Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman was born November 30th, 1936 in Worcester, Massacusetts. Known as the most influential & recognizable American activists of the 20th Century, Hoffman pioneered the use of humor, theater, & surprise to change the world for the better.
Abbie Hoffman started his activism when he became involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), & organized the "Liberty House" which sold items to support the Civil Rights Movement in the southern part of the U.S. . He later co-founded the Youth International Party (the Yippies).
During the Vietnam War, Hoffman became an anti-war activist & used comical, theatrical tactics to gain attention to the cause. An example of this was when he helped organize a mass demonstration in which over 50,000 people unsuccessfully tried to levitate the Pentagon using psychic energy!
Hoffman was also responisble for turning many "flower children" into political activists.
On August 24th, 1967, Hoffman led a group that was against capitalism & the Vietnam War into the gallery of the New York Stock Exchange.The protesters threw handfuls of mostly fake dollar bills down to the trader's below. Some trader's booed, but many frantically tried to grab the money. Hoffman said that he was metaphorically pointing out that's what the trader's "were already doing".
Hoffman was arrested for conspiracy & inciting a riot as a result of his role in the protests that led to violent confrontations with the police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chigago. he became part of the 'Chicago Seven', which included a fellow Yippie, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, & other radical activists.
Hoffman's courtroom antics recieved much publicity. During the trial, he & another defendant came to court dressed in judicial robes. Another example would be when Hoffman was sworn in as a witness with his hand flipping the bird. At sentencing, Hoffman suggested to the judge that he try LSD, & offered to hook him up with a dealer he knew in Florida! The convictions were eventually overturned.
During Woodstock in 1969, Hoffman interrupted 'The Who's' performance by jumping onstage to attempt to give a protest speech against the imprisonment of John Sinclair of the White Panther Party. He grabbed the microphone & yelled, " I think this is a pile of shit While John Sinclair rots in prison...". 'The Who's' guitarist, Pete Townsend, cut Hoffman off & struck him with his guitar, sending Hoffman tumbling off the stage!!
Townsend later said that he agreed with Hoffman on Sinclair's imprisonment, but disliked him interrupting the performance.
Hoffman was arrested again in 1973 on drug charges with the intent to sell & distribute cocaine. He skipped out on his bail & went into hiding for several years. While in hiding under the name of 'Barry Freed', he successfully helped coordinate an enviromental campaign to preserve the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In 1980, he surrendered to authorites & recieved a one year sentence.
After being released, Hoffman continued to be an activist & a radical journalist, contributing to the radical, Ramparts Magazine.
Abbie Hoffman was found dead on April 12th, 1989 at the age of 52. His death was caused by an overdose of 150 phenobarbital pills. It had been known that he was distraught over his mother's diagnosis of cancer.
Abbie Hoffman's legacy lives on as an activist through his memories, as well as his books, & the 2000 film 'Steal this Movie', based on his life.

" You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives it's dissidents, not the freedom it gives it's assimilated conformists."---Abbie Hoffman