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Why You Need To Watch ‘The Trial Of The Chicago 7’ On Netflix ASAP!

Trigger warning: mentions of violence in war and racist instances

Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” shows the course of events that followed an anti-war protest in the 1960s in the US. The movie is currently streaming on Netflix and streaming elsewhere, for those who catch my drift. It follows the trial of seven anti-war activists who were charged for conspiracy and crossing state lines, allegedly, in order to start riots.

A still from the film 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' featuring five men seated at a courtroom table.
A still from the film, The Trial of the Chicago 7: a group of eight activists were arrested for allegedly inciting riots, when all they wanted to do was peacefully protest. Photo credit: Nico Tavernise/Netflix, via nbcnews.com

The opening scene shows the anti-war activists—Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner—giving a speech to thousands of people, telling them that they will go to Chicago for a peaceful convention, to urge the government to stop sending young soldiers to the Vietnam wars as the number of soldiers dying was increasing day by day.

Why Were The Chicago 7 Against The Vietnam War?

The movie shows the dissent expressed by the protesters, when America sent an enormous number of American youth to Vietnam, in the name of nationalism. What the soldiers witnessed and experienced was death, suffering and destruction—which led to long-term consequences for an entire generation.

Among the many wrongdoings committed by America in the war, the biggest outcry of horror was caused by a substance called “napalm”. Napalm bombs were something that the world had never seen before; it used to stick to the target and would sometimes explode when in contact with the target.

A north American plane, the F-100 Super Sabre, deploying napalm in a training exercise. Representational gif. Gif credit: wikipedia.com

Thus, the America of 1960s witnessed a powerful resistance against its government by its very own people. The dissenters were led by the seven anti-war activists to Chicago. They marched to Chicago, where the Democratic Convention was to be held. Many prominent delegates of the government would be there and they wanted the voice of their dissent to reach everyone.

Black Panthers And The Issue Of Racial Discrimination

Along with all of this, the movie focused on the issue of racial discrimination and how African-Americans were not given the basic right to speech and expression. Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers was in Chicago for just four hours, to give a speech about racial discrimination (as 1960s also saw the death of the most prominent black rights activist: Martin Luther King).

Black Panther leader Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale (seen here wearing blue) was unjustly clubbed with the Chicago 7 because of his race and political stances. Photo credit: britannica.com

Even though he wasn’t even with the other seven activists when the riots occurred, he was arrested just because of his race. He became the eight defendant in the trial. Fortunately, he was removed from the trial and his involvement was termed a mistrial, but this happened only after he was inhumanely gagged and chained by the judge.

Further, he wasn’t even given the right to defend himself during the trial.

It Was A Purely Political Trial

During the entire movie, Abbie Hoffman, who advocated for a cultural revolution (as opposed to the political revolution advocated by Tom Hayden), kept on saying that theirs was a political trial. This turned out to be the core underpinning of the movie.

For instace, the trial itself happened when the power shifted from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, even though the protests and the riots had happened during the term of the former.

A still from the film 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' featuring cops tackling protesters in a park
A still from the film, The Trial of the Chicago 7: The cops had planted a group of people in the protest, to act as witnesses for them later. Photo credit: Netflix, via chicago.suntimes.com

Another scene that illustrated that it was a political trial was when around five to six people were chosen by the Chicago police to be disguised as hippies and protesters, in order to get close to the Chicago 7, and thereafter, be chosen as witnesses against them.

It was their testimonials that had framed the Chicago 7 as the ones inciting the riots when in actuality, it was started by the police.

What Happened To The Chicago 7 After?

In the end, all the seven activists were sentenced to five years of jail each. Following the trial, most of the defendants continued walking on various paths of activism. Hayden won a seat in the California legislature. Hoffman gave lectures and wrote several books. Weiner joined the anti-defamation league as a political consultant. Kunstler became known for defending leftist and unpopular clients.

The protest at the convention continued to be one of the most memorable parts of their legacy. Later on, it made people understand how the government sued them for doing nothing and just how important dissent is in a democracy.

Aaron Sorkin, who is known for excellent work in the political thrillers genre, be it “A Few Good Men” or “The Newsroom”, has once again given us a movie that shows the grim realities of a so-called democracy.

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Netflix, via cnn.com
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