Lee Weiner

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Lee Weiner
Lee Weiner, outside Federal Building in Chicago during conspiracy trial, Feb 11 1970.jpeg
Lee Weiner, February 11, 1970
(Bill Yates / Chicago Tribune)
BornSeptember 7, 1939

Lee Weiner (born September 7, 1939) was a member of the Chicago Seven charged with "conspiring to use interstate commerce with intent to incite a riot" and "teaching demonstrators how to construct incendiary devices that would be used in civil disturbances"[1][2] at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Weiner and his co-defendant John Froines were acquitted of the charges by the jury.[3][4] Weiner was the only member of the Chicago Seven from Chicago,[5] and was raised on Chicago's South Side.[6]

Trial[edit]

First dubbed the “Conspiracy 8” and later the “Chicago 7,” the defendants included Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale, as well as "little-known community activist and social worker" Lee Weiner, "who was just as surprised as the rest of the country when his name was called."[7][8] When the trial of the Chicago Seven began in the early fall of 1969, Weiner was a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant at Northwestern University, and had previously graduated from the University of Illinois, studied political philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and earned a master's degree in social work from Loyola University's School of Social Work in Chicago.[9] As a caseworker, Weiner had witnessed dire poverty in Black neighborhoods, and writes in his memoir that, “Every day … the work I did drove punishing truths into my head about what was wrong in America.”[10] At Northwestern University, Weiner worked for Professor Howard S. Becker as a research assistant.[11]

Book cover, The Conspiracy, The Chicago 8 Speak Out, Dell 1969.jpg

The Chicago Eight defendants each contributed an essay to the book The Conspiracy, published in November 1969.[12] In Weiner's essay, "The Political Trial of a People's Insurrection," he writes:

Using the artificial, state-controlled rules of the court, the U.S. government's prosecutors and judge will attempt to interpret the people's insurrection in Chicago as the private and deliberate manipulation of eight evil men. The government will be desperate to play down the independent action of thousands of people who openly resisted illegitimate political and police power. The trial, therefore, must blur and soften the contours of what actually happened, and instead focus upon and magnify the roles of these eight men in particular. The alternative image - one of a popular insurrection rooted in the experience and desires of people that was put down by the deliberate exercise of state-controlled violence - too clearly focuses public attention on what America is all about. The government effort is intended to punish and frighten a growing, insurgent mass movement of both the young and concerned adults, and to protect the official myths of political reality in America.[13]

J. Anthony Lukas described Weiner as "a strangely remote figure who shunned most of the defendants' extracurricular activities."[14] According to Professor Douglas Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, "Weiner rarely attended defense strategy sessions, perhaps out of a belief that their cause was hopeless. He spent most of his trial hours reading science fiction paperbacks or books on eastern philosophy. Weiner reacted to few courtroom developments, viewing the proceedings with a mixture of scorn and amusement."[15]

Groucho Marx was asked to testify at the trial, and Weiner wanted him to teach the courtroom about satire; Groucho said it would be “an honor” but declined, thinking his last name would bias the judge against him.[16] According to Weiner, towards the end of the trial, "there was no question we would be put in jail. I ended up going, mostly for correcting my name. People always pronounced it Wee-ner. It's Wye-ner. When the judge would say Wee-ner, I would shout out, "It's Wye-ner," and he got pissed off and charged me with contempt, which was a perfect summary of my political stance. I was sentenced to two and a half months."[17]

After being taken to jail, the defendants “almost immediately” stood on top of tables in the common areas and gave speeches of “defiance,” getting applause and laughter from fellow inmates, and were quickly put into isolation cells.[18] The jury acquitted all seven defendants of conspiracy and only acquitted Weiner and John Froines on all charges.[19][20] While the jury deliberated, the judge cited the defendants and their lawyers for 159 counts of criminal contempt; Weiner was convicted on seven charges of criminal contempt later reversed and remanded after an appeal,[21] that cited, according to the Chicago Tribune, "among other things, antagonistic behavior from the judge and the fact that the FBI had bugged the defense lawyers' offices."[22] After retrial, Weiner was acquitted of all contempt charges.[23]

Weiner left Chicago after accepting an offer to teach in the sociology department of Rutgers University,[24] and moved to Brooklyn, NY with his girlfriend at the time, Sharon Avery.[25] People magazine reports that "[a]t a birthday party for Black Panther leader Bobby Seale in 1972, Weiner was overheard joking that he was "starting a new Communist party in New Jersey." The remark turned up in print, and he was told that his teaching contract at Rutgers would not be renewed."[26]

In the years following the trial, Weiner continued to work and protest for causes. He has worked for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in New York[27] and participated in protests for Russian Jews and more funding for AIDS research,[28] and he has worked as a vice president for direct response at the AmeriCares Foundation in Stamford, CT.[29][30] He currently resides in Florida.[31]

Works[edit]

Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7[edit]

Book Cover - Conspiracy To Riot, The Life and Times of One of The Chicago 7 by Lee Weiner.jpeg

Weiner has written a memoir, Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7,[32][33] about how "the actions that brought him before a jury and a vindictive government were part of a long tradition of American radicalism that had shaped him from an early age and remain directly relevant to today's efforts to change America for the better."[34]

According to Malik Jackson, writing for the South Side Weekly, "[w]hen reading Weiner’s recollection of the demonstrations, which mostly took place on Michigan Ave. and in Grant Park, one is struck by the similarities between this imagery and the events we’ve witnessed on our own streets in recent years. There is the common instance of police charging crowds and trampling protesters, picking out individuals at random to beat with clubs. There were other instances of undercover cops blending into the crowd to overhear strategic discussions between marshals and subsequently stalking them—which is how Weiner was caught and indicted."[35]

Kirkus Review describes the memoir as "a welcome addition to the library of the countercultural left," noting "Weiner closes with a stirring paean to activism. 'While a political life isn’t easy,' he writes, 'and while frustration, anger, disappointment, fear, and confusion are sometimes pieces of it, I believe there is no more self-respecting, fulfilling life to try to lead.'"[36]

It was published in August 2020 by Belt Publishing.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ragsdale, B.A. (2008). The Chicago Seven: 1960s Radicalism in the Federal Courts Federal Judicial Center (at pp. 4, 16)
  2. ^ Indictment. published at Linder, D.O. "The Chicago Eight" (or "Chicago Seven") Trial (1969 - 1970). Famous Trials. UMKC School of Law.
  3. ^ The Chicago 10. PBS. Retrieved on October 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Tribune News Services. (2016, October 24). Background: Chicago 7 trial. The Chicago Tribune
  5. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. (2020, Oct. 15). The only Chicagoan of the Chicago 7 just wrote a memoir and says he’s a fan of the Netflix movie ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’. Chicago Tribune (GazetteXtra reprint)
  6. ^ About Lee. Lee Weiner, Belt Publishing.
  7. ^ "Conspiracy To Riot Trial of the Chicago 7 — Lee Weiner." Belt Publishing. https://www.leeweinerchicago7.com/conspiracy-to-riot.
  8. ^ Harrington, A. (2020, Oct. 20). ‘Banality Punctured By Moments Of Sheer Horror:’ A Reporter Remembers The Real Trial Of The Chicago 7. CBS 2 Chicago. ("[Topanga Bird, formerly known as Marti Ahern, a 19-year-old desk assistant for the Chicago Sun-Times with a press credential to cover the trial,] described Weiner as a “nice guy; polite, intellectual,” adding, “Nobody ever did figure out why he was corralled into this scrum.”")
  9. ^ The Conspiracy. (1969). P. Babcox, D. Babcox, & Abel, B. (Eds.). Dell Publishing: New York, p. 193, https://www.worldcat.org/title/conspiracy/oclc/53923
  10. ^ Loerzel, Robert. Court of Chaos. Chicago Magazine. July 30, 2020.
  11. ^ Becker, H.S. & Richards, P. (2010). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, Or Article. 2nd Ed. University of Chicago Press. ReadHowYouWant edition at pp. 122-123 ("I don't think I realized how this reading and commenting and being read and commented on by peers affected my professional development until I hired Lee Weiner as a research assistant a few years after I started teaching at Northwestern. I was away the summer he began work, and as a conscious revolutionary, Lee (who later became one of the Chicago Seven), read all of my correspondence, although it was not part of his duties. When I returned in the fall, he told me excitedly how much he had learned by looking through the folders I kept on papers I had written, seeing what my friends had written on, and about, succeeding drafts, and how I had taken those comments into account in my next version.")
  12. ^ The Conspiracy. (1969). P. Babcox, D. Babcox, & Abel, B. (Eds.). Dell Publishing: New York. https://www.worldcat.org/title/conspiracy/oclc/53923
  13. ^ The Conspiracy. (1969). P. Babcox, D. Babcox, & Abel, B. (Eds.). Dell Publishing: New York, p. 198, https://www.worldcat.org/title/conspiracy/oclc/53923
  14. ^ J. Anthony Lukas. The Barnyard Epithet and Other Obscenities: Notes on the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. Harper and Row, 1970. 21., cited by Linder, D.O. "The Chicago Eight" (or "Chicago Seven") Trial (1969 - 1970)." Famous Trials. UMKC School of Law, at Biography of Lee Weiner.
  15. ^ Biography of Lee Weiner. Linder, D.O. "The Chicago Eight" (or "Chicago Seven") Trial (1969 - 1970)." Famous Trials. UMKC School of Law.
  16. ^ Loerzel, Robert. Court of Chaos. Chicago Magazine. July 30, 2020.
  17. ^ Kisseloff, J. (2006). Generation On Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, An Oral History. University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, p. 94
  18. ^ Loerzel, Robert. Court of Chaos. Chicago Magazine. July 30, 2020.
  19. ^ Loerzel, Robert. Court of Chaos. Chicago Magazine. July 30, 2020.
  20. ^ Ragsdale, B.A. (2008). The Chicago Seven: 1960s Radicalism in the Federal Courts Federal Judicial Center (at p. 8)
  21. ^ Ragsdale, B.A. (2008). The Chicago Seven: 1960s Radicalism in the Federal Courts Federal Judicial Center (at p. 8, p. 9, "In unsparing language, the court of appeals censured Judge Hoffman and the government attorneys for their open hostility toward the defendants and their failure to fulfill “the standards of our system of justice.”")
  22. ^ Tribune News Services. (Oct. 24, 2016). Background: Chicago 7 trial. Chicago Tribune
  23. ^ Biography of Lee Weiner. Federal Judicial Center.
  24. ^ Kisseloff, J. (2006). Generation On Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, An Oral History. University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, p. 94-95
  25. ^ Waxman, O. B. (2018, August 28). 'Violence Was Inevitable': How 7 Key Players Remember the Chaos of 1968's Democratic National Convention Protests. TIME Magazine
  26. ^ McCall, Cheryl. (1977, Sept 12). Their Anger Behind Them, the Chicago 7 Declare Peace in the '70s. People 8:11.
  27. ^ John Kifner. (1994, Oct. 30). Silver Protest Reunion For Yesteryear's Yippies. New York Times
  28. ^ New York Times News Service. (1994, Nov 29).1960s radical Jerry Rubin, 56, dies in California of heart attack. Baltimore Sun
  29. ^ Bennett, K. (2010, Aug 27). Where Are They Now? Chicago Seven. AARP Bulletin
  30. ^ Lee Weiner. LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://uk.linkedin.com/in/lee-weiner-0ba038134 on August 17, 2018.
  31. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. (2020, Oct. 15). The only Chicagoan of the Chicago 7 just wrote a memoir and says he’s a fan of the Netflix movie ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’. Chicago Tribune (GazetteXtra reprint)
  32. ^ Weiner, Lee. "Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7". Belt Publishing. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  33. ^ Belt Publishing. Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7. 2020. ISBN 9781948742689
  34. ^ Belt Publishing Product page: Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7.
  35. ^ Jackson, M. (2020, Oct. 14) The Road There Is A Battlefield. South Side Weekly
  36. ^ Kirkus Review. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lee-weiner/conspiracy-to-riot/ Review Posted Online: May 10, 2020, Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020
  37. ^ Weiner, Lee. "Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7". Belt Publishing. Retrieved 2020-09-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • Edited by Mark L. Levine, George C. McNamee and Daniel Greenberg / Foreword by Aaron Sorkin. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Official Transcript. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020. ISBN 978-1-9821-5509-4. OCLC 1162494002
  • Edited with an introduction by Jon Wiener. Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven. Afterword by Tom Hayden and drawings by Jules Feiffer. New York: The New Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-56584-833-7
  • Edited by Judy Clavir and John Spitzer. The Conspiracy Trial: The extended edited transcript of the trial of the Chicago Eight. Complete with motions, rulings, contempt citations, sentences and photographs. Introduction by William Kunstler and foreword by Leonard Weinglass. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1970. ISBN 0-224-00579-0. OCLC 16214206

External Links[edit]