances, a visual that stunned the country He ultimately declared the trial set aside in Seale’s case, leaving seven defendants and sentenced Seale to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt
Sorkin didn’t have to do much to spice up the story The trial, which began in the fall of 1969 and lasted nearly five months, was set by drama from all sides The defendants â ???? and their lawyers, William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman) â ???? openly challenged Judge Hoffman in his courtroom (Collectively, attorneys and their clients have been convicted of over 150 counts of contempt) Disputes over the process were constant and the judge himself, according to the Center federal judiciary, has made few attempts to cover up its bias against the defense
None of this helped the defendants, who faced unprecedented charges: They were the first to be prosecuted under the Riot Law, a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 They were charged with conspiring to incite a riot, and six (Seale included) were charged with crossing state borders with the intention of inciting a riot The last two, Weiner and Froines, were instead charged and later deleted â ???? teach others how to make explosives
The defense position was that the case was more of a political trial than a criminal trial. Yet five defendants â ???? Hoffman, Rubin, Dellinger, Hayden and Davis – although acquitted of conspiracy, were convicted of riot charge over interstate travel Judge Hoffman imposed maximum sentence of five years each a decision that became irrelevant in 1972, when an appeals court unanimously quashed the riot convictions
In the years following the trial, most of the defendants continued on the path of activism: Hayden won a seat in the California legislature, Hoffman lectured and wrote several books, and Weiner joined the Anti-Defamation League as a political consultant Kunstler became known for championing left-wing causes and unpopular clients
But for the most part, the convention protests remained the most memorable part of their legacy. The protesters they led and the law enforcement agencies they clashed with, Wicker wrote, » ripped off the rubber masks of wealth, power and security from American society and gave the nation a new vision of itself challenged and uncertain, contorted and afraid, vying for his own soulâ € ”
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