Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago Seven is a dramatization of the infamous trial of the men that the federal government accused of inciting violence and riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The defendants — Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, and Lee Weiner — were all indicted (except for Bobby Seale) under the newly-passed Civil Rights Act of 1968, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines with the intent to incite a riot.
What happened to Abbie Hoffman after 'The Trial of the Chicago Seven'?
In August of 1968, nationwide tension culminated in the city of Chicago, where thousands of demonstrators convened for an anti-war and pro-civil rights march against the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention.
After days of protesting, over 600 citizens were arrested (with several hundred more left injured), and on March 20, 1969, eight defendants were indicted by a grand jury with various federal crimes. After a contentious and theatrical trial, Abbie and his “co-conspirators” were convicted and sentenced, but the convictions were reversed two years later when the Walker Commission found that the riots in Chicago had in fact been incited by the police.
Abbie was a social and political activist long before his involvement with the protests in Chicago. He was an important figure in the counterculture Flower Power movement of the 1960s and also co-founded the Youth International Party (Yippies).
By the end of the 1960s, when the trial was over, Abbie was at the height of his fame and continued his activist work with varying degrees of success. In 1969, he caused a ruckus at Woodstock when he interrupted The Who’s performance to speak against the jailing of political activist John Sinclair.
In 1971, he published his famous counterculture manifesto Steal This Book, which gave its readers advice on how to live for free.
Abbie was on the lam for much of the 1970s.
But soon afterward, in 1973, Abbie was arrested in New York for selling cocaine to undercover police officers. He claimed that the police had entrapped him and planted the drugs on him and, to avoid prison, he went into hiding.
For the next few years, Abbie lived in Fineview, N.Y., under the name Barry Freed. He even got cosmetic surgery to alter his physical appearance and remained hidden from the authorities until 1980 when he surrendered himself to the police and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of cocaine.
Abbie was sentenced to a year in prison, out of which he served four months.
In 1986, Abbie was arrested once again, this time along with the daughter of former President Jimmy Carter, Amy, for trespassing during a protest against the CIA’s recruitment on the University of Massachusetts campus. He was found not guilty during his trial.
After his acquittal, Abbie made a cameo appearance in Oliver Stone’s anti-Vietnam film, Born on the Fourth of July. That same year, Abbie published Steal This Urine, an indictment on the failing “war on drugs” policy, and a guide to circumvent the initiative’s intrusive measures. Abbie also continued to give talks about the CIA’s covert operations around the world that included regime changes and assassinations disguised as suicides.
How did Abbie really die?
In 1989, at the age of 52, Abbie was found dead in his apartment. The cause of death was ruled a suicide after an autopsy revealed that Abbie had 150 phenobarbital tablets and alcohol in his system. Although his Chicago Seven co-defendant David Dellinger disputed the suicide, claiming that Abbie had too many plans for the future to want to end his life, the coroner was firm that the death was indeed self-inflicted.
Many close friends speculated that Abbie ended his life after struggling with the fact that his many years of protesting against the establishment hadn’t led to the changes he had envisioned for the world. Some said that he fell into a depression after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Others pointed to the fact that Abbie had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1980 and a recent change in his medication could have provoked an extreme mood swing, as detailed in the many handwritten notes found along with his body.
Abbie’s memorial was held at his childhood synagogue in Worcester, Mass. with many of the protestors that had marched with him in attendance. At the time of his death, Abbie was one of the few 1960s radicals who still commanded the public and the government’s attention, as evidenced by his FBI file which was reportedly 13,262 pages long.
The Trial of the Chicago Seven is now streaming on Netflix.