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Abbie leads a march as thousands yawn

This article was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 24, 1969. It details a march led that day by Chicago Seven defendant Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman, 1969.
Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum

Abbie Hoffman was an hour late and his long hair looked wilder than ever. But his face broke into a smile as he went lightly up the steps and saw the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

A teen-aged girl in hippie garb was seated on Lincoln’s head waving wildly and cheering Abby as the next President of the United States.

Other supporters of Hoffman’s codefendants, who fancifully call themselves The Conspiracy, were hanging from various other parts of the statue, behind the Chicago Historical Society on the edge of Lincoln Park at North Ave.

The girl had placed a bra over Lincoln’s eyes; to show, she said, that the world was blind.

Why they marched

This was the kick-off march to call attention to the trial of Hoffman and seven other defendants which begins Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Hoffman had hoped for 5,000 demonstrators but as he marched in to take command there appeared to be fewer than a thousand.

“Abbie,” one of Hoffman’s lieutenants said nervously, “there aren’t enough people here and everyone wants to get going.”

Hoffman is about 5 feet 7 inches tall, would weigh less than 135 pounds in a heavy overcoat and speaks with a slight lisp. But it was obvious he was in command.

A special reason

“I don’t care what they want to do,” Hoffman answered. “I have a special reason for remaining here until 11 o’clock as we promised.

“If they want to go let them go without me.”

With that, Hoffman grabbed a microphone attached to a bullhorn and gave a short speech in which he announced that the flower children were beginning to grow horns.

“We’re back here now to fight in the courts or in the streets,” he said to the cheering crowd, “and we’re gonna build a movement that will break this (obscenity) country.”

While Hoffman was talking the others were tossing candles into the darkness for members of the march to carry to the Federal Building.

Hoffman spoke for less than 10 minutes and by that time all the candles were gone.

A wreath was produced and Hoffman, holding it in one hand, announced that it symbolized the death of one of last year’s Lincoln Park demonstrators.

“We’re gonna take this wreath,” he said, “and march down through old Town to the Federal Building with it and maintain an all-night vigil with these candles.”

It was shortly after 10 o’clock, still nearly as house before Hoffman wanted the parade to begin.

“Abbie,” one of his companions said again, “we’ve got to go right now. Nobody’s gonna wait.”

Hoffman moved quickly to the head of the procession and then, just as quickly, melted into the crowd and disappeared.

The procession to the Federal Building, which is almost three miles away, was raucous. The marchers tainted the police, but there was no confrontation.

The parade tied up Near North Side, traffic part of the way until the police forced the marchers back on the sidewalks when they reached Clark and Superior.

Only two persons were arrested. one of them was a taxicab driver on his night off who threatened to hit the marchers with a brick.

Deputy Chief of Patrol Robert Lynskey summed it up when some of the hippies spread gasoline on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Building and started a small fire.

“You’ll have to do a lot better than that, lads,” he said. “You haven’t shown us much at all.”

Earlier Tuesday, Dan Shannon, Chicago Park District board president, granted the Chicago Eight permission to use the Grant Park bandshell Wednesday for a demonstration, from noon to 3:30 p.m