GETTING WOKE BY THE CHICAGO SEVEN: A new film recounts one of the nation's most controversial trials.

AuthorSilber, Glenn
PositionThe Trial of the Chicago 7 - Movie review

On Wednesday, August 28,1968, some 15,000 protesters assembled for an antiwar rally at the bandshell in Chicago's Grant Park. Afterward, a few thousand broke off and tried marching to the International Amphitheatre, which was then hosting the Democratic National Convention.

It was the third day of the four-day convention that had seen skirmishes with some of the 12,000 Chicago police Mayor Richard Daley had enlisted to keep order in his host city. On this night, the marchers were subjected to what was later officially deemed to be "a police riot." The Chicago police attacked the protesters with tear gas, mace, and batons. All of this was captured live by network television cameras and broadcast to the stunned eyes of the nation.

I remember watching the coverage on TV with my dad, at our family home in New Jersey.

I was eighteen years old. My father was a Newark attorney and moderate Republican supporter of Richard Nixon. As an Army Major, he had spent a year in Germany after the end of World War II to help "de-Nazify" Germany and return the judicial system to civilian rule. I could see that my father was shocked and disgusted by what he saw on TV that night. I was, too.

Little did we realize that the events we witnessed on TV that night would lead to one of the most controversial political trials in U.S. history, and the subject of a new highly anticipated political film about to be released just three weeks before the fall 2020 election.

One week later, in September 1968, my parents and sister drove me to Madison, Wisconsin, where I was enrolled as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. The next day, someone from the Wisconsin Draft Resistance Union slipped a leaflet under my dorm room door. It invited me to a "College Disorientation Meeting" about the war in Vietnam. I went. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of my political transformation.

That winter, I took part in supporting a Black Student Strike, during which the states Republican governor called in the National Guard to "restore order" to Madison. Three months later, I was tear-gassed by Madison police at a community block party just off campus, which set off four nights of riots. By the end of my first year of college, I viewed the war in Vietnam as immoral, illegal, and just plain wrong. I burned my draft card.

In March 1969, President Richard Nixon's Justice Department indicted eight individuals on charges of "conspiracy to cross state lines to incite a riot"...

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