The Oakland Seven were acquitted at 10:20 on the evening of Friday March 28 by four housewives, two Post Office clerks, a retired Colonel of the Marines, a statistician, a carpenter, an assembly-line inspector at General Motors, a defense plant tool and die maker, and the supervisor of construction in a radiation laboratory: by twelve people who the courtroom bailiff called “really a cross-section of life.” Juror number 12, a huge blonde lady who wore a sailor suit and sucked Tropical Fruit Lifesavers, had held out three days for conviction.
The Oakland Seven are young, white, and full-time politicians. The night they were acquitted, two of the Seven were in jail. Jeff Segal, who used to be anti-draft co-ordinator for national SDS, was serving a four-year sentence for refusing induction into the army. Mike Smith was in jail for sixty days for committing trespass and being a public nuisance during a demonstration in 1966. In 1968 Mike Smith starred in a movie about himself called The Activist. He worked in the Free Speech Movement, and spent six months with SNCC in the South. Five of the Oakland Seven had been Berkeley students. Four, including Mike Smith, were suspended for political activities.
Terry Cannon is twenty-nine, the oldest of the Seven. For two years he was an organizer for SNCC: he has written books about mathematics and he founded the newspaper The Movement. He is about to serve three months in jail for using profane language during a demonstration. The evening of the verdict, Frank Bardacke brought a television set into the courtroom and watched the San Francisco vs. Los Angeles basketball game. Frank Bardacke occasionally teaches political science. He is a political leader in the Berkeley radical community. Steve Hamilton was active in the Free Speech Movement. He lives in Richmond, an oil-town on the North Bay, and organizes among white oil-workers. Bob Mandel worked in SNCC for two summers. He used to be a full-time anti-draft organizer in Berkeley. Before the trial, Reese Erlich worked for the Peace and Freedom Party. He was almost late for the verdict on Friday night. The defense said they would start without him, but he arrived as the jury was walking in the door.
The Oakland Seven were prosecuted for conspiring to commit misdemeanors in October 1967, during Stop the Draft Week at the Oakland Induction Center. Stop the Draft Week was a week of demonstrations against the war and the draft: the Oakland Seven were tried for planning the demonstrations. Some of them had been on the Stop the Draft Week Steering Committee, some were Monitor Captains in the crowd. They were charged with conspiring (and combining, and confederating, and agreeing together) to violate Section 602(j) of the California Penal Code, Trespass, and Section 148, Resisting Arrest, or stopping a police officer from properly discharging his duty.
Under a California Statute, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor is a felony. Resisting arrest is only a misdemeanor but agreeing to resist arrest is a felony. In Federal law, conspiracies are only as serious as their “offense-object,” but not in California; when the California Statute was changed in 1943 Governor Warren wrote to the District Attorneys of the State: “I hope and believe the law enforcement officers of California, realizing the purpose of the statute, will use it judiciously for the purpose of convicting major offenders and not for the purpose of increasing the punishment for petty crime.” The instigation of conspiracy trials under state statutes is at the discretion of local district attorneys: in Oakland, proceedings for conspiracy to commit misdemeanors are under way against three Berkeley students; and in Los Angeles against SDS members, and against thirteen Mexican-American high school organizers.
In January 1968, the District Attorney of Alameda County, J. Francis Coakley, described his purpose in indicting the Oakland Seven:
The indictment procedure in such instances is a new one, a new policy we have adopted, and [it] should serve as a warning to people who would violate the law by so expressing themselves…. Technically, a hundred or even a thousand of the demonstrators could have been indicted for their actions, but we simply don’t have enough courts so we have to take the most militant leaders.
The Grand Jury Indictment of the Oakland Seven cited a number of “overt acts, committed in furtherance of the conspiracy” chartering buses to take people to Oakland, distributing leaflets, opening an account at the Wells Fargo Bank in the name of “Stop the Draft Week,” transporting loud-speaker equipment, making speeches, walking around downtown Oakland with a “monitor group,” renting a meeting room at the Wesleyan Foundation Hall. “Overt acts” are evidence for the existence of a conspiracy: the overt activities of the Oakland Seven were minute and characteristic, the planning of a demonstration.
Stop the Draft Week: I
Stop the Draft Week lasted for five days, from Monday, October 16, 1967, to Friday, October 20, 1967. On Monday 2,000 people demonstrated at the Oakland Induction Center, on Fourteenth Street between Clay and Jefferson Streets in downtown Oakland. They sat in, non-violently, around the doors of the Induction Center, and 125 people were arrested. On Tuesday 3,000 demonstrators gathered and 25 were arrested. On Wednesday 2,000 gathered and 91 were arrested. On Thursday 2,000 demonstrators marched around the Induction Center. On Friday 10,000 demonstrators surrounded the Induction Center, building barricades and blocking the streets. Two thousand police were called in, from 13 cities. The National Guard was alerted, and 28 arrests were made. The Oakland Seven were prosecuted for planning the demonstration of one day: Tuesday, October 17, 1967.
At 6 A.M. on Tuesday morning demonstrators began to arrive at the Induction Center. Many came from the Berkeley campus in chartered buses. Several hundred policemen also gathered, in a garage at the corner of Fourteenth Street and Clay. The demonstrators stood in the street, blocking the intersections around the Induction Center. A few people who had spent the night in churches in downtown Oakland sat in at the main doors of the Induction Center. At 7 A.M. the Police Commander spoke over the public address system. He ordered the crowd to disperse. Immediately an arrow-shaped “wedge formation” of 300 police officers began to march down Clay Street, clubbing and Macing demonstrators and newsmen. An observer, a lawyer, testified: “They beat seemingly everyone who was near the front of the line. It didn’t seem to matter.”
People who tried to get away were crushed in the crowd. A few demonstrators were trapped against the sides of the street, and to escape they had to “run a gauntlet” of police batons. The police made no arrests. Later in the morning smaller crowds of demonstrators were dispersed, and twenty-five people were arrested. According to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, more than 200 people were injured, seriously, during the demonstration.
During the trial of the Oakland Seven, the prosecuting attorney asked a defense witness: “On the morning of Tuesday October 17th, 1967, did you hear Deputy Chief Brown of the Oakland Police Department give the order to disperse?” The witness answered: “Well, I heard him begin…. The order began, ‘The People of the State of California—,’ but then a chant went up, ‘We are the People, we are the People,’ people were shouting louder and louder, and that was all I could hear.” In the police films of October 17, shown at the trial, Clay Street looks half a mile wide Before the police wedge cleared the street, the demonstrators are jammed together, waving and shouting. Certain scenes recur in the film: Bob Mandel wanders in and out of the picture wearing a black straw hat; an unidentified boy dances in front of the police lines, naked except for a pair of striped shorts. A young witness described the occasion: “There was rather a gay mood, kind of festive. People were singing songs and meeting old friends.”
Forty defense witnesses testified that they had been at the demonstration on Tuesday, October 17; the prosecuting attorney asked them, “How did you come to hear about Stop the Draft Week?” Most had read about it in the San Francisco Chronicle: they were, in the words of one of the defendants, “all different, some straight, some old, some young, some wearing suits, some clergymen….” One witness had learned about the demonstration in the National Office of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship; another through Women Strike for Peace. A young English teacher said, “How do you know there is going to be a football game on a Saturday? Well, that was how I knew about the demonstration.”
The prosecution also asked the defense witnesses how they had come to the Induction Center. People had been with their husbands, wives, and children; most had been with friends. A man from Berkeley met some people he had not seen since college and went out for coffee; on the way to the demonstration a Stanford medical student stopped off to see two patients at the Palo Alto Veterans’ Administration Hospital. At least three of the defense witnesses subsequently married the people they had demonstrated with on Tuesday October 17. The District Attorney asked one man, “What did you have in your hand when you crossed the street by the Induction Center?” The man answered, “Just my girlfriend’s hand.”
The prosecuting attorney in the Oakland Seven case, Lowell Jensen, called the Tuesday demonstration “an outrage.” He said “The crux of this case is the concept of lawful versus unlawful demonstration. This case is about the right of the Federal Government to conduct its business in the streets of Oakland.” In his final argument to the jury he said, “We have dancing, formations, the street choked off, the sidwalk unusable, the building unusable….” He asked, “Is that what this community is all about?”
Judge George W. Phillips, Jr.
The courtroom where the Oakland Seven were on trial was hung with panoramic views of the East Bay, like a local Chamber of Commerce. Above the jury box a zinc eagle was picked out in patriotic bas relief, crouching on a combine harvester and garlanded with municipal acorns. Judge Phillips, a keen amateur yachtsman, who looks unnervingly like a middle-aged Dwight D. Eisenhower, wore an airforce blue sports jacket under his judicial robes. His attitude to the defendants was one of benevolent pedagogy. They were fine young men, although they were late for court in the mornings, they sat on the floor during recess, they became carried away by their enthusiasm for political dissent. By the end of the trial, Judge Phillips was making jokes about the long hair and strange clothes of the defendants. The Oakland Seven wore suits only when they had to go to jail.
The Seven called the Judge “Piggy” Phillips, the Good German, but he was more like a mouse than a pig. He seemed the high tide of the puritan ethic, what paternalistic capitalism had risen to. He said, “This trial is about the rights of property and the rights of demonstrators.” A prosecution witness, Officer Coleman, became confused under cross-examination, and contradicted himself several times. Would Judge Phillips order his remarks stricken from the record? Coleman had been on the stand for several days. Phillips refused: “No. You’re asking me to throw out all this testimony.” Testimony was time, and time was money. Before each recess he would look at the clock and say, lugubriously, “Well, we’ve got eleven minutes left”—or thirteen, or seven—“we might as well make use of them.” “Resisting arrest is a very serious crime,” he said. “Resisting an officer is a very serious crime. This is a very serious case.”
“There’s been much intensity,” he said in his final instructions to the jury, “much tenseness, in this case. It has been a very emotional experience. You must ignore all that. You must be intellectually honest. You must have faith.”
The Fragile Structure of Ordered Liberty
May 1968, candidate Nixon, on the occasion of the Columbia uprising: “These naïve men [Columbia students and professors] are failing their country. They are chipping away at the fragile structure of ordered liberty which it has taken mankind thousands of years to perfect.”
March 1969, Lowell Jensen, prosecuting attorney in the Oakland Seven case: “The issue of this trial is ordered liberty…. The moment we give in to this attitude of moral superiority, we’ve given up our whole system of law…. A framework of law exists—or it does not.”
Lowell Jensen walked around the Alameda County Courthouse with a tubby plainclothes policeman at his elbow, half a step behind. The policeman’s name was Chick Harrison, and he was a special investigator for the District Attorney. Each recess, morning and afternoon, Jensen and Chick Harrison would ride up to the DA’s office on the ninth floor of the courthouse building. While the jury was deliberating they ate dinner together, alone.
Jensen was a local boy. He went to High School in Oakland, and to Berkeley Law School. The defendants said that he was a registered Democrat, in Republican Oakland; that he hadn’t wanted to take the case, but that he was the only smart assistant DA in the East Bay. He was over six feet tall: handsome in profile but meaty-looking full face on. He kept his yellow legal pads in rectilinear piles and took minute notes, even when Charles Garry, the chief defense attorney, was quoting from the Statue of Liberty. His desk was arranged in spatial categories, pads and pencils and affidavits and rubber bands. One afternoon, in the elevator, he complained to a Federal Marshall that this case was such a strain that when he gets home at night he needs at least two martinis before he can even begin to relax.
In the last week of the trial, Jensen appeared in another courtroom in the County Courthouse. He represented the County against a writ of habeas corpus filed by Charles Garry for a former Black Panther, Warren Wells. Wells was being held in the County Jail on the nineteenth floor of the Court-house building, in a “strip cell,” in what Jensen called “the solitary confinement situation.” The cell measured 6 feet 4 inches by 4 feet, and Wells was fed three peanut butter sandwiches a day. Jensen told the Judge he was prepared to discuss “the conditions of incarceration in terms of description.” He lost the case.
Jensen’s language in the Oakland Seven case had a certain technological verisimilitude. It seemed that the very dreariness of his argument must add to his authority: something so boring must be just. The premise of his procedure in examination was that an accretion of trivial detail would persuade the jury that they were judging a simple criminal case, a bank robbery. He told the jury: “We are in a Court of Criminal Law. I wish to talk to you about the Law and the Facts.” The lines of police witnesses spoke in corporate English, “prior,” they said, and “subsequent,” and “at and about the general area of the Oakland Induction Center.” When Lisa Mandel testified that she was beaten and clubbed by police officers, Jensen asked her, “After you were in the process of being beaten did you move west across 16th Street?” Only one defense witness lost his temper, a young doctor who had been with the Medical Committee during the Tuesday demonstration. He shouted at Jensen, “Do you expect me to look at my watch when people are bleeding?”
The Man with the Big Ear
From the testimony of Bruce Coleman, Oakland Police Department: “I remember it as quite nice that night. I went in to the meeting and stood around the edges and took notes. I remember the American flag was present. I wrote down the most useful information. The speaker said the blacks were besides the Vietnamese the greatest victims of the war. He said Vietnam’s wrong. I remember he spoke about there was more freedom in Cuba than in any other Latin American country. Later that night I wrote up my notes in my car. I parked behind a gas station on University Avenue. I have interior light.”
On Tuesday, October 17, a few minutes before the police wedge formation cleared the area around the Oakland Induction Center, Deputy Chief Brown gave a code message over his loud-speaker equipment. The code was known as code 200. It was the pre-arranged signal for all police undercover agents to leave the street. According to the testimony of officers in the Oakland Police Department, there were more than twenty undercover agents in the crowd. There were also several police photographers, wearing plain clothes and press badges. One officer, who said that photography was his hobby, testified that he had been told by his superior officers to photograph acts “if they caused a problem.” He had also been told to be in plain clothes, and he wore Levi’s, a sweat shirt, and tennis shoes, the clothes he usually wears on a Saturday or a Sunday. He spent part of Tuesday, October 17 “in a tower above the parking lot, with a telephoto lens, shooting in a north-westerly direction.” He “shot” every few minutes for several hours, using an exposure of 1/30th of a second: he said, “I could catch the facial expressions of someone who was making a speech or directing anybody, and I could see if anybody’s legs were in a movement position.”
The most important witnesses against the Oakland Seven were two plainclothes policemen, Bruce Coleman alias Johnson and Robert Wheeler alias Roster, who had infiltrated the groups organizing Stop the Draft Week. They spent about six weeks with the groups: they talked at meetings, voted on motions, and “when they guy with the money bucket came around,” they “just got out of his way.” Wheeler was in charge of communications for the demonstration, and he provided the organizers with walkie-talkie equipment. He bought new jeans for his assignment; he already had a pair of green slacks, “which I wear occasionally.” He introduced himself to Bob Mandel—“I had been told by my immediate superior that Bob Mandel was one of the leaders”—as a member of Rochester SDS who had helped organize the Rochester riots. The defense attorneys asked him: “Tell us all the untruths you told Bob Mandel on the telephone.” He answered: “I can’t remember them all, they were a whole handful.”
He went to a Berkeley party where he picked up a girl called Naomi, and “did some eavesdropping, several times.” The defense asked: “Mr. Wheeler, do you have absolute and total recall?” Wheeler said: “I would not say absolute, but pretty close to that.” Just before Stop the Draft Week Wheeler was sent by the demonstrators to Palo Alto, to deliver a letter. He steamed open the letter and discovered that he had been identified as a fink. “I then hitched home,” he said, “and reported back to my superiors that we’d been burned.”
Bruce Coleman, whose instructions were “to keep my eyes and ears open and write down the most useful information,” told the organizers of Stop the Draft Week that he was new to Berkeley. He went to many planning sessions, and was given the job of explaining the tactics of Stop the Draft Week to an SDS meeting. He was taught “protective self-defense,” and he volunteered to provide fire-crackers for use against the police. He grew a wispy blond beard and wore “sports clothes,” and at the end of each day he drove home and typed up his notes. He lived with his family and sometimes he showed his notes to his father. Charles Garry called Coleman “the Man with the Big Ear.” He said that whenever people meet to talk politics in Alameda County, “the Man with the Big Ear will sit in there and take sporadic notes.” (“As though,” said Lowell Jensen, “the police may not listen to know what is going on in the community”)
Bruce Coleman has been a police officer for two and a half years, always undercover. He is twenty-three and looks sixteen; and in the last fifteen months he has testified “twenty or thirty times” in the Superior Courts of Alameda County. It is a characteristic of political conspiracy trials that the prosecution’s case depends upon the testimony of undercover agents, of strange, pale policemen: against the Boston Five, false newsmen from the FBI; against the Chicago Eight, Jerry Rubin’s “bodyguard,” Pierson of the Chicago Police; against the Oakland Seven, Johnson-Coleman and Roster-Wheeler. On the last day of the trial, the police spies vanish underground in their green slacks. Souls of a twilight law enforcement world, they escape only to testify, like Virgil’s manes, lost birds from the dark.
The Phenomenology of Riot Control
Testimony before the Grand Jury in the Oakland Seven case. Captain McCarthy, Oakland Police: “I had three alternatives: to pull her up by her hair, to use my baton, or to Mace her. I had to decide which was most humane.”
Through the eyes of the demonstrators, and through the eyes of the police, the events of Tuesday, October 17 were reconstructed in the Alameda County Courthouse. Stop the Draft Week revisited: Strange, said the Oakland Seven, we weren’t calling them “Pigs” by then. For the defense witnesses, forty out of several thousand who had been at the demonstrations, Stop the Draft Week was an awakening into horrors.
One of the witnesses for the defense, a young law student, who was anxious not to be arrested because it was the middle of the law school term, went to the Tuesday demonstration because he was opposed to the draft. He went with his fiancée, who is now his wife. He said, “We were clubbed and beaten. I remember a dog barking. I remember I had thought that the police had dogs. There was a line of police. I remember that one of them looked very scared.”
“There was this boy,” said one witness, “who was sitting in the street, and they beat him unconscious and left him in the gutter. It seemed to act as a trigger for the whole line of police to start beating people. There were police in the garage and they were cheering them on, yelling football cheers like at a game.”
The first defense witness, a former policeman, said: “I was really shocked. I reckoned it was all over, or something.” A Vietnam scholar: “It was like a pump. As soon as the police came the people began to bunch up.” A sixty-eight-year-old woman: “I felt that my ankles were going to be broken on the curb. I pulled my feet out of my shoes. By the end of the morning I had neither scarf nor gloves nor shoes.”
One defense witness, Dr. Lawrence Rose of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, who had organized a first aid team during Stop the Draft Week, testified that on Tuesday, October 17 he treated six cases of Mace burning, and many severe skull wounds. He said that on that day the medical team of twelve doctors and twelve nurses treated 200 serious injuries, including an eight-inch laceration of the scalp sustained by one of the doctors. After the trial was over, late on the night of the verdict, one of the jurors came by Frank Bardacke’s house. “We didn’t believe the defense witnesses,” he said. “We figured they were just over-emotional. That there’d been maybe a few clubbings, just a handful.”
Under cross-examination by the defense attorneys, the police witnesses denied all allegations of brutality: Defense Attorney: “Did you see any acts of violence by police against civilians?” Witness: “I do not recall.” Q: “Did you ever see a policeman hit anyone?” A: “I believe I saw some clubs being raised.” Q: “Did you see them land?” A: “I don’t believe I saw them land.”
One Oakland Police officer testified, in an almost endearing show of interservice camaraderie, that he had indeed heard of some beatings, but he was sure the California Highway Patrol had been responsible.
The language of the police witnesses evoked the rhetorical style of the War in Vietnam. Captain McCarthy said: “We mustered our formations in the command post, which was a parking garage at the intersection of Fourteenth and Clay Streets. We had Oakland Police Department, in dark blue, and California Highway Patrol, in beige, and Alameda County Sheriffs. We had FBI, and a Tactical Unit.” There was the same polysyllabic illusion of value-neutrality. In Vietnam the Oakland Police are helped in their pacification endeavors by Revolutionary Development Cadres. At home they have a Tactical Unit. One officer testified: “The purpose of the Tactical Unit was to practice a specific tactic which was crowd control in this case. In classical crowd control you push to the right or the left…we used a wedge formation….” Captain Fish, second in command of the wedge, said: “We don’t arrest under conditions of Clear the Streets.” We don’t take prisoners under conditions of Search and Destroy.
The defense tried to convince the jury that the police had lied about the events of Tuesday, October 17, and that they were therefore likely to have lied about the allegedly conspiratorial behavior of the defendants. In his final argument Lowell Jensen complained that “There is a very simple standard as far as they are concerned: the police are illegitimate and they don’t tell the truth.” But the defense’s meticulous examination of the actions of the Oakland Police had another purpose: the trial was to be a political tribunal; the transcript of the Oakland Seven case would be a document of familiar horrors, a Phenomenology of Riot Control. Charles Garry cross-examined the police officers, in great detail, about the equipment they were carrying during Stop the Draft Week. “We wore our regular uniforms,” said Captain Fish, “with woolen underwear. We carried side arms, cuffs, our cuff-cases which we wear over our left hip, a baton, a gas mask (we had a gas squad in the command post), and twelve extra rounds of ammunition.” Captain McCarthy said: “We had helmets and batons, guns and holsters. We were told to be equipped with Chemical Spray Mace. We had leather goods: an ammunition pouch, and a ring to hold the baton. Some had batons and some still had billy clubs. We had our regular side equipment. We had the regular riot stick.”
Describe it, said Garry: How wide? How long? Diameter? Circumference? “Well, it’s made of some kind of hard wood—oak, maybe—and it’s denser than a baseball bat. Some men had individual ones, with carvings and notches. Some men had leaded their own.”
The chief courtroom bailiff was a tall, fair-haired sheriff called Lindstrom, a former officer. One day outside court he happened to start discussing the police of other countries. He said, “The French—compared to them we’re pansies. We don’t have a thing. Lead-lined capes, they have. We certainly could use some of their equipment.” He had heard, he said, that “the English bobbies just stand and take it.” He would not believe that the English police did not carry guns. He said, “Well you can bet they crack a lot of heads, in that case.” Lindstrom, whose job in the courtroom was to check press credentials, clanked with armor, a walking Christmas tree. Like American soldiers in Vietnam, the Oakland police were clumsy and over-loaded. With their guns and their cuff cases and their woolen underwear, they seemed alone and inhuman, inside their hardware.
Stop the Draft Week: II
Across the street from the Induction Center in downtown Oakland, there is a draft-counselling office. It has been there six months, in a storefront that used to be a deserted dry-cleaner’s. The kids who run the draft office are very young and a few of them had been at Stop the Draft Week demonstrations. They say that “a lot of people who came in here have bad feelings about these streets.” The Oakland Induction Center “handles” all the inductees from Northern California. Each week between twelve and fifteen young men walk into the draft-counselling office having just refused induction into the army.
I was in the storefront when a “refusal” came in, a twenty-six-year-old teacher who looked old-fashioned, like Gary Cooper in a very early movie. He had said to the agent in charge of inductees “I despise you.” The draft counsellors gave him coffee and macaroons. One said, “You should try and talk about it. It’s sort of a heavy thing to have done.” They took his address. He asked how long indictments took, generally. He said, “They won’t get an arrest warrant, will they? They know where to find me. I’m not going to disappear or anything.”
The announced object of Stop the Draft Week was, in the words of the Oakland Seven, quoted endlessly in court, “to shut the mother down.” Shutting the mother down consisted of blocking the streets around the Induction Center, preventing people from leaving and entering the building, and, in particular, preventing buses containing inductees from reaching the building. This object was not achieved in the Tuesday demonstration; it was achieved for a couple of hours on Friday. Terry Cannon and Reese Erlich have described that scene:
Jubilation reigned. The demonstrators had learned that bodies can be maced and clubbed, but barricades can’t…. This time when the police phalanx emerged…the kids held their own, on their own. As one demonstrator later put it, “The cops controlled three percent of Oakland, we had ten percent, and the traffic lights controlled the rest.” …The kids began to drive the police back. If two cops grabbed one kid, five other demonstrators liberated him. With no instructions given, squads developed spontaneously to rescue people and carry away the injured…. As we were walking in long lines back to the campus, a gold Cadillac carrying four black hustlers pulled up beside the marchers. The driver rolled down his window, gave us the ‘V’ sign, and yelled in disbelief, ‘You did it, you did it!”‘
The Oakland Seven were prosecuted for organizing the Tuesday demonstration because the police had no evidence about the Friday demonstration—it was unorganized.
Marvin Garson has written: “I remember Terry Cannon, in the dismal summer of 1967, chairing interminable meetings in the Mission District Church that then gave space to The Movement newspaper. He wanted to see a new kind of demonstration: one in which there would be an actual, though token, attempt to stop the draft…. It was all very hazy then. The theory was down fine but the tactics were up in the air. It was to be a symbolic act, a demonstration.” People who came to Stop the Draft Week understood that the demonstration would be tough, that Stop the Draft Week was a new kind of political event in that it would show a determination to oppose the war and the draft “by any means necessary”—by violent protest and by active attempts to disrupt the institutions of government.
The night before the Tuesday demonstration, Mike Smith told a rally of demonstrators: “I’ve been in a lot of demonstrations before, and I’m kind of worried about this one. This is opposed to demonstrations where we’re not prepared to put ourselves on the line.” In the cheerful retrospective rhetoric of the Movement, Stop the Draft Week was a military victory: Jeff Segal (in November 1967) described the demonstrations as “an operation…a military action…whose object was the taking of control over one of the basic institutions of our society.” But Stop the Draft Week was neither planned nor publicized as an exercise in seizure.
Stop the Draft Week attracted ordinary people, non-Movement people who in no sense anticipated a military insurrection in downtown Oakland. The language of self-defense and confrontation expressed a mood of frustration with traditional methods of protesting government policy which in the summer of 1967 was common to people in the Movement and outside it. A young girl, a witness for the defense, testified: “I came to the demonstration to protest the forced induction of my boyfriend. I felt a moral obligation to oppose the war. I wished to put my body between.” A Stanford professor of Victorian Literature came, with a colleague, because “We felt we could help the students. We felt that professors could act as buffers between the police and the students.” An ex-teacher, a woman born in 1900, said “I went to do anything I could, anyway I could, in opposition to this brutal, illegal, inhuman war.”
Stop the Draft Week used a mood of desperation in the dissenting population at large, but it also expressed a new mood in the radical movement. At the rally on the night of October 16, Mike Smith said: “Our fight is here. The purpose of Stop the Draft Week is to start off long-term organizing on campus.” For the Oakland Seven and for their friends, one achievement of the week of demonstrations lay in its moral effect on the radical community in Berkeley. The Seven said, again and again, of the months after Stop the Draft Week: “There was a good feeling…. It was tough but good…. We suddenly felt that we could win.” One of the Seven, who was beaten by police on Friday of Stop the Draft Week, said he just felt high—on liberation.
In the political culture of Berkeley, Stop the Draft Week was a turning point. It seemed to me that people around Berkeley looked back at Stop the Draft Week as a time of revelation—and not just because the extent of police repression, both physical and administrative, was for the first time made brutally apparent. Something was also shown about the possibility of collective action, and of collective resistance. At the end of the prosecution’s case in the Oakland Seven trial, Jensen played to the jury the tape of a rally held at Berkeley the night before the Tuesday demonstration. While the police were driving from their homes to a garage by the Oakland Induction Center, the demonstrators at dawn:
Defendant Smith: People are going down to the churches where they’re going to spend the night. If you’re tired, sleep here baby. We’ve got to stick together. They have the billyclubs, but we have all the people in the world behind us.
Unidentified: Baby we’re all free men, baby we’re all free men. baby we’re all free men now.
Unidentified: From time to time / I seem to think / That all the world is turning pink.
Defendant Segal: It’s getting closer and closer to the time when we’re going to get on those buses and go and close down the Induction Center. Feel responsibility for the brothers who are with you, and help them when you can.
Legal Adviser: If you are arrested, and you name begins with A-F, call 848-4058….
Defendant Smith: Will everybody wake up. I hope we have some people who want to play some songs, or something.
The trial of the Oakland Seven lasted three months. For three months Stop the Draft Week was reconstructed in the Alameda County Courthouse: the patient weeks of preparation, and the demonstration-day, Tuesday, October 17. The events of September and October 1967 were re-examined, and re-described, in minute and meticulous detail. The demonstrators had seen this, the police had seen that. The police had taken photographs. The demonstrators had taken photographs. For both the prosecution and the defendants, the court procedure itself was a confrontation between two opposed political cultures.
In his closing argument, Lowell Jensen told the jury, speaking of the defendants, “This moral righteousness is an outrage. Everyone of us is within, neither above nor below the law.” He said, “We do not want the problems that exist solved on the streets.” Charles Garry, who called the defendants “these demonstrators, God bless them,” closed the defense’s case by quoting from the Statue of Liberty, and told the jury that “This beautiful country of ours was founded by leaders who were outlaws.” The philosophical arguments were fairly matched: what was at issue was the political emotions of the jury.
In the courtroom, looking from the jury box, the prosecution sat at stage left, the defendants on the right, at the back. The jury would arrive in the mornings, bouncing and giggling as if to a theater. When they were sent home early, for the judge to hear motions, they looked disgusted. For three months, they were immersed in the lives of the Oakland Seven. When they delivered their verdict they had deliberated twelve hours a day for three and a half days. On the last night of the trial, they left the courthouse carrying their suitcases, juror number 4 with his pajamas in a brown paper bag. The Oakland Seven—the five who were out of jail—waited for them in the dark by the courthouse doors. The jurors came down one by one. Everyone shook hands, and the black juror gave a raised fist salute. The Oakland Seven said they felt an extraordinary release of tension—to be free, and to be able to talk to the people they had stared at, and analyzed, and tried to educate, for four days a week, since the middle of January.
After the Oakland Seven were acquitted, Jeff Segal went back to a Federal Penitentiary in Illinois. He will come up for parole in the Fall. Steve Hamilton is in jail in California, serving time for misdemeanors committed during a demonstration in 1966. Mike Smith, who has been arrested eleven times since FSM, and who said during the trial “I feel as though I am living in the jaws of a steel trap,” left Berkeley for a while in April. When he heard about the People’s Park he came back. Frank Bardacke, Terry Cannon, Reese Erlich, and Bob Mandel have been speaking around the country, each with a Black Panther and one of the Chicago Eight. Reese Erlich is back in school, at Berkeley. During the summer he will be working with GI groups around San Francisco. Bob Mandel and Terry Cannon are starting a political project in Hayward, a white working-class community in Alameda County. They both face further felony charges connected with Stop the Draft Week.
Frank Bardacke is in Berkeley. He worked in the People’s Park, and has since been arrested twice, as a Park leader. On Memorial Day, 30,000 people came to a rally in support of the Park. Frank Bardacke made the last speech. He said: “What I see the order of business here today is to reclaim the earth. We are going to show the Man that when we take the streets we do not take them violently. We do not take them to destroy, we take them to create One, Two, Three, Many People’s Parks and that is what we intend to do today.”
July 10, 1969