David Dellinger, an author and activist who was tried for taking part in the violent anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, died on May 25. Cause of death was not released. He was 88.
While attending Yale University, Dellinger decided to devote his life to standing up for his beliefs. He experienced the first of his many arrests in the 1930s while protesting at a union-organizing demonstration. Dellinger was studying to become a minister at the Union Theological Seminary in New York when he declared himself a conscientious objector and refused to register for the draft. Instead of fighting in World War II, he spent three years in prison.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Dellinger became a strong supporter of civil rights. He joined freedom marches in the South and led many hunger strikes to demand equal access to educational and political opportunities for all Americans, regardless of race. A pacifist who believed in nonviolent social change, he also protested against the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
In 1968, representatives from the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, the Youth International Party, the Black Panther Party and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference all decided to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. To combat these planned demonstrations, government officials, led by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, installed an 11 p.m. curfew and requested the assistance of 7,500 Army troops and 6,000 national guardsmen to maintain order with the city’s 12,000 police officers.
During the convention, relations between law enforcement and the demonstrators culminated in a mass riot. The American public watched in horror as the television news showed police tossing tear gas into the streets and beating protestors and reporters.
Eight men were charged with inciting a riot, but one defendant, Black Panther Bobby Seale, was bound, gagged and removed from the case. At the Chicago Seven trial in 1969 and 1970, Dellinger and four co-defendants — Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Rennie Davis — were convicted of conspiracy to incite a riot. A federal appeals court later overturned those convictions.
To avoid paying taxes that could be used by the government to finance war, Dellinger worked “under the table” as a small press editor and publisher. He also wrote six books, including the 1993 memoir, “From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter.”
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