Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: You've obviously witnessed discussions at these meetings and... part of the discussions at these meetings, and part of the convention. Were you sure as to how these groups were able to function just in terms of financial support?
BF: Finances were... I was slightly confused. Later on, I found out SDS had a fairly large treasury, and I don't know, you know, how many chapters, you know, would send their two or three dollars to the national. I don't know how much money that would build for the amount of literature that they were pushing out. There wasn't a whole lot of discussion on money with the convention. That never seemed to be a problem. They had a big office, they had printing, they had phones. I guess they paid the bills - I don't know. I don't know if the phone company went after them or not, but the phones were in constant use, literature was always printed - although some of the literature was printed by movement people, so the cost would be cut down tremendously on that. You had printers who would have an old press, work the press, you know, buy the paper, charge us enough for them to live on, and just keep the presses moving. But the finances - I don't know. It took a decent amount of money, I know that, considering everybody flew in, flew out, went to meetings, gave speeches. Some of the speeches were paid. I know that colleges were more than willing to pay. Most colleges... say a peace organization would form; out of the activity money you'd be given a budget and you could spend that almost whatever way you wanted, as long as you could account for it. So that was some of the funding. I don't think it was really enough, though. There had to be money from other sources.
INT: Was there any time you felt perhaps that there was an organization specifically funneling funds to the protest movement? Was that something that you were asked to look out for?
BF: No, the funding I was never really into. Nobody asked, and I think they were worried that if somebody started delving into funding, there... you'd have to have a reason to go into it. You know, you couldn't just ask, "Gee, Rennie, where are we getting the money from?" They might think something strange about that. But if you had a reason to know it, then you might be able to get into it. But they were worried and they wanted to direct you so that ... you know, they'd invested a certain of time and a certain amount of money (and you knew?) that they'd like to keep where you were, and you know, going on to bigger and better things rather than asking stupid questions and being found out.
INT: Were you ever in danger of being found out?
BF: Mm, just once. Basically, when a Panther chapter in campus... something had happened - I don't know what it was, something stupid - and I think the police came out for some reason. One of the Panthers says, "Ah - it's got to be him." And I just talked my way out of it, seemed very sincere. They believed it. It wasn't a major problem; it was just something that they were laying on me, and I could say, "Well, gee, you know, I was a police cadet, but you know my attitude - I got fired. So... this sounds like a lot more fun - probably a lot more perks, and here I am." And they went along with it.
INT: Why do you think they were so trusting?
BF: Aaah, they were trusting and not trusting. I think I had the art of convincing them, and they wanted to believe. You know, in their belief, you went to meetings, you acted the way they thought you should act, so you fit in. I think betrayal is strange, because people won't believe it. I mean, even after my cover was blown, I got calls and people just... they didn't believe it. For two weeks, SDS was looking for me because the last thing they saw were the police taking me out, and they'd hit apartments and find notes - you know, "Where's Frappoly? Nobody's seen him," so they were concerned. Of course, when they found out, they weren't real happy, but... (Laughs)
INT: Did you feel you were somehow betraying them at all?
BF: What you would do would be... people in the periphery that would go to a meeting, you know, sort of get involved, and they were getting involved for a social reason - well, who really cares if they were at a meeting or not? So you would see, you know, 50 people at a meeting, you knew somebody's name and if you knew it was a social rather than a political reason why they were there, you wouldn't list them. So, you know, there were some serious people, concerned about a war, and you'd get some latitude. Now, if it changed from a social to a political reason, well, then yeah, then you'd start listing them. But if they came... especially in my case... you know, I didn't really care - I basically listed the leaders who were there. Peripheral people, there was no need to really come up with names on them; or you'd come up with a first name and the last name unknown. And half the time, those ... I've seen some of my old reports... half the time those wouldn't even be put in. You know, as they were cleansed, their... you know, names were changed, left out, other people were put in that somebody else had seen, that I had neglected to put in. So the reports and the dossiers weren't as compacted. You know, I couldn't see branching it out on my part.
INT: What did you think of someone like Rennie Davis, for example?
BF: Rennie? An intelligent man. You know, to bring a whole convention together, that was one thing that he did. He and Hayden worked, you know, fairly well together. And then you had David Dillinger, who, you know, was an old-line communist, just there giving some direction. They were doing fairly well in the organization. They had... you have to remember they were working at campuses and cities throughout the US, so they did a halfway decent job organizing it. You know, they definitely aren't dullards. But if you have, you know, Hoffman and Rubin, they were a great comedy team - you know, "Let's do the craziest things we can. It's great theatre, and we can attract people there." You know, everything they did was staged, so it was like a big act. The circus came to town and everybody... it was fairly well scripted.
INT: Did you think that reporting on them was a legitimate thing for you to be doing as part of your service for your country?
BF: Yeah, I did. You know, basically you had a war going on. You know, we found out that nobody really wanted to win it, but you did have a war going on; you did want to support the country. I think it was a legitimate act. You know, you were getting some intelligence information. You know, see if there was... you know, was funding coming in from anywhere else, or were funds leaving the country? You know, we'd look at... you know, later on Jane Fonda goes to Hanoi with a delegation, you know, to allegedly bring medical aid. You know, that... if that would have happened during World War II or Korea, you know, there would have been a trial. But, you know, in this war it didn't happen. You know, there were other people that made peace attempts or visits to Hanoi, and it... you know, it was just something that wasn't allowed, allegedly. (Laughs)
INT: Did you feel that these people had the right to make their protest heard?
BF: Protests were one thing. You know, if I don't like a war for a reason, that's fine. But the protest... it's something that the Constitution says you can do, within reason. You know, if I want to protest to the Pentagon saying that, you know, I'm not sure about this war, well, that's your right to do it. Usually, in a war it doesn't happen that often. But, you know, the country was becoming a little bit more liberal at the time: they allowed the protests. When it turned into a confrontation... you know, why did it turn into confrontation? Was it to, you know, get more press coverage, you know, to make the movement look better, make the Government look more repressive? You know, then I think you're running a little counter to the Constitution.
INT: You took part as a witness in the trial of the Chicago seven, or eight...?
INT: The Chicago eight...
BF: Then seven, (as it was?) testified.
INT: What was your contribution to the case?
BF: My contribution... it turned out that everyone before me hadn't been involved as deeply as I was. You had reports from people who were at the scene of demonstrations, people that heard speeches, you know, had been at some meetings. Well, I come up - I was one of the 19 people that planned the demonstrations - well, it was a little shock to the defense, because they never got a witness list. You know, I think I was Richard Rowe before a grand jury, (Coughs) so they were notified that Richard Rowe was going to testify. I walk into court, and it's, "Uh-oh, we know this guy." So I was the first one that could actually bring in the strategy behind the meetings, what happened, who said what, what... you know, what the reasons were, you know, who was going to come in and speak, what we were going to do, why... you know, if the city gave up the park, then we were going march through the amphitheater. The city said, you know, no, you couldn't that. Basically I knew what was going on. That's part of the reason why Bobby Seale was severed from the trial. My father came down to court and he's sitting there, you know, all proud - "I'm going to see my son testify." He's sitting back there. Two people sitting in front of him are going, "Oh, wait till you see what happens today - that'll be really great." Well, all of a sudden I start testifying; Bobby Seale starts getting up demanding his attorney be in court. I think, if we go back, his attorney was either sick or on trial, couldn't be here. Hoffman, I think, appointed a counselor as his attorney; he kept on fighting it. Then it just blew up. That's when he was bound and gagged, you know, brought into court that way. It was to detract from what I was saying; it was the time to do it, and they did it then.
INT: How important was your testimony in their conviction?
INT: How important do you think your evidence was in their conviction?
BF: I think the jury was impressed by it. I think the reaction I got from the jury as I was testifying was very positive. I think it was the first one they could bring in a couple... I think it was three weeks of testimony... brought it together, and then they could work off of that, to expand on it. It brought some cohesion to the trial itself, and then witnesses after that built on it. And I think it helped the State and the conviction.
INT: In the nature of things, of course, in a sense it was your word against theirs. I mean, was there any sort of independent evidence that you could bring to bear in support of your position, in the sense that their view would be that, "Hang on, the testimony that's being offered against us is uncorroborated: it's his word as a..."?
BF: They really didn't go after the testimony. I mean, we went through four days on the stand, and I think it was maybe a day and a quarter for the prosecution and the rest was the defense. The defense would try and hack holes in it, but I don't think the defendants ever really refuted it; I think they almost agreed: "Yeah, well, we did come to Chicago, we did come here to protest, we did plan meetings." But they... you know, that's what they said, and I think the jury said, "Well, yeah, that's what you did and that's what happened, and that's why we're going to convict you." (Poet Court?) didn't appear to agree, but... at that time... you know, I think two or three years later, I don't think they really wanted a retrial. I think things had slowed down enough and "we'll just let everything go away".