Thoughtfully assembled chronicle of the trial of seven anti-war activists in 1969 and 1970.
As Aaron Sorkin writes in the introduction to this new version, originally published in 1970 as The Tales of Hoffman, the real instigators of the riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention were the police, who sent hundreds of protestors to the hospital with serious injuries, “many of them to the skull.” Still, the government decided to make a law-and-order lesson of eight radicals; Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers, was eventually given a separate trial, whence the Chicago 7. The judge, Julius Hoffman, was clearly not sympathetic to the accused, who, it is to be admitted from these transcripts, were bent on turning the trial into street theater, with a take-no-prisoners defense attorney in William Kunstler, who said, “the defense will show that the real conspiracy in this case is…the conspiracy to curtail and prevent the demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and related issues.” The exchanges between judge and defense (and defendants) were often testy. Said Hoffman (no relation to Abbie, he hastened to observe) to Kunstler, “You know Mr. Mies van der Rohe designed that lectern for the use of counsel and I wish you would stay behind it, sir,” to which Kunstler replied, “Your Honor, sometimes for a free spirit, it is quite confining, so I move a little, and I am sorry.” Only two of the seven defendants were called to speak, but all of them had their moments, which earned plenty of jail time on contempt charges above and beyond the government’s charges against them. So did courtroom observers, such as the anonymous voice that warned the judge, “they will dance on your grave, Julie, and the graves of the pig empire.” The transcript, edited by three lawyers, gives a nearly blow-by-blow account of the principal moments in the proceedings, which are both entertaining and sobering.
Given that 2020 is shaping up to be another 1968, this is an invaluable—and timely—historical document.
Pub Date: yesterday
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020