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The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Allen Ginsberg on the Stand

A: The cross was lifted up. At the other side behind the circle that we were observing as we were seated—I was seated with my friends on a little hillock looking down on the crowd which had the cross in the center—and on the other side, there were a lot of glary lights hundreds of feet away down the field. The ministers lifted up the cross and took it to the edge of the crowd and set it down facing the lights where the police were. In other words, they confronted the police lines with the Cross of Christ.

Q: Where were you at the time that occurred?

A: I stayed sitting on the hill, watching the scene below me….

Q: And after the ministers moved the cross to another location which you have indicated, what happened?

A: After…a short period of time, there was a burst of smoke and tear gas around the cross, and the cross was enveloped with tear gas, and the people who were carrying the cross were enveloped with tear gas which began slowly drifting over the crowd.

Q: Now prior to that…did you hear any announcement on any type of speaker equipment?

A: No, none at all.

Q: Were you told to get out of the park?

A: I heard no announcement saying to get out of the park, no.

Q: And when you saw the persons with the cross and the cross being gassed, what if anything did you do?

A: I turned to Burroughs and said, “They have gassed the cross of Christ.” ….

Q: …What did you do at that time?

A: I took Bill Burroughs’ hand and took Terry Southern’s hand, and we turned from the cross which was covered with gas in the glary lights that were coming from the police lights that were shining through the tear gas on the cross, and walked slowly out of the park.

Q: On Wednesday, the next day, at approximately 3:45 in the afternoon, do you recall where you were?…

A: Entering the Grant Park bandshell area, where there was a Mobilization meeting or rally going on.

Q: Did you enter the area alone or were you with other people?

A: No, I was still with the same group of literary fellows, poets and writers.

Q: Where did you go in the bandshell area?

A: We had started out but couldn’t get there early because all the entrances to that area…were blocked off by policemen saying that we couldn’t enter. So we had to go all the way down south to the bottom of the park and enter over a wooden trestle. So when we entered, we all went and sat down in the center of the crowd, waiting, watching.

Q: And did you at any time later get up to the bandshell stage?

A: Yes. I walked up to the apron or front of the stage and saw David Dellinger and told him that I was there and that Burroughs was there and Jean Genet was there and that they were all willing to be present and testify to the righteousness of the occasion and that we would like to be on the stage…

Q: Now when the rally was over, did you have occasion to talk with Mr. Dellinger?

A: Yes. I went down off the platform into the crowd that was forming for the peace march then and saw Mr. Dellinger…. He looked me in the eye, took my arm and said, “Allen, will you please march up front in the front line with me?”

Q: And what did you say to him?

A: I said, “Well, I am here with Burroughs and Genet and Terry Southern,” and he said, “Well, all of you together, can you form a front line and be sure to stay behind me in the front line, be the first of the group of marchers?”…

Q: After you walked the several blocks, what occurred?

A: We came to a halt in front of a large guard of armed human beings in uniform who were blocking our way, people with machine guns, jeeps, I believe, police, and what looked to me like soldiers on our side and in front of us.

Q: And what happened at that point?

A: …The march stopped and we waited not quite knowing what to do. I heard—all along I had heard Dave Dellinger saying, “This is a peaceful march. All those who want to participate in a peaceful march please join our line. All those who are not peaceful, please go away and don’t join our line….”

Q: Did you go over with him or did you remain behind?

A: Yes, I went over with him, took his arm for one moment and also brought a little armful of flowers that had been given us as we left the bandshell.

Q: And what did you do with the flowers, if anything?

A: Mr. Dellinger and the city agents, city officials and police heads were talking together, negotiating, and whenever they seemed to me to be agitated, I took the flowers and put them in between their faces, shook them around a little….

Q: [Then] what, if anything, did you do?

A: I got up to walk away with Mr. Dellinger from the march. I think Mr. Dellinger announced that the march was over and had been victorious inasmuch as the Government had simply forced us to abandon our citizen’s right to have a peaceful assembly for redress of grievances and there was nothing we could do about it at that point. We had offered ourselves to be arrested and were not being arrested and so we were going to disperse and move on. Mr. Dellinger declared the march over and so we began dispersing….

Q: Where did you go when you left?

A: I started walking north past the bridges but I wanted to get out onto Michigan Avenue by the hotels but couldn’t because all of the bridges were blocked with soldiers. So I kept going further and further north until I ran into tear gas. There was gas on the street—in the park, even though…nothing was happening, and people were just trying to get out. I was blocked and couldn’t leave, couldn’t leave the area, couldn’t leave Grant Park, and continued walking north, lost Mr. Dellinger—….

MR. WEINGLASS: I have no further questions.

THE COURT: You may cross-examine.

MR. FORAN: Your Honor, I have to get some materials to properly carry on my cross-examination of this witness. It will take me some time to go downstairs to get them.

THE COURT: How long will it take?

MR. FORAN: I think at least several minutes, your Honor, ten, fifteen minutes.

THE COURT: Are you suggesting we recess?

MR. FORAN: I would think possibly yes, your Honor, because I would just get back up here and get started.

THE COURT: You mean recess until the afternoon?

MR. FORAN: After lunch.

THE COURT: All right. We will go until two o’clock.

MR. WEINGLASS: Your Honor—

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, we have witnesses who are leaving the country this afternoon who are presently here. I don’t think there should be any delay in the cross-examination…. One is leaving the country tomorrow morning and must testify or we lose him forever, and the other has to return to the West Coast.

THE COURT: I have granted the request of the defendant—

MR. KUNSTLER: We asked for five minutes two days ago in front of this jury and you refused to give it to us….

THE COURT: You will have to cease that disrespectful tone.

MR. KUNSTLER: That is not disrespect; that is an angry tone, your Honor.

THE COURT: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I will grant the motion of the Government.

MR. KUNSTLER: You refused us five minutes the other day….

THE COURT: You are going to have to learn.

MR. KUNSTLER: I am trying to learn.

THE COURT: I have given up trying to point it out to you.

MR. KUNSTLER: Why the different treatment?

THE COURT: I will not sit here and have you assume a disrespectful tone to the Court.

MR. KUNSTLER: This is not disrespect.

THE COURT: Yes, it is.

MR. KUNSTLER: I am asking you to explain to the defense which claims it is getting different treatment, why a simple request of five minutes was not granted….

THE COURT: Mr.Kunstler—

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, what else can I think?

THE COURT: I have admonished you time and again to be respectful to the Court. I have been respectful to you.

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, this is not disrespect for anybody but—

THE COURT: You are shouting at the Court.

MR. KUNSTLER: Oh, your Honor—

THE COURT: Shouting at the Court the way you do—

MR. KUNSTLER: Everyone has shouted from time to time, including your Honor. This is not a situation—

THE COURT: Make a note of that, please. I have never,—

MR. KUNSTLER: Voices have been raised—

THE COURT: I never shouted at you during this trial.

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, your voice has been raised.

THE COURT: You have been disrespectful.

MR. KUNSTLER: It is not disrespectful, your Honor.

THE COURT: And sometimes worse than that.

THE WITNESS: O-o-m-m—m.

[A climactic moment in Ginsberg’s testimony. Mr. Kunstler had indeed raised his voice, so had Judge Hoffman. The atmosphere was extremely tense, with marshals on the alert and the courtroom itself verging on chaos. Suddenly Ginsberg began to chant and the courtroom was instantly silenced.]

THE COURT: Will you step off the witness stand, please, and I direct you not to talk with anybody about this case or let anybody speak with you about it until you resume the stand at two o’clock, at which time you are directed to return for further examination.

MR. KUNSTLER: He was trying to calm us down, your Honor.

THE COURT: Oh, no. I needed no calming down….


[What follows is Mr. Foran’s cross-examination, which took place in the afternoon.]

Q: Now, when did you start this kind of special study of chanting, Mr. Ginsberg?

A: I met a Swami Shivananda in 1962 in Rishikesh,…India, which is where the Ganges comes out of the Himalayan Mountains and into the Gangetic Plain—at an Ashram of Shivananda: and he had the Mantra, the Hare Krishna Mantra, printed in a book and he pointed my attention to it.

Q: Was your attention called to that originally because of your interest in poetry, or because of desire for spiritual uplifting, could you say?

A: Swami Shivananda was a poet also, and I told him I was a poet, and he gave me a book called the “Raja Yoga For Americans.” He pronounced the word “Om” as part of his ritual.

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