The criminal charges filed against three individuals associated with the Rawesome Food Club in Venice, CA, have gotten me thinking much about the trial of the Chicago Seven.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned political trial. The last important one that comes to mind was probably that of the Chicago Seven, back in 1969. The defendants included such anti-Vietnam-War and black rights luminaries Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, and Bobby Seale. They were indicted for violating the Civil Rights law by crossing state lines to incite the riots outside the Democratic National Convention in August 1968. (Of course, the riot was by Chicago police, who beat mostly peaceful demonstrators.)
I (gulp) remember it well, for it helped take (more of) the wind out of the government’s pursuit of the Vietnam War and the crackdown on dissidents. Yes, there was still more to come (the murders of demonstrators at Kent State), but we were already well on our way to, at least psychologically, abandoning the Vietnam War
The trial went on for months at the end of 1969, into the beginning of 1970, and it’s funny to read aboutsome of the things that happened there. This from Wikipedia: “One day, defendants Hoffman and Rubin appeared in court dressed in judicial robes. When the judge ordered them to remove the robes, they complied, to reveal that they were wearing Chicago police uniforms underneath. Hoffman blew kisses at the jury.”
Five of the defendants were found guilty, and sentenced to five years in jail, and fined $5,000; at the sentencing, Jerry Rubin offered the judge LSD. Talk about a three-ring circus. But those guys were committed, and fearless. (The guilty verdict was eventually overturned on appeal, and the U.S. Justice Department at that point decided not to re-try.)
One of the things the trial did was to seal the reputation of William Kunstler, one of the defense lawyers for the Chicago Seven, as a defender of political and civil rights.
Might a trial of the Rawesome Three do the same thing for Christien Petersen? He’s the lawyer representing Virginia Bloch, one of those jailed last week for assisting farmer Sharon Palmer, who supplied eggs and chickens to the club (and at one time supplied goat’s milk).
Both Petersen and Fred Sayegh, the lawyer representing Rawesome manager James Stewart, are associated with the Foxx Firm, a Los Angeles area law firm. Sayegh is the partner of The Foxx Firm, Christopher Darden of O.J. Simpson fame is “Of Counsel” to the Foxx Firm, and Christien Petersen is an associate of The Foxx Firm. (Darden was part of the O.J. Simpson prosecution team from the Los Angeles County District Attorney.)
Petersen isn’t anxious to speculate about what a trial of the Rawesome Three might look like, focused as he has been, first, on getting Bloch out of jail, and since then on getting himself up to speed about his client and about food rights issues. He’s being assisted on the food rights matter by Gary Cox of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, who is acting as co-counsel for Bloch.
Petersen isn’t even sure the case will come to trial, since all the publicity that could result from a trial about food rights could mitigate against this case being taken to trial by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
But if it does come to trial, Petersen expects a long and involved proceeding. He’s already been told by the prosecutor’s office to “expect voluminous discovery”–the documentation underlying the state’s case.
“They had two sets of undercover agents on this,” he told me. “That’s a hell of a lot of work for milk.”
If the Rawesome Three do come to trial, one thing is for sure: it won’t be a criminal trial, it will be a political trial.
There’s a new defender of food clubs that is emerging from the rubble of the Rawesome raid. It’s heavily oriented toward mothers who are worried that the recent actions against Rawesome and, just a few months earlier, against Amish farmer Dan Allgyer, could endanger their access to nutrient-dense foods. I just wrote an article about it at Grist.
I also mention in that article a suit filed by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund on behalf of three California herd share owners against the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Santa Clara County District Attorney. They had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the owners of Evergreen Acres, a San Jose farm supplying herdshare owners with goat’s milk.
The case makes for interesting reading, especially the part about how the herd share owners “have the inalienable right to own a goat…(and) to consume the milk from their own goat…” It’s all so basic and simple.
Finally, there’s an excellent first-person account at Southern California Public Radio of what it’s meant to one person to be a member of the Rawesome Food Club, and to experience the raw food habit. It’s by Jennifer Sharpe, who contributes to All Things Considered. She’s been helpful to me in my reporting on Rawesome over the past year.