Gainesville 8 Innocent
People's Verdict, People's Victory!
On August 31st, 14 months after they were charged with the conspiracy to violently disrupt the 1972 Republican Convention, the Gainesville 8 were unanimously declared innocent of all charges. The jury's verdict has confirmed what VVAW/WSO has maintained from the beginning: namely that the only real conspiracy was the attempt by the Nixon administration to frame the Gainesville 8 and VVAW/WSO on bogus charges in hopes of discrediting or destroying the organization.
What was the government's case that this trial was based on -- a trial that cost the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars? It certainly wasn't based on anything remotely resembling evidence! Rather, its "substance" consisted of the testimony of paid informants and mentally unbalanced agents provocateurs. It consisted of "bomb" formulas that experts testified might work as well as a kitchen match. While one FBI operative vainly tried to sell the defendants machine guns, others illegally tapped conversations between the defendants and their attorneys in the very court building itself.
The government know that if the true nature of the trial ever saw the light of day, it would be in real trouble. As a result, Judge Arnow tried to implement one of the most all-encompassing gag rules ever seen in federal courts in hopes of covering the whole thing up. While this was a flagrant violation of our 1st Amendment right of freedom of speech, at no time during the trial was a great concern ever shown for the Bill of Rights anyway -- the government generally ignored it!
Then why did the trial occur if there was no case? The answer is that it was just another case of overt political repression. Watergate testimony has repeatedly shown that CREP viewed the anti-war issue as the swing issue in the 1972 presidential election. It also showed that as early as the spring of 1971, Nixon was acutely aware of VVAW/WSO's leadership role in the anti-war movement. Against a background of a rapidly escalating repression of all political activity in the U.S., this knowledge makes the reasoning behind the trial a lot clearer.
The government needed, first of all, to defuse the anti-war issue in the 1972 presidential campaign. What better way to do this was there than by portraying a leading anti-war group as a bunch of vicious killers? With the public outcry caused by the Watergate scandal, a secondary purpose for the trial can be found: an attempt to partially divert attention away form the Watergate affair by fabricating a phony "threat to national security." James McCord specifically named VVAW/WSO as the chief villain in this "threat to national security" and as a justification for their actions.
In such an atmosphere of repression, it is fitting that the defense ended its case after calling only one witness and then resting on the "evidence" of what "the government calls its case!" The significance of this act is a powerful statement on the sorry state the American judicial system finds itself in, for it has become the very instrument of that repression. It is also a realization of the fact that, ultimately, the only safeguard of justice we really have is the American people themselves. It is the American people alone that have consistantly refused to buy the government's string of conspiracy trials and seen that a just verdict of innocent was returned -- such was the case with the trials of the Camden 28, the Seattle 7, Harrisburg, and now the Gainesville 8.
As a number of the jurors pointed out after the trial: "What was there to deliberate? They never showed us any evidence. We could have come back with a verdict in 10 minutes." Another Gainesville 8 juror went so far as to say: "I wish I had understood all these things about the government 20 years earlier."
If there is going to be any justice in this country it clearly is going to come from the American people rather than the U.S. government. While we should recognize the victory the people have won in the acquittal of the Gainesville 8, we cannot allow ourselves to believe that our struggle is over. Truthfully, it is only beginning. Even as the Gainesville 8 are freed thousands of our other brothers and sisters are not so fortunate.
Those suffering under the medieval conditions of prisons throughout the U.S. -- Atica, New York; San Quentin, Cal.' Starke, Fla.' Jolliet, Ill.' Michigan City, Ind.; Leavenworth, Kan.' McAlester, Okla. to mention a few -- do not have to be reminded that they haven't received anything even remotely resembling justice form the U.S. government. While the Gainesville 8 are free, Gary Lawton is still fighting for his freedom as are the Attica Brothers, the Wounded Knee defendants, Ruchell Magee, the San Quentin 6 and a whole lot of other brothers and sisters. Freedom has its price and that price is constant struggle. WHILE THERE IS A SOUL IN PRISON, WE ARE NOT FREE!