From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
ARTHUR / #13 November 2004
Features: “Out, Demons, Out!: Inside the 1967 exorcism of the Pentagon
and the birth of Yippie”; Arthur is a free publication and you may add
a copy to your order at no cost while supplies last.
“It’s tempting to label Hoffman only a clown because so many Yippie
actions were antics. But even their most playful had elements of
genius, or at least the grand gesture. The Exorcism of the Pentagon
brought 50,000 seeking to levitate the Pentagon; they may have failed,
but Hoffman actually succeeded in getting Defense Department officials
to negotiate in all seriousness an official permit setting how high
the levitation could be.”
“In order for the event to materialize from grandiose scheme into a mythical, political reality Abbie, Jerry and the Mobe had a tremendous amount of organizing to do. Press conferences were held to raise awareness of the upcoming events. Abbie’s description of the levitation excited hungry news reporters and put the military on its guard. During a meeting between Washington and military representatives with the Mobe, a lengthy, surreal discussion developed over the height the Pentagon could be levitated. The military claimed that Abbie’s original plan to levitate the building twenty-two feet would be too high for structural reasons. According to a friend of Abbie’s, Sal Gianetta, who was in attendance at the meeting, “Ab came down from twenty-two feet to three feet, the military agreed to three feet and they sealed it with a handshake. That’s how Ab was, he could capture you in that fucking bizarreness.””
“I Know We Won” – Abbie Speaks
BY Ken Jordan
The first street theater tricksters – the forefathers of today’s
culture jammers such as The Yes Men and Billionaires For Bush –
appeared on the political stage in the 1960s. At the time, the
possibility that activists could spread subversive messages through
the mainstream media was a counter-intuitive, even revolutionary
notion. But with the right mix of TV-savvy images and provocative
sound bites, delivered with humor and no small dose of irony, the anti-
war, flower power message of the political vanguard was able to reach
the living rooms of unsuspecting, disaffected youth across the
country, helping to ignite the radical activism that transformed
America during that tumultuous decade.
No one was better at genius pranks than Abbie Hoffman. He’s
appreciated for stunts like bringing the New York Stock Exchange to a
halt when he led a band of hippies onto the balcony there, where they
rained dollar bills down upon the floor of amazed Wall Street suits,
who famously knocked one another to the ground as they dived
rapaciously for the free cash. Others may remember Abbie for the
levitation of the Pentagon during a 1967 march against the Vietnam War
(witnesses insist that it really did happen). But the event that made
Hoffman a household name was the Chicago 8 trial, the subject of the
forthcoming documentary “Chicago 10.” For months the news was filled
with his brilliant, often hilarious, defense maneuvers against
government charges that he and his co-defendants conspired to disrupt
the 1968 Democratic national convention. Abbie transformed the trial
into a true theatrical event, a platform for broadcasting the
alternative values and politics of the counterculture onto every TV
screen in America. In the process, while never wavering from his
radical beliefs, Hoffman became one of the country’s most famous
As this interview shows, he was also a sober, serious strategist who
grounded his antics in theory. Few appreciated the subtle ties between
cultural gesture and political action as deeply as Hoffman. This
conversation took place in New York City a few months before his
untimely death in 1989. It appeared earlier this year in the
Australian journal Into-Gal.
The first big event that put you on the map, so to speak, was when you
and a handful of hippies showered dollar bills onto the floor of the
New York Stock Exchange. Can you tell me a little about what happened?
It was the summer of ’67. That was when Jerry Rubin and I kind of met,
and then we did the levitation of the Pentagon that October. Well,
that whole summer, as the year before, it was nothing to wake up at St
Mark’s Place on the Lower East Side and say we were going to do some
For instance, we would go into a bank, get two rolls of quarters, and
start throwing them on the floor. We planted a tree in the middle of
St Mark’s Place to get rid of all the cars. Rock bands played in the
streets, played in Tompkins Square Park. Every thirty minutes you’d
have a new poem, you’d rush out and hand them away on St Mark’s Place.
And all the anti-war demonstrations, regularly.
Who was writing these poems?
Me, Jim Fouratt, Ed Sanders, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman. It was
called the Communications Company. Jim Fouratt had a duplicating
machine. We didn’t have xerox then, and we reeled off these poems on
multi-colored paper. I got married in Central Park, and we did the
invitation on a leaflet. Anybody who has a full collection of these
leaflets, it would be worth a half-million dollars today! They were
great! And it was garbage art really. You just read the poem, threw it
away, had a good time. The influences came from people like Allan
Kaprow. They were doing Happenings, but they didn’t have any political
content, see? They were strictly apolitical, so, of course, the rich
Did you go to any of the Happenings?
No, but I read about them, I was aware of them, in the papers and the
media. I went to Pop Art exhibits. I went to a big Pop Art show in the
Armory, I guess the year before, which had some indoor Happenings. And
then there was the Living Theatre, and there was another theater,
Richard Schechner’s Performing Garage. All this stuff was going on…
I think at one point Richard said we were influencing each other. You
know, life and art were imitating each other. I mean, walk down St
Mark’s Place between Third and Second Avenue, and it was like walking
through a circus. You’d see every kind of costume in the world, every
sight possible. People barefoot, it was nothing to walk around
barefoot. We thought of this stuff very fast. People were handing out
flags at the Statue of Liberty saying “End the war.” There were a lot
of demonstrations down at Whitehall, the draft induction center.
Everything you did seems to have been inspired by a spirit of fun and
a sense of humor.
And a sense of communicating ideas through the mass media by
manipulating famous symbols. We were doing it, actually, before this
theory had come around. It was instinctive. I’ll tell you one of the
more famous ones. On Valentine’s Day in ’67, we mailed 3,000 joints of
marijuana to people all over New York, picked out of the phone book,
with a letter explaining, you’ve read a lot about it, now if you want
to try it, here it is. But, P.S., by the way, just holding this can
get you five years in prison. We sent it to some in the media. Bill
Jorgensen, the local news anchorman, almost got arrested on the air
for showing it on TV. The cops came right on the set and it was quite
hysterical. Half the people on the Lower East Side knew who did it!
And you had no problems with the cops, they never traced it to you?
No, no. To come up with the list we’d get stoned, yellow pages and
stoned, that’s it. There were different rolling teams and all that.
Jimi Hendrix gave me the money for it. Ultimately it changed the laws
in this state, got the penalties reduced. We used to have a lot of
campaigns against pay toilets. We’d go up there, photograph people
sneaking in underneath, and put pictures in the underground newspapers
with captions: how to get into a pay toilet. So we’d show people who
would sneak in under, or taping the lock shut. All these were in Fuck
the System, later in Steal This Book, etc. in that spirit. But the
Stock Exchange probably was one of the best of these kinds of acts.
Tell me something about the Wall Street event. How did it come about?
Well, I called up the New York Stock Exchange and booked a tour. I
said we’re bringing a tour group, about eighteen of us. I gave them
the name George Metesky, who was the mad bomber of New York, about
fifteen years previous to this.
The mad bomber of New York?
Yeah, he was just a cultural hero. He was a media freak. When they
arrested him he had a big headline in the Daily News: “Mad Bomber of
New York Captured!” He was living with his mother and his aunt, you
know, a meek sort of mild-mannered guy. He just had a thing about Con
Ed because Con Ed fired him. So he left little pipe bombs all over the
place, like Grand Central Station, and he had the city terrorized! Of
course the guy who answered the phone wouldn’t remember the name, but
I would, as would other people who know the history of New York. I had
about three hundred dollars, and I changed it all into singles. It was
either my money or money I raised. Three hundred dollars–that’s not
much money. You got a bang for your movement buck, let’s face it! I
could run the country cheap!
Where did the idea come from?
Well, I don’t want to get arrogant, but the theme of Christ chasing
the money changers from the Temple, obviously that idea was there. But
maybe I thought about that later, writing about it in Revolution for
the Hell of It, or something. But it seemed like a good idea at the
time, and we had the resources and the capabilities–and we could go
to central casting right at Gem Spa, the newsstand at Second Avenue
and St Mark’s Place, and get as many people as we wanted right away.
People were ready to volunteer for anything, and they were doing their
own things. When we got to the Stock Exchange, we got in line with all
the other tourists. Pretty soon as we waited in the line to go visit
the Stock Exchange, just on the regular tour, somebody must’ve noticed
something freaky, because we were dressed like hippies. We were not
dressed like tourists from Iowa, you know, or Indiana. Hippies were
still a little bizarre-looking to the general public, there were two
cultures. So within a matter of minutes the press was swarming all
You didn’t call the press in advance?
No, but this is New York City. They get tips. The police, the guards
at the Stock Exchange will tell them, there’s eighteen hippies down
here, they’re going to do something. People were giggling, smoking
grass probably, you know. You wander above Fourteenth Street looking
the way we did, already people are staring at you. You stand in an
airport, they stare at you because you look like a runaway from the
So you thought of your appearance down on Wall Street as a kind of
Sure. Your very dress, your being was a confrontation. A deliberate
confrontation. And an affirmation of a spirit, of an art, of a more
humane kind of existence. Cooperation versus competition. We didn’t
have to spell out our ideology because it was pretty clear if you
followed our acts, and if you tried to make all the intellectual
connections, you’d find plenty of theory. We had utopian visions, like
“abolish money” was big. And “abolish work.” We were anti-work, anti-
money. So the throwing out of money at Wall Street would fit into
that. You could say that we were anti-capitalists, which we were, but
we didn’t have an “ism.’ We had the idea of “free.’ We kept putting
across the idea that it all should be free, since our society’s so
rich. We had free stores, and you could just go in and take all the
clothes you wanted. Free food in the park. Free poems and free rock
concerts. The idea was that we were living in “post-scarcity.’ We had
great affluence in that period, as a society. So we should be working
towards full unemployment, we should be working towards a society with
more quality time. Why work for full-employment? It’s boring. Well, of
course, because people need money. Well, we’re so rich we’re just
going to divide up the wealth. People have a right to medical care,
free medical care, which we all provided on the Lower East Side. We
had various institutions that acted as models for a while, as long as
we could sustain them. When you’d see a store that says “free store,’
you could come on in and have anything you want with your good looks.
No shoplifting allowed. And people would come in and dump all their
junk, and we’d have other people sorting it out. We were building a
community of maybe forty or fifty thousand, in New York, on the Lower
So when you go to the Stock Exchange dressed like that…
…they know something’s up. It doesn’t take long for a guard, say,
for fifty dollars, to call the Daily News or Associated Press. And
they swarm. You can have a big fire in New York, and you’ll have the
press there before the fire department arrives.
Did you stage the whole thing for the press?
No, I never did anything for the press. Well, we didn’t know if we
would be arrested. I knew there would be some kind of confrontation,
because at some point, the guard’s going to come up and say, “No.” If
we were arrested then the press is there and everything. I mean the
story is going to get out one way or another. We didn’t know it would
be big. The guards tried to keep us out almost simultaneously when the
press came, it was all one big commotion. There were a lot of guards,
these were guards, not cops, guards from the Stock Exchange. And they
said we weren’t allowed in and had no right to do this, blah blah
blah. And we said, hey you know, what do you mean? We’re Americans!
Free tour. What the hell, we want to see what it looks like. So
finally, we negotiated.
You did the negotiating?
Of course. I’m very good at negotiating. It was already my seventh
year as a political organizer in various ways. I negotiated with the
Klan to let them give me back my life in Mississippi, so…! You get
them in a situation where it’s going to be an embarrassment for them
to keep you out. They said, “Hippies are not allowed in.” So I said,
“Well, look, we’re Jewish. You don’t let Jews into the Stock
Exchange?” The press was there. So I turned around to the press and I
said, “They won’t let Jews in the Stock Exchange!” “Oh no no no. That
isn’t what we said. Now wait a minute…” They got red-faced. So you
can get in. Once they decided to let us in, though, they said that
press are not allowed in the gallery, so the press had to back off and
wait on the street. They already sensed what we were going to do.
People were flashing money, they were starting to eat it and
everything. They were clowning around.
Making a show for the press?
No. For each other. I relate to media that way. We’re just going to
create a little story and a lot of people are going to be hearing
about it. Now if somebody brings a camera or something, well, that
makes the job easier, but I’m not doing it for them. It’s an important
distinction. We had no concept of a “media event.” The idea of
manipulating the media was ridiculous. The people who own the media
manipulate it, we just had some tricks up our sleeves. We knew that we
were talking to a society that was post-literate. Either post or pre.
It was now in a phase where it wanted to watch and listen, it didn’t
want to read. So for watching or listening, you’ve got to paint some
pictures. You’ve got to have some images.
Can you remember any of the things that influenced you in this
McLuhan, I was influenced by his writings. Andy Warhol, he was an
influence. But all of us were thinking about this. Every person that
left their community and came to the Lower East Side, who resisted the
draft, who went for an alternative lifestyle, they had to do some
thinking about it. It’s called getting an education. You had to rebel,
because it was not going to be handed to you right there in school, in
the local church, or the local draft board center. The local newspaper
wasn’t going to tell you that this is a good thing to do. Of course,
everyone gave some thought to it. I was just a leader among people who
gave thought to it, that’s all.
Getting back to the story, what happened after they let you into the
The press was not allowed to continue in the snake line, but they let
us into the gallery. So we sat there with all the other tourists. We
hugged and kissed a lot and everything. We were hippies. We were
clowning, funnin’. Of course, we were all stoned. Sure, we were having
a good time. Also, for part of the tour they tell you how the Stock
Exchange was started. No one in the group had been on the tour before.
Like many people who live in New York, they don’t go to see the
symbols, the tourist sights. So, you know, Carnegie made money, Ford
made money, and everyone made money down there. It’s like the lottery
on a big scale. And they explain what the ticker-tape is all about.
Everyone asked some silly questions, or some meaningful ones. Some
just got interested, like real tourists. You can be a tourist and a
hippie too. But once we got into the gallery and we were all spread
out, I passed out the money, and people had their own money they
kicked in. You know, it was communal money. And at one moment, when
they were all busy down there in the pit, ticker-tape going like
crazy, we gave the signal, and ran to the railing. Even though there
were a couple of guards positioned on the gallery, there was no way to
stop eighteen of us coming from different directions, all with money,
handfuls of money, going “Take the money! Here’s the real shit!”
throwing it over the railing, and screaming and yelling while we’re
doing it! So, imagine… they looked up, I mean all these brokers, and
they start booing, cheering. A lot more boos than cheers. And the
ticker-tape had stopped. I read that the ticker-tape had stopped six
minutes. I couldn’t tell that at the time, but the normal hubbub of
buying and selling stopped. They didn’t know what to do. Then
pandemonium broke out, and they started yelling “Money, money!’ And
they start running, they were all over on their hands and knees,
gobbling… After we threw the money, the guards were stunned. They
didn’t know what to do, we had them outnumbered. They had to send for
reinforcements. The guards were saying things like, “You can’t do
that, you’re not allowed to do that. That’s illegal, we’re going to
get the police.” “What do you mean? People throw away money all the
time here! This is the way you do it, isn’t it?'”I mean, it’s just a
panic having to argue with me in real life. In a situation like
that… because I’m fearless. I don’t care if they pick me up and
throw me in the Stock Exchange. Throw me in the pit. I’ll be alright.
Did the guards actually manhandle you?
Sure, the guards shoved us around and everything. We pushed back. We
were kind of pacifist then, so we weren’t ready to punch out a guard.
We already made our point. The money was out there, gone. The ticker-
tape had stopped. They all were groveling around on their knees,
tracing down these real bills. We were there a few more minutes, and
we just left. They said get the hell out, we got out. So everyone’s
out, everybody’s jumping up and down, laughing, giggling, hugging, big
fun, and we’re out on the sidewalk and then there was a press
conference. There were reporters all over the place, blocking the
streets. Because they had waited, they couldn’t come in and see it. So
there’s no photos of what I’m telling you. That’s what makes it a
great myth, because every newspaper account was different. And
interviewing me was like interviewing a hurricane. “Hi, I’m Cardinal
Spellman”‘ “Where’d you get your money?” “I said I’m Cardinal
Spellman! You don’t ask Cardinal Spellman where he gets his money!”
“What kind of talk is that?” “How much money was it?” “I don’t know.
Thousands! We threw away all the money we had!” So accounts of it had
to vary a great deal.
It was a spontaneous scene with the press?
Very. We burned money in front of the press. That was illegal then, by
the way, to burn money. I hadn’t done that before, but I had gone into
a bank and just thrown money out. Or I’d sit there and play a flute,
in the corner of the bank, dress up like an electronic Indian or
Had you ever dealt with the press like that before?
Of course I’d dealt with the press as an organizer. We’d already been
on The David Susskind Show, which had been kind of wild drama. “How do
you eat?” We opened a box of food and started feeding the whole
audience. “What’s a hippie?” We opened a box and a duck flew out with
the word hippie around its neck. And Susskind went crazy! You see, we
were trying to destroy the whole Q & A, intellectual TV kind of Q & A.
All of a sudden: what’s a hippie? Well, here’s one. It’s a duck with
the word hippie on it flying in the audience. You want to get under
their skin, these cruel, level-headed intellectuals with make-up on,
being very liberal, analytical and everything. You want to bust
through that. In other words, more show, give people something more to
hear and watch. It isn’t a very big story to say that these people
were on TV and said this. So what? It’s what they did. We thought of
these acts as public happenings that jolted the kind of collective
fantasy world that we live in through TV, essentially. The national
fantasy world. So it would be natural that later there would be hippie
invasions of Disney World, and other sacred tombs. Surrounding the
Pentagon with witches so that it would rise into the air. Also, we
wanted to get people to do what they were saying. That was kind of a
problem with liberalism at the time, because it was saying things, but
it wasn’t doing anything. We were very action-oriented. We were called
Who called you action freaks?
We called ourselves action freaks, and we’d say that was a compliment,
because you acted on your ideas. In fact, Dwight McDonald, who was a
friend of mine, an older man, intellectual, a critic of American
foreign policy, once remarked to me a few years later, “Whatever gave
you people the idea that you had to act on your ideas? That’s anti-
intellectual. It’s against the whole tradition of Western intellectual
thought.” Of course, that’s not true. The abolitionists were acting on
their ideas. And Thoreau. We lived by the ideology of the deed.
So what you were doing also had political significance?
Of course. It’s a lot different than giving your money to Santa Claus
standing on the corner. That’s a political act, too, by the way. I
think they’re all political acts. There’s no such thing as interacting
in society without it being a political act, the most fearsome of
which is war. But all other acts are political, too. Even if you say,
“I don’t believe in politics,” you’ve just acted. You’ve acted for the
status quo. How many times have you heard people say, “I don’t get
involved in politics?” Well, the rulers of the society, the Powers
That Be, that’s exactly what they want the populace to say, because
that gives them three more votes. In a sense, one of the things we
were saying at the Stock Exchange was that the people down on the
floor weren’t really engaged in capitalism, because they had it all
rigged. I mean, they were all making money, they all represented
people who are making money. It’s the poor that feel the effects of
capitalism. They’ve got to go out and work hard, protect their
bicycles from being stolen, kill or be killed. I mean, they’re in the
dog race of capitalism as we know it. But the rich, they have
But when you were dealing with the press…
A put-on. I think they call it a put-on.
Did you give your name to the press?
No. That was just a thing of the times. Lots of those leaflets, even
Revolution for the Hell of It, I signed “Free,” even though people
knew who it was, ultimately. Part of the purity of this moment was
that people were doing acts without the ego gratification of seeing
your name in lights. But after a while it became pointless. It didn’t
matter if I said I was Robin Hood, they printed Abbie Hoffman.
So what was the press coverage like after the Wall Street invasion?
It was hysterical. “Hippies went to the Stock Exchange, showered
thousands of dollars onto the floor of the Exchange. The ticker-tape
stopped. The Chairman of the Board of the Stock Exchange says it will
never happen again. We’ll take measures to prevent this from ever
happening.” Blah blah blah. They get very serious and straight-faced.
The broadcasters are giggling a little, and they’re showing footage of
the press conference on the street, so people can make those bridges
Were you influenced by pop-culture phenomena, like the Beatles’ press
conferences, things like that?
Of course. And Dylan. Dylan had a way of mocking the press as he was
talking to the press. And the Beatles, of course, were great at it. Oh
yes, the Beatles were an enormous influence, as they later told us, we
were on them.
What other ways did the Beatles influence you?
The Beatles were the complete artist, complete vision, designed the
whole package. The songs, the words, sang it, lived it. And there were
four of them, and they were all very different, so it was a collective
experience, communal art. That was important, and their playful
attitude about whatever they did. We liked the idea of collapsing
dichotomies between work and play, between what the straight Left
would call serious struggle for social change, and play. If you’re
fighting for liberation, why shouldn’t you enjoy it? If you crack some
barriers made by the imprinting system of the acculturation process,
it’s sort of like removing the shades of bullshit that have been
layered over your head. And it’s a good feeling. So, in a way, the
Beatles were messengers of a kind of truth. A new truth. A new way
that we could all relate together.
Would you say that they embodied the counterculture?
Definitely. Oh, yes. It was such a truism that Sgt. Pepper had an
amazing impact on us, and on people all over the world, really, except
for the Chinese, they were kind of shut off. When it first came out,
it was like walking in and being one of the first people to see the
Sistine Chapel, or seeing Shakespeare live, see him stand up and
explain what he’s going to do with his play, Twelfth Night. It was
just incredible. Because up till then, and this is important in
understanding the counterculture, long-haired music meant opera, it
meant classical music, and it was meant for a very rich, elite, highly
educated bunch of people. That was called long-haired music. Symphony
music. Classical music.
Why was it called long-hair music?
Just because long hair through the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s had become
identified with the professorial, elite, irrelevant academic kind of
rich type. So that was long-hair music. But because of the Beatles and
the whole movement, long hair was popular. You could get the Sgt.
Pepper album literally in Woolworths. So you had one of those rare
moments in history where the best and the most popular were the same.
That’s called a Renaissance. That was a Renaissance aspect to a decade
which was Civil War. A decade that marked a whole century. No doubt in
my mind it marked the century. No doubt who won.
We. Someone gotta win someone gotta lose. I know we won because, see,
I can sit here with you in this deli and I’ve got long hair and I’m
talking to you. Before then the cops could have come right in and
taken me out-suspicion. Now it’s illegal. We had to fight for it. And
that’s one of the things. And we abolished legal segregation. Whatever
president comes, we can’t go back. We can’t go back to slavery because
of the Civil War the century before. We can’t go back living under
King George because of the Civil War the century before that. So every
century has like a war that marks it, and no matter what happens after
that, you can’t go back. Obviously, they weren’t complete revolutions,
or we wouldn’t have homeless people, we wouldn’t have poor people.
We’ve got one more Civil War to go in this country. One more to go.
We’ve got a big class struggle, it’s about economics. We didn’t touch
that in the ’60s. I mean, we touched it the way that we did, by
throwing out money at the Stock Exchange. You see, I couldn’t do that
act today, because it would be an insult to people that are poor and
homeless. But then it was affluence. There was a general ethos and
perception in the country that we were all doing well, that we were
living on easy street, more or less.
But in the ’60s, many of the hippie kids associated with flower power
and Timothy Leary weren’t thinking so much about politics.
This act was a crossover between the hippies and the more political
people. I would be the link between that kind of consciousness and
Dave Dellinger or A.J. Muste, Cora Weiss. Primary in my mind going to
the Stock Exchange–or even the first guerrilla communications act
that we did, when we surrounded Con Edison’s office with big signs
saying “Breathing is hazardous to your health…”
Tell me about this.
We ran and put soot bombs inside the offices, the elevators and
everything. We all dressed up in black and looked sooty, which looked
wild on TV, it was amazing. But let me say that, about all these
actions, foremost in my mind was stopping the war in Vietnam. We tried
to invent different ways which would break people away from the
mainstream kind of thinking which got them to salute without thinking,
my country right or wrong, what ever it says. If it says “go kill,”
then go kill. If it says “study,” then study. If it says, “pay your
bill,” then pay your bill. People would hear about us or see excerpts
on television, read about it in the papers. They would identify with
it, get ideas of their own, and start doing it all over the place.
“Ideology of the deed” implies that the act is going to be reproduced
in various forms in various ways by others in a kind of spontaneous
generation. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have any structure of
communications of our own, or leadership. We had all that too. It was
just that these kinds of events were moving faster along the
communication belt than a leaflet.
You were always thinking about the way things would look when they
Always. When I got up and dressed. I mean, that’s the point. If I made
a leaflet or a button I was aware of how it was going to communicate.
Television was a little more tricky, as was the press, because you
don’t have the final say, so it’s all distorted and everything. But
ultimately I learned that that was okay, it didn’t matter.
Why was that?
Because mythology is always distorting everything. The basic idea to
get across is that someone went somewhere and tried to disrupt
something. They tried to disrupt Con Edison, say. It doesn’t matter
what the media says about it, because some kind of emotional time bomb
is stuck in the place.
And how did that make it mythology?
It was mythology the way I am a myth. The way people come up to me and
say, weren’t you a leader of the Klan in the ’60s? Aren’t you a woman?
You’re taller. Are you still on Wall Street? Didn’t you play with the
Grateful Dead? One of my favorites is that I invented long hair. I
told him it wasn’t true. He said, oh no, you made it legal in America.
I said, now you’re right! At the trial in Chicago, outside the court
house on the opening day I did a front flip, full in the air, and
landed on my feet. It was great that I could do it, it was about fifty-
fifty at that age. But later, as that story got told, I heard I did it
right in front of the judge, seventeen stories up. “Wow, he did a
somersault right in front of the judge.’ So myth brings closure. For
example, people said we were banging on the walls of the Democratic
convention in 1968, but we didn’t get within seven miles of the
building. We couldn’t get out of Lincoln Park. So the numbers
increase, the closeness of the symbols increases. That’s myth.
Myth was a way to communicate critical messages through the media.
But there were lots of positive things, too. We were giving out free
food and had free concerts. One day a bunch of us said we were going
to clean a street all across New York. It was 7th Street, and we said
we were going to clean the street from river to river. We put out
leaflets and we got thousands of people. Certain things done around
Liberty Week, or Hands Across America, most definitely, were
bastardizations of a kind of public art that we brought to the modern
era. Let’s say we brought it with a political edge, and they took the
political edge away.
Your approach to the media was a lot different than the Old Left or
Oh sure, because the Old Left and SDS were drawing from the academic
tradition and the religious tradition. They’re not even that
interested in winning.
What do you mean by that?
The academic tradition teaches you how to present a problem, and the
religious tradition shows you how to be on the right side of the
angels, and maybe even go down in martyrdom. But it’s not exactly like
the Super Bowl, where you’ve got another team to beat. It’s a game,
but hell you’re playing the game as hard as you can. I play those
games as hard as I can. That’s why when they say, oh, you’re just
acting and everything, I say yeah: well, three dislocated vertebrae,
four broken noses. It’s real blood. It is a little shocking, but this
is, after all, real life that we’re talking about. We’re taking real
You were very involved with the new culture, the poetry, the rock
The whole idea was to try and hyphenate the two political cultures.
But, you know, now when I talk to people about reprinting my early
books, they say, “Don’t tell them they’re political books, just say
“culture” and the publishers will say okay. Maybe we can get them
through as art, but not as politics.’ Unfortunately, as the story gets
told, you pick up a new book on the ’60s, it is written by a college
professor, so it’s analytical, academic, and it slightly misses the
point, the flavor of it all. Go and look at the underground newspapers
of the time. The prettiest one was the San Francisco Oracle, they had
twelve issues, and some small press is putting it out now as a limited
edition. It’ll go right away. Like I say, if I had all those poems,
even if I had manuscripts, early things that I wrote, they’re worth
much more than stuff I could write today.
That’s for collectors.
Universities. But I don’t have anything, I don’t collect it. It’s all
out there in the gutter. A lot of the films, too. We had alternative
newsreels. We had people with early video equipment, early cameras,
filming all these events. But a lot of it is simply rotting away. The
videotape then simply wasn’t the quality it is today, so it’s rotting
away. Very hard to find a lot of good footage of me, for example.
That’s funny. I’m surprised.
Well, maybe after I’m dead they’ll dredge it up, but I haven’t seen
stuff that I thought was particularly good. One good shot of one good
speech in May, 1970, but the rest of the stuff is, you know, minor.
And people like it, too, when they see it. But I’m telling you, the
best stuff’s lost. That’s the thing about all this. You had to have
been there. I’m telling you we surrounded a five-sided figure which
symbolizes evil in many religions with a circle to demystify it, and
the building rose-the Pentagon rose in the air. But you had to be
there to see it! You ask anyone who was there, and they’ll tell you,
yeah, sure it turned orange and it rose, it went right up!
In Revolution for the Hell of It, you said “Understanding is the first
step to control, and control is the secret to our extinction.”
Right. As I said at one point, chaos is mightier than the sword. Of
course, I wouldn’t be alive if this wasn’t true. I can’t tell you how
many times I’ve been… four times attacked by mobs of five hundred to
a thousand people, or more, or small groups. And they never laid a
glove on me.
Peripheral vision. What looks like a rioting mob with a lot of
movement seems to slow down. It’s the same with athletes. If you talk
to them, they’ll tell you that even though the game might look very
fast, it doesn’t seem that way to them. They’ve trained themselves to
slow it down. It has something to do with the way you stay calm. When
people are rioting they are out of control, they are not aiming. It’s
not like a cop. If three cops are coming after you, they’ve had a lot
of practice. But a riot of a thousand people, they’re just angry. They
throw their babies at you, they throw their jewelry at you, they start
punching their friends. You know, they’re a frenzied mob. As long as
they don’t have a rope, you know… Also I’ve had situations where at
least one hundred police have pulled guns on me, maybe three or four
times that’s happened. I got scared in Mississippi… I’ve always felt
that dying for what you believe in is an honor, so that brings a
certain madness to the situation, a certain confusion, and in the
cop’s mind, he doesn’t know how to deal with this. This is something
new. They haven’t seen this. Of course, if I pull out a gun, they’re
used to that. If you pull out a gun they all know what to do. Mostly I
would just try to use the fact that I had some presence. “You’re sure
you want to do this? You know who I am? You know who my uncle is?
You’ll be pounding the beat in Staten Island.” Every police force has
a place where cops get punished without getting kicked off the force.
So you know that, you know cop talk. And they know you know their cop
talk, and the only way you’d know that they don’t want to pound the
beat in Staten Island is if you have some pull. They think you know
the inner ways of the power structure, so they back off. They get
nervous about that. It’s something that they haven’t seen with your
standard, run-of-the-mill suspect.
Another quote from Revolution for the Hell of It: “Theater is
involving for those who are ready for it, while it’s dismissed as non-
threatening by those who could potentially wreck the stage.”
Those who would get it, would get it, and those that won’t, they
won’t. It took a strange person to get it and be very threatened by
it. There were some people who thought we were too sneaky and very
dangerous, and when they understood that, then we were in deep shit.
So we took risks. People risked a lot more than their career and
marriage plans. I mean, it’s tough. I’ll go to a group now that wants
to fight a toxic waste dump or a nuclear power plant, and someone will
say “Well, my lawyer says I can get sued.” Sued? I’m coming from where
you could get hung! See, by ’68 they were passing hordes of laws so
that we couldn’t even move across state lines, we were banned from
speaking in certain states. The Interstate Riot Act. You couldn’t wear
a shirt that looked like the flag. They were going after hippie garb,
etc. That was the period when the very strict marijuana-possession
laws came in. They were catching on that the cultural thing mattered.
Anyone looking at Freedom of Information Act files could see that. It
was around this period they hired a psychologist to analyze me, and
Jerry Rubin too. I met the person later. They couldn’t figure out the
chaos, the confusion, they couldn’t figure the motive. Why would they
throw their money out at the Stock Exchange? These are white, smart
kids. They could go work for IBM and everything. Why are they running
around in slums getting their heads cracked by cops. You see, they
couldn’t figure it out. So as long as they couldn’t figure it out, you
were winning. Later on they did. It was the mid-’70s when you get the
rise of the Right. They figured out how TV is used, the use of modern
technology, especially computers. And you see anti-abortion people out
there doing civil disobedience, saying this is the civil-rights
movement of the ’80s. The way they mix up culture and religion. When I
went to Pat Robertson’s 700 Club as a fugitive in 1976, I covered it
as an underground writer-I was really underground!-I was saying, hey,
I’m watching the counter-revolution to the ’60s, right here. They’re
using the same techniques, plus they’ve got plenty of money, and
they’re wrapped in the flag, and in the Bible. My God, it’s going to
be no contest. Organizers on the Right would tell you that they picked
our methods apart. They didn’t like our goals, but they liked our
methods. They studied our methods and gave it back to us. Wouldn’t
you? Somebody had to study this. I mean, the U.S. didn’t get away with
a war against a little country. Something went wrong. Something
So this method of symbolic action had a direct political impact?
You know, within a month they spent twenty thousand dollars building a
bulletproof wall around the Stock Exchange gallery. In fact I’m told
that if you go on the tour that they will say that this is where the
hippies ran up and threw the money off the railing. It’s become part
of the tour. Symbolic warfare is close to the real thing. Disrupt the
fantasy world, memory bank, all these images-you can show that they’re
so vulnerable and fragile. Their reaction is going to be, well, next
week they’re not going to be throwing money, they’ll be throwing
bullets, it’ll be violent. In a way the disruptive thing is violent,
even though it’s very peaceful what we did and everything. To people
in power, it makes fun of their precious symbol, Wall Street. It made
fools out of them. Just a handful of hippies brought the thing to a
stop. Changed the whole world of commerce in an instant. They don’t
like that. I mean later, just about everybody’s going to be giggling
about it. Ten, fifteen, twenty years later. But that’s one of the neat
little tricks. That’s how you get away with it. That’s why I’m alive,
and that’s why I’m fifty-two.
Abbie and Kesey
Submitted by Ken Jordan on Thu, 05/10/2007 – 11:08.
Ken Kesey was certainly an inspired, catalytic figure in the 60s
“underground,” through his writing, the acid tests, and how he lived
his life as a kind of art. But he wasn’t thinking about political
change, challenging gov’t policy and social hierarchy, the way Abbie
did. Abbie’s achievement — an achievement he shared with a group of
Yippie activists, and the west coast Diggers who inspired them — was
to draw Kesey-style hippies into physically dangerous anti-war
activism (protestors were often clubbed and tear-gassed). And to
translate the loose, emerging values of the counterculture into
actions that addressed the way power is held and wielded in America.
In the sixties, there was the classic tension between those who felt
that in order to change people’s heads, you first have to change the
“system,” and those who said — as John Lennon put it — “you better
free your mind instead.” Abbie saw that the two approaches are
inextricably woven together. Yippie actions were designed to attract
people from both perspectives, so participants could viscerally “get”
that you only make a new society by embodying that new society in what
you do and who you are.
Submitted by matteo on Mon, 05/07/2007 – 19:39.
It is amazing– the way he understood at exactly what point in the
culture a judiciously applied little push or pull could send
Let’s Levitate the White House
“Yes, I have been either lazy or busy. It so happens that I still am
but I will try to sneak this in here. Many of you who read here and
who follow certain internet news organs like I do; find that your
greatest challenge is the act of sifting bullshit. The more mainstream
the news organ the larger the shovel required. In some cases a backhoe
is needed. Ernest workers that we are, many of us have to strip naked
on the mud porch after work before we enter the bathroom for hosing
down. It’s not a pretty business.
Back in the days of anti-Vietnam protests there came a day when
certain penetrating minds decided to gather together enough people to
surround the Pentagon while holding hands. The idea was to chant in
unison and raise the Pentagon from the ground; to levitate it. One of
the main participants was Tuli Kuperferberg. Tuli played with an
eclectic 60’s band called “The Fugs”. Tuli was a man of several parts
and held the distinction of being one of the only people ever arrested
for masturbating outside the Pentagon as well as being one of very few
people to ever jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive.
What happened when the Pentagon got wind of this effort is telling;
they pulled out all stops to prevent it. They absolutely and
unequivocally would not allow it. Why? Surely you do not believe that
these people could actually lift the Pentagon from the ground by sheer
force of a joined, collective will? However, the thing is that
individuals in The Pentagon, in the C.I.A., in The Grey House (it’s
not really ‘white’ anymore because of the slime trails of the present
administration. These days the former ‘White’ House resembles the main
prop from The Amityville Horror) and in the executive chambers of
large corporations and anywhere where large amounts of money and power
congregate in strange acts of ritual devoted to their ongoing
perpetuation; Bohemian Grove comes to mind as does Bilderberger… they
do believe in the power of an organized vox populi.
Many of you are familiar with the research done by the C.I.A. in the
area of ‘remote viewing’. Of course you have heard about the Russian
efforts in the areas of telepathy and mind control; also the Chinese
and others have their agencies probing around in areas of human
If you have studied in the realm of the occult and the arcane as I
have, you come across all sorts of interesting- and sometimes –
frightening things. You may have heard about the ongoing war by
certain Christian groups against Proctor and Gamble as being a satanic
operation; it’s got something to do with their logo, but that’s not
all. You may have counted the stars in the Paramount logo as they come
swirling onto the screen. If so, you noted that there are 22 of them.
That’s the same number of cards in the Major Arcana of The Tarot; 22
archetypes. You’ve seen the eye on the pyramid. Being conscious of the
use of symbols to control and manipulate the unconscious drives of
aggregate humanity will bring you to a number of interesting examples;
then there are all the religious symbols. Certainly ‘the cross’ has a
great deal of power. You might say, “C’mon. It’s just a picture, an
image.” But everyone would quickly agree that millions have died
because of it and that it exerts a compelling power and fascination
upon the minds of many. You would also have to admit that it exerts a
great deal of control over the behavior of millions in present time.
Symbols and rituals have magical applications. Rather than address
whether this is real or a trick of the mind, let us address the
obvious truth that many people believe they are real. Many, many
people believe in the power of symbols and rituals and that is enough.
It’s been said that there are two basic divisions of magic; black and
white. One is performed for personal gain and the other is thought to
be a selfless channeling for the benefit of others. ‘One is certainly
dangerous and the other may be merely foolish’; I believe Arthur Waite
may have said these very words.
When the people around you are lost at sea in the mass of
disinformation that streams like sewage from large municipal pipes,
they are being influenced by a kind of ‘magic’. When people are driven
by fear to support laws designed to be applied against them and their
families, that is also a form of ‘magic’. When huge amounts of money
are siphoned off for the special interest of a small group of bag men;
that is also a form of ‘magic’.
Somehow we think magic has to include men in capes and naked women
jumping over fires. It’s got to have colored lights and strange music
and various other special effects. Well, they’ve got all of that in
Las Vegas. All of the wars of this world have been, ‘magical wars’.
You may believe it was for such and such a reason but really, there
are two groups of people on the planet; those who seek to enslave
their fellows and those who seek to liberate them. It is as simple as
that. Some of you, the larger number of people here, (certainly not
readers of this blog) exist in an area of ‘grey magic’. You don’t know
what’s happening and you are influenced in one of these directions by
more encompassing minds. Generally this is in the direction of the
There’s a whole hierarchy in both camps. To keep it simple we will
call them; The Infernal Kingdom and The Heavenly Kingdom. That may
seem a little fanciful for some but it is accurate in definition. One
camp has the real symbols of power and one camp has perverted copies
of them. One camp is the custodian and stewards of the secret
mysteries and one is always looking to get their hands on them.
Everything that happens in the arena of human experience is influenced
by the interplay between the realms of darkness and light. One camp
can ALWAYS kick the other camps ass. There are certain complicated
features that keep this from happening every time it needs to happen
and such are not the focus of this limited piece. I’ve said too much
So what I am suggesting is, let’s go after these people from the
magical end. Let’s get a few thousand people together and circle the
‘former’ White House and levitate the sucker. Let’s use our creative
ingenuity to go after them in a way that will have maximum result.
Let’s use humor and theatrics and, yes, magic and especially, the one
thing they can’t abide… scorn. Can we levitate the ‘former’ White
House? Does it matter? Given the airheads in residence I am surprised
it hasn’t levitated already. No, it doesn’t matter if we actually
levitate it. What matters is that we try. They don’t want this. Trust
me on this. This is the one way they don’t want to populace to come
Large drumming circles to ‘drum out the demons’ in the White House and
the Pentagon and Congress are also really good ideas. Weekly exorcisms
in Lafayette Park are also guaranteed to not only make the horned ones
in the ‘former’ White House tremble but just think of what it will do
for the demons in the ‘hijacked’ Christian Right? Five thousand people
joined together in Lafayette Park chanting “Out, demons, out” would be
a real coup; think of how it would look on the Evening News?
Some will say, “Visible, these men aren’t demons. That’s comic-book
shit.” If I walk and talk and act like it, doesn’t that make me one?
We miss subtle features that render us impotent. It’s like with
werewolves and vampires. People think because their ideas of a
werewolf and a vampire include certain fanciful and atavistic
presentations that therefore they don’t exist. Maybe those renditions
don’t exist, maybe they do but… I can take you to LA and New York and
show you vampires and werewolves on any given night… and they have the
same net result in the end.
Let’s fight magic with magic. I’d look foolish doing this all by
myself. I need for you to tell your friends and for them to do the
same. A National Drumming Congress will do a lot more toward effecting
change than mailings that no one reads from large focus groups that
probably are only waiting for their own turn to rob the till. Use your
imagination. It is far more powerful than you have yet imagined.”
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of Steal This Dream by Larry Sloman
Abbie Hoffman (from his speech in Lincoln Park)
Theater can be used as an offensive and defensive weapon, like blood.
We had a demonstration in New York. We had seven gallons of blood in
little plastic bags. You know, if you convince ’em you’re crazy
enough, they won’t hurt ya. Cop goes to hit you, right, you have a bag
of blood in your hand. He lifts his stick up, you take your bag of
blood and go whack over your own head. All this blood pours out, see.
Fuckin’ cop standin’. Now, that says a whole lot more than a picket
sign that says end the war…
Hoffman and Rubin didn’t lead ’em. What they did was instigate, rile
’em up, aggravate the situation, holler over the loudspeakers. We had
informants among those people, let’s face it. The informants were not
planned on, these were kids that were given a break after they were
They had boxes of old ceramic tile stashed behind trees in Lincoln
Park to throw at the police that night. Helmet or no helmet, you got
hit in the balls with that damn thing. They were fakers, with their
bullshit blood, and they run out to the street where the stupid
reporters were, and I’ll say it into this damn thing, and tell them
that they were hit over the head and they had bullshit cow’s blood and
they banged themselves up.
Jeff Kamen (broadcasting for WCFL)
Late last night and early this morning, the Chicago Police Department
sent 700 men, lobbed tear-gas grenades into a mob of some 1,500
Yippies and their sympathizers in the southeastern end of Lincoln
Park. And there were confrontations on the street. More than 2,500
young people ran wild in the streets. They didn’t break up any
property. Some youths did try to turn over cars and were unsuccessful
in that. Some heads were cracked by police, some newsmen were injured
by policemen. It may be another rough day and an even rougher night
between the Yippies and the police and some of the people put in
Paul Sills, founder of Second City
On Tuesday night we stood and watched the ministers go in.
We went with them in the morning to the cop station in the park. We
protested about the nonsense that had gone on before and on Sunday
night. The ministers announced that they were going to go into the
park that night with a cross at curfew time. Commander Braasch said,
“Why, that would be an act of civil disobedience.”
In order to provide the kids refuge and protection, a group of priests
went to the park and held a religious ceremony and set up a cross. The
police actually teargassed the floodlit cross and drove the priests
and the kids out of the park that night.
Hayden was running around in four hundred different disguises. Abbie
said to Hayden, “I’m gonna get a disguise too, I’m gonna disguise
myself as a manic-depressive.” It’s one of those thoughts that runs
through your head but a year and a half later all of a sudden you say,
Ab worked real, real, real hard to organize this, real hard! He was
noticeably depressed in Chicago. Maybe 20 percent of his depression
was his responsibility for those kids getting banged. It was brutal.
Those fucking pig national guards were going after fourteen-year-old
kids, whapping them on the fucking head. It was killing him. It was
only sometime in the seventies that I started to realize that Abbie’s
mood swings were obvious in Chicago. But it was clouded because there
was an obvious reason for his depression: the beatings.
I don’t know whether Abbie was on drugs a lot in Chicago. But he
seemed to me really, really explosive, paranoid, fatalistic, almost to
a point of being immobilized. At this point he had become so symbolic
to the police that he couldn’t lead anything, he couldn’t go to a
restaurant, he couldn’t do anything. He was shut down.
We were sitting in this luncheonette having breakfast, and in walked
the cops. Abbie had put “FUCK” on his forehead in preparation for the
day’s activities, the rationale being that with that on his forehead
the press will not photograph him and he’ll be anonymous and he can do
whatever he wants.
That was an idea that he had gotten from Lenny Bruce. Lenny had done
it with toilet paper spelling out the words and Abbie did it with
lipstick. I think he made the mistake of tipping his hat to the cops.
I remember Abbie saying, “It’s the duty of a revolutionist to finish
his breakfast.” I have the feeling that they somehow let him finish
I saw him get busted, yeah. I wasn’t surprised. No, I think it was
time for him to get busted, get him out of the picture. He wanted to
get busted. How fast did the word go out? Call it being a martyr, my
leader was busted, I’m gonna do worse.
After the wipeout with the cross at ten o’clock on Tuesday night, that
was the end of Lincoln Park for me. I wanted to move our determined
presence in front of the convention delegates. So the decision was
made to empty out the park and reassemble in front of the Hilton
The city granted a permit. It was their public relations strategy to
say “Yes, we did grant a permit” and it was clear it had been part of
their strategy all along, but it was done at the eleventh hour so we
couldn’t have out-of-town people come in. And so on Wednesday
afternoon, at the band shell, which was in Grant Park many miles from
the convention, a rally occurred. We had our marshals out in force
because there were mothers there with babies.
Pierson helped pull the flag down on Wednesday in Grant Park. That set
off the riot. It was as if it were a signal to his fellow cops. I’m
under the impression that he was throwing rocks at his fellow officers
To take the flag down was a very pro-American and patriotic act, it
doesn’t show disrespect for the flag, it shows great respect to the
flag to say that the city of Chicago does not deserve to have the
American flag flown over it.
When the kid pulled down the flag at half mast and the police came in
and pulled him out for arrest, we instantaneously threw up a marshal
line and locked arms. I was standing in front of the line with a
bullhorn, trying to communicate to the police we have the situation
totally secured and the best thing would be for them to withdraw. And
then the command was given to charge us with blue helmets and swinging
batons. There were policemen literally chanting “Kill Davis” as I was
being attacked. I was the first one to be hit. The first strike
brought me to the ground, opening my skull. That was where I got my
thirteen stitches. But it was the battering of my back on the ground
that was really the killing experience. I felt like they wanted to
kill me. Fortunately, I was able to crawl under a chain fence and
We were teargassed and there was a girl crying to her boyfriend, “They
can’t do this, this is my world.”
I got hit at the big thing at Grant Park. It was a fucking killer of a
shot. I was just not right for the next couple of years. I was waking
up every night in cold sweats. I think it made me a little bit punchy.
Then I and so many other people started going in the direction of the
ultra Left and the violence. We were, in a sense, indulging how hurt
we’d been by Chicago.
I crawled under the chain fence and had two seconds to stand up and
fall into the crowd before going unconscious. I was then taken by our
medics to one of the county hospitals. There was an all-points alert
in the city to find me and arrest me. So while I was at the hospital,
the police conducted a room-by-room search. I was on a table with a
sheet over me, being moved from room to room. To this day I’m amazed
that no one in the hospital administration turned me in.
The crowd responded according to our plans. One-half got in line with
Dave to get arrested and everybody else scattered. They were told get
to the Hilton by any way you can. It involved running along Lakeshore
Drive endlessly, just running, trying to see if there was a way to
cross one of those bridges. The only way into the hotel area and into
the city is across narrow bridges that are spaced out by hundreds of
yards. At each bridge there’s a tank and a jeep and barbed wire and
machine guns. So you keep running and you keep thinking the next
bridge we’ll beat ’em, and you get to the next bridge and same thing,
they’re there. And you’re gonna run out of bridges soon and then you
think you’re gonna be encircled and arrested in Lake Michigan.
Finally, we got to a bridge that was not yet sealed off. About a
thousand people ran over this bridge. On the other side of the bridge
we’re finally on Michigan Avenue.
Burroughs said, “I see no good can come of this.” But he was willing
to march with Dellinger. Genet, Burroughs, Terry Southern and myself
were set up on the front line of the big march and got caught in the
tear gas all together.
David Lewis Stein (from his book Living the Revolution)
We got into the park safely. Much cheering. We were like
reinforcements arriving on a battlefield. We stopped by a bench to
join a crowd listening to a transistor radio. The roll call was still
being taken. Pennsylvania put Humphrey over the top. We surged toward
the front of the park. For a moment, it felt as if we were all going
together in one last, suicidal assault on the Hilton. But the National
Guard had already marched onto Michigan Avenue and taken positions
facing us. From inside the park it looked like they had bayonets out.
Someone on the bullhorn said, “Sit down, sit down, please sit down.”
The crowdspread out and began to sprawl on the grass. Keith and I
found Abbie. He had just gotten out of jail and had come straight to
“They took me to four different stations. They worked me over in a
couple of them,” Abbie said. “This cop says to me, ‘You see this gold
bullet? I’m saving it for you, kid.’ I told him, ‘I’m not scared. I
got a silver bullet. I’m the Lone Ranger.'”
Later I was back out on a trash can in front of the Hilton with my
pressure Band-Aid wrapped around my head, looking like a returning war
veteran denouncing the war. That picture of defiance in injury became
a photograph sent around the world. In fact, when I went to Vietnam to
bring prisoners of war out of Hanoi in ’69 I arrived on one of the
major anniversaries of the Geneva convention and all the ambassadors
were gathered in this great hall, and Pham Van Dong, the prime
minister of Vietnam, walked off the stage, down into the audience
right up to me and said, “How’s your head?”
Rennie was shocked by all the wounded people in the Mobe center. He
had to go up and speak to the reporters and he said to Don Rose, the
press coordinator for the Mobe, “What can I say?” And Rose, fishing
back somewhere from a civil rights experience in the South, said,
“Tell them they can’t get away with it, tell them the whole world is
watching.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Every Vietcong flag you see in any pictures of Chicago were personally
made by me and Sharon Krebs. That’s why I was on the indictment. They
knew that, mostly because of George Demmerle, the informant who spent
some time with me in Chicago. There was a lot of planned trashing in
Chicago. We were making a revolution. Chicagoans were good Germans. I
remember going out trashing with George; we took a big chunk of cement
and put it in the back window of a Cadillac. I got busted for throwing
rocks at police cars. Two or three o’clock in the morning they took me
to prison and there was Jerry. They had just picked him up. They
dismissed my charges because I asked Demmerle to testify.
Wednesday was the greatest. Everybody marched down to the Hilton and
that was the night that the cops started chasing me through the
streets. They put me in jail and Pierson showed up in a nice blue
suit, short hair slicked down. At first I didn’t recognize him. He
said, “You’re in trouble. You’re gonna be arrested for treason.” I was
just stunned. His great success was when I was in that park and the
kids and police started fighting. I threw my sweater and screamed
something from the back of the crowd and he was able to say that I had
caused a riot. For throwing a sweater I got sixty days in jail.
I could see the Hilton Hotel up ahead, all lit up. You’re running
along this dark street, like a moth to a flame. And so the final
confrontation, where they’re on the street being beaten up and
chanting, “The whole world is watching,” was entirely spontaneous.
That’s when they did the old police wedge. They pushed the crowd from
the back, to make it look as if the crowd was attacking the police. A
guy went right through the plate glass. They crushed everybody against
The Hilton bar was right there. A guy had combat boots on, kicked the
window, broke it, and everybody went storming through the plate-glass
window into the bar. Here came the cops chasing them through the bar,
so people tried to sit down at tables, acting like they were
Everybody’s hands and face were cut, their hair was full of glass and
there was no place to hide. So you got beat up and then dragged
through revolving doors. I don’t know if you’ve done that but the
human body is not designed to be pulled through a revolving door.
Joe LoGuidice, Chicago gallery owner
I went through the window, backwards, and the people in the bar
started beating the shit out of me. I wasn’t hurt, but I was bleeding.
I was part of the McGovern group on the seventeenth floor. They had
gotten a couple of doctors up there and they were treating head wounds
so I was trying to get upstairs. I finally got off the elevator and
there was this guy pushing this fucking ice machine down the hallway.
It was Abbie! He says, “Give me a hand with this.” So we pushed it to
this window in the front, and we looked out and the whole scene’s
going on down there. Abbie’s fucking bagging ice cubes and dropping
ice cubes on the cops. You couldn’t miss them, there was this
rectangle of blue helmets, all packed in. The ice cubes were lethal,
you could hear it when they hit one of the helmets. I saw one cop get
hit and just go down. It was like getting hit with a coconut. When
they figured out where it was coming from, they came up and tore the
fucking place to pieces.
Chicago was when I decided to become what I thought was a communist
because this was Pig America. The citadel of democracy was now
behaving like Nazi Germany. In those days I thought communism was
good. I oversimplified it. An enemy of your enemy is your friend.
From the New York Times Magazine, 9/15/68
The Battle of Chicago: From the Yippies’ Side
By Tom Buckley
…Other Yippies say that Hoffman, to a greater extent than they, has
“integrated acid into his daily life.” People who have known him for a
long time say that it has permanently affected his mind. One called
him a “dangerous paranoid-schizophrenic.” Hoffman acknowledges that he
may indeed be crazy by the unimaginative and outdated standards of
present-day medicine. It doesn’t worry him, for he regards
schizophrenics–like acidheads, users of LSD–as daring, inadequately
understood voyagers into the veiled regions of their own minds.
He is unquestionably eloquent and, within the context of his
unorthodox but by no means absurd system of thought, generally
rational. Yet even a well-disposed listener senses a certain lack of
On the last day of the convention, for example, several thousand
demonstrators, turned back by the police and the National Guard
(supported by an armored personnel carrier), withdrew to the
equestrian statue of Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, a Civil War commander,
which stands on a small rise at the south end of Grant Park.
Deputy Superintendent John Rochford of the Chicago Police attempted to
reason with the protesters…one of David Dellinger’s assistants was
counseling caution to the crowd. “I don’t see any point in any more
bloodshed,” he said, and then handed over the microphone to Rochford.
“Sometimes the law is not what I’d like,” he began. “When you move in
concert and without proper permission…” His voice was drowned out by
boos. “Let him have his words,” someone in the crowd shouted. “Oh,
hell,” said another voice, “we’ve heard that song.” But the protesters
remained quiet…Then Abbie Hoffman had the microphone. “We’ve got one
of the head cops with us,” he said insinuatingly. “They won’t touch us
as long as we’ve got the head cop…”