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The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Allen Ginsberg on the Stand

Q: Now directing your attention to the following day which is August 13th at approximately 5:30 in the afternoon, where were you in the City of Chicago?

A: I went up to City Hall to the Mayor’s office…[and] I met with Mr. Stahl who said he was the Mayor’s assistant….

Q: Not going into any conversation, Mr. Ginsberg, did anything occur or happen during the course of this meeting?

A: I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra to Mr. Stahl…as an example of what was intended by the Festival of Life and I asked them to please give a permit to avoid violence.

MR. FORAN: I object to that and I ask that it be stricken.

THE COURT: The last words of the witness may go out and the jury is directed to disregard them….

Q: Do you recall what time of day you arrived in the City of Chicago on the 24th of August?

A: Around 2:00 or so, mid-day, 3:00.

Q: Do you recall where you were on that day at 4:00 p.m.?…

A: I went to a meeting at the free theatre across the street from the Lincoln Park.

Q: Who was there?

A: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, Stu Albert, and many other people whom I didn’t know, people who were working on the Youth International Party festival….

Q: Did you hear the defendant, Jerry Rubin, say anything at this meeting?

A: Yes…. Jerry Rubin said that he didn’t think the police would attack the kids who were in the park at night if there were enough kids there, that he didn’t think it would be a good thing to fight over the park if the police started fighting with the kids,…that as far as he was concerned, he wanted to leave the park at night and would not encourage anybody to fight and get hurt that evening if the police did physically try to force everybody out of the park. That was on Saturday night, the first night when people would be in the park.

Q: Did the defendant, Abbie Hoffman, say anything at this meeting?

A: Abbie Hoffman said the park wasn’t worth fighting for, that we had on our responsibility invited many thousands of kids to Chicago for a happy festival of life, for an alternative proposition to the festival of death that the politicians were putting on, and that it wasn’t right to lead them or encourage them to get into a violent argument with the police over staying in the park overnight. He didn’t know, he said he didn’t know what to say to those who wanted to stay and fight for what they felt was their liberty, but he wasn’t going to encourage anybody to fight, and he was going to leave when forced himself….

Q: At approximately 10:30 that night, where were you?

A: I was in Lincoln Park.

Q: And what occurred in Lincoln Park at approximately 10:30, if you can recall?…

A: There were several thousand young people gathered, waiting, late at night. It was dark. There were some bonfires burning in trash cans. Everybody was standing around not knowing what to do…. There was a sudden burst of lights in the center of the park, and a group of policemen moved in fast to where the bonfires were and kicked over the bonfires.

Q: Then what—

A: There was a great deal of consternation and movement and shouting among the crowd in the park, and I turned, surprised, because it was early. The police were or had given 11:00 as the date or as the time—….

Q: When you observed the police doing this what, if anything, did you do?

A: I turned to Sanders and said, “They are not supposed to be here until 11:00.”…

Q: Without relating what you said to another person, Mr. Ginsberg, what did you do at the time you saw the police do this?

A: I started the chant, O-o-m-m-m-m-m-m, O-o-m-m-m-m-m-m. [Ginsberg chanted this in a very loud voice, like a giant cello or a foghorn.]

MR. FORAN: All right, we have had a demonstration.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. FORAN: From here on, I object.

THE COURT: You haven’t said that you objected.

MR. FORAN: I do after the second one.

THE COURT: After two of them? I sustain the objection….

MR. FORAN: I have no objection to the two Om’s that we have had. However, I just didn’t want it to go on all morning.

THE COURT: The two, however you characterize what the witness did, may remain of record, and he may not continue in the same vein.

Q: Did you finish your answer?

A: I am afraid I will be in contempt if I continue to Om…. We walked out of the park. We continued chanting the Om for at least twenty minutes, slowly, gathering other people, chanting, Ed Sanders and I in the center, until there were a group maybe of 15 or 20 making a very solid heavy vibrational chant…that penetrated the immediate area around us, and attracted other people, and so we walked out slowly toward the street, toward the Lincoln Park Hotel….

Q: What was occurring in the park at the time you began your Om chant?

A: A great deal of swift and agitated motion in many different directions without any center and without any calm.

When we began chanting…there was one central sound and one central rhythmic behavior vocalized by all the people who participated and a slow quieting of the physical behavior of the people…slowly moving out of the park. They all moved in one direction, those who were involved in the chanting, out of the park and away from the police calmly without running and without physically agitated behavior….

Q: Now at approximately three o’clock…[on Sunday afternoon] where were you?

A: By the loud speaker in the center of the park where there was the MC5, a Detroit rock group led by John Sinclair who was at the microphone. So I came up to John Sinclair who had been arranging the music part of the day and asked him if I could do a bit of chanting on the microphone.

Q: And what occurred at that time?

A: I was introduced on the microphone and for about fifteen minutes chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra with the harmonium and then chanted a poem of William Blake in order to calm the crowd and to advise those who were of a violent nature—

MR. FORAN: Objection, your Honor.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection. The reference of the witness to his having spoken or chanted a poem of William Blake may go out and the jury is directed to disregard it.

Q: Could you just state without chanting the poem of William Blake to the jury?…

[Whereupon the witness recited Blake’s “The Grey Monk.”]

Q: What, if anything, did you do for the remainder of the time that you were in the park?

A: First I walked around away from the loud speaker’s system and the rock and roll music that was going on to the center of the park where suddenly a group of policemen appeared in the middle of the younger people. There was a great mass of policemen going through the center of the park. I was afraid then, thinking they were going to make trouble—

MR. FORAN: Objection to his state of mind….

Q: What did you do when you saw the policemen in the center of the crowd?

A: Adrenalin ran through my body, I sat down on a green hillside with a group of younger people that were walking with me at about 3:30 in the afternoon, 4:00, sat, crossed my legs and began chanting O-o-m. O - o - m - m -m . O - o - m - m - m . O-o-m-m-m.

MR. FORAN: I gave him four that time.

THE WITNESS: I continued chanting for seven hours….

Q: When you chanted during this period of time, were you joined in the chant?

A: Yes, many people joined me…. The group shrank and increased as the day went on. Toward dusk there must have been…about 100, 200 people…joining and going around, but there was a permanent group that stayed with me of about 50 people who continued chanting in unison….

Q: Now, at approximately 8:00 p.m. that evening, where were you? This is Tuesday night, August 27.

A: I came with a party of writers to the unbirthday party of President Johnson at the Coliseum in Chicago….

Q: Now, when you arrived at the Coliseum, did you see any of the defendants present?

A: Yes…. Abbie Hoffman….

Q: Did you talk to him at that time?

A: Yes….

Q: Will you relate to the Court and jury what occurred when you talked to him?

A: I went down and sat next to him and kissed him, and pointed back up at Jean Genet, who was there, and told Abbie that Genet was there, and signaled to Genet so they would see each other because they had met previously….

Q: Now, when you left the Coliseum, where, if anywhere, did you go?

A: The group I was with, Mr. Genet, Mr. [William] Burroughs, and Mr. [Richard] Seaver, and Terry Southern, all went back to Lincoln Park.

Q: What time did you arrive in the park?

A: 11:00, 11:30.

Q: What was occurring at the park as you got there?

A: There was a great crowd lining the outskirts of the park and a little way into the park on the inner roads, and there was a larger crowd moving in toward the center. We all moved in toward the center and at the center of the park, there was a group of ministers and rabbis who had elevated a great cross about ten-feet high in the middle of a circle of people who were sitting around, quietly, listening to the ministers conduct a ceremony.

Q: How many people were there?

A: It must have been about a thousand….

Q: And would you relate to the Court and the jury what was being said and done at that time?

A: The ministers were telling whoever wanted to participate in the ceremony to sit down and be quiet, and when singing was done, to sing in unison. There were a few people who were making more disturbing noises. The ministers were trying to calm them down and have them sit down. Everybody was seated around the cross which was at the center of hundreds of people, people right around the very center adjoining the cross. Everybody was singing, “We Shall Overcome,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers,” I believe. They were old hymn tunes.

Q: After the service was over, what if anything occurred at that place?

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