Hoffman, Abbie

Chicago Seven Member Abbie Hoffman on Trial for Conspiracy and Inciting to Riot

U.S. v. Dellinger, 657 F.2d 140 (7th Cir. 1981)

Abbie Hoffman grew up middle-class in Worcester, Massachusetts. After supporting the Civil Rights movement for several years with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Hoffman created the Youth International Party in the late 1960s. Branding themselves the Yippies, the Youth International Party had no formal leadership or membership.

What set Hoffman apart from other radicals was his ability to manipulate the media. He was adept at sound bites, like “sacred cows make the tastiest hamburgers.” On August 24, 1967, he and his followers sprinkled fake money from the New York Stock Exchange gallery; traders dove for the bills. That October, during a 10,000-person march to protest the Vietnam War, Hoffman tried to levitate the Pentagon with his mind. Poet-activist Allen Ginsberg assisted by chanting.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Hoffman helped organize a series of demonstrations that resulted in a riot with the police. The protest leaders were arrested. They were called the Chicago Seven at trial. Hoffman openly mocked the proceedings, heightening his cachet with the press. The group’s guilty verdicts turned to acquittals on appeal.

Hoffman was charged with cocaine possession in 1974, an accusation he would swear to his death was a frame-up by police. He skipped bail, got plastic surgery, and became a fugitive for six years. Hoffman surrendered in 1980 and served four months of a maximum three-year sentence for the cocaine charge. He spent the 1980s bemoaning the wane of political activism among young people and committed suicide on April 12, 1989. 

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