When eight antiwar Seattleites were indicted for conspiracy by Richard Nixon’s Justice Department on April 16, 1970, the fact that there was no conspiracy clearly didn’t stop the feds from attempting to do in Seattle what they did in Chicago during the preceding year: set an intimidating example for the American antiwar movement.
As a Seattle native and contemporary fellow traveler of most of the indictees, Kit Bakke has long had an obvious interest in the Seattle conspiracy trial and the surrounding local events. She’s now written and published the most complete account of the trial to date. Several years in the making, Protest on Trial: The Seattle 7 Conspiracy draws on extensive author interviews with the surviving trial defendants, their former attorneys, and the relevant FBI agents, along with contemporary reports from Seattle’s mainstream news press and its underground counterpart.
Crucial to the Seattle Seven story was the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF), an anti-Vietnam War organization birthed from the ashes of the iconic Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Since all eight indictees — and then, after one quickly went underground, seven — were members of the SLF, a thorough exploration of the SLF’s idealistic birth, contentious life, and acrimonious death is paramount for a book such as this, and Bakke, a former SDS organizer, obviously succeeds at that daunting task in the exposition and development of Protest on Trial.
Bakke strategically frames her book within the context of political dissent and the U.S. federal government’s myriad historical attacks upon that fundamental American right — a topic as urgent here in Trumptime as it was in Nixontime. A worthy and necessary addition to the existing canon, Protest on Trial is a compelling book about a compelling chapter in Seattle’s political history.
Kit Bakke, Protest on Trial: The Seattle 7 Conspiracy, Washington State University Press, 250 pages, 2018.