Following the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, eight men were charged with conspiring to incite the anti-Vietnam War riots that took place on the streets of downtown Chicago. Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale was one of those defendants, but his case was eventually severed from the others after he disrupted court proceedings over being denied the lawyer of his choice. Attorney Gerald Lefcourt represented activist Abbie Hoffman, co-founder of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) and one of the other seven defendants. The historic trial was recently portrayed in the Aaron Sorkin film, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” — seven because Seale’s case was separated from the rest.
In a recording from WBEZ’s archives, 848 host Richard Steele interviews Seale and Lefcourt about their experiences during a trial that helped shape the world’s view of the Vietnam War. Seale goes into vivid detail about Judge Julius Hoffman’s abuse of power, including several instances where he ordered Seale bound and gagged in court, and how the trial — and the 1960s protest movement era more broadly — changed the public conversation about institutional racism.
This interview originally aired on November 5, 1999 on the 30th anniversary of the Chicago 7 Trial.