Friday, October 29, 2010

More Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale was ordered bound and gagged by Judge Julius Hoffman this day, in 1969.

On the first day of the Chicago 8 trial, Bobby asked for a continuance because his lawyer was ill, and unable to attend. Absent that, he asked for the right to defend himself, neither of which Hoffman would permit, ordering William Kunstler, who was defending the others, to defend him. Bobby knew his rights, though, and would not be stifled, insisting that Hoffman recognize his right to defend himself.

According to Douglas Linder:
"Bobby Seale continuously, and in increasingly angry tones, insisted upon his right either to represent himself or to have the trial continued until his own counsel of choice, Charles Garry (who was hospitalized for gall bladder surgery), could represent him. Seale hurled frequent and bitter attacks at Judge Hoffman, calling him a ‘fascist dog,’ a ‘pig,’ and a ‘racist,’ among other things. On October 29, the outraged judge ordered Seale bound and gagged. Finally, on November 5, Hoffman severed Seale from the case and sentenced him to four years in prison for contempt.”

Bobby served more than a year in jail, until he was freed by an appeals court that gave a damn about the constitution (few of those exist today). His testimony on behalf of the other defendents can be read here, and a detailed account of both trials here. It is a remarkable document, though I believe that nothing said there, including the testimony of Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, or Norman Mailer, was as powerful or as enduring as the image of Bobby in that courtroom, straining against his captivity, unwilling to be silent when faced with the machinery of his oppression.

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