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March 13, 1992 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-13

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The Michigan Daily

Friday, March 13, 1992


down memory

lane with SinclaI

by Mark Binelli
Tonight, the Michigan Theater will
be showing Ten For Two, a docu-
mentary of the John Sinclair Free-
dom Rally which was held in Crisler
Arena on December 10, 1972.
Sinclair, a leading counter-
culture figure at the time, was serv-
ing a 10-year prison sentence for
possession of two joints. The rally -
which featured speeches and per-
furmances by such notables as John
Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stevie
Wonder, Bob Seger, Allen Ginsberg,
Commander Cody and His Lost
Planet Airmen, and Phil Ochs - led
to the release of the political pris-
oner, and remains one of the high-
lights of Ann Arbor's rich history.
Recently, I met with Sinclair and
Event Producer Peter Andrews, who
will both be on hand to speak at
tonight's screening, along with the
film's director, Steve Gebhardt, who
is currently working on a sequel.
MB: Were you getting a lot of media
coverage before the bust?
JS: The newspapers then were even
farther removed from non-main-
stream reality than they-are today, so
... there wasn't a lot of coverage,
and what coverage there was, was
ridiculous and sensational. But as
part of this, I was characterized as
things like "King of the Hippies."
Remember that?
PA: Mmm-hmm.
JS: As if hippies had a king ... I was
an advocate for marijuana legaliza-
tion, and we organized cultural
events like free concerts. We had a
love-in in Detroit.
PA: Oh, it was a great love-in. I
haven't thought about that in years.
Was it Belle Isle?

JS: Yeah, Belle Isle.
MB: Belle Isle? Wow.
JS: But that was one of the things
that made the paper - weirdos,
weird clothes ... That was the kind
of coverage you would get, so I was
in the papers as the - I don't know
- the vocal guy who represented all
the terrible things that went wrong
with our society. And then I became
a political activist on top of all this,
so that really put it all into one ball
of wax, and they kind of got the idea
that if they get this guy off the set,
then everything would recede ...
MB: So you think they'd been trying
to set you up for a while before?
JS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I was definitely
entrapped. The case I went to prison
on, originally I was charged with
giving two joints to an undercover
policewoman. And I was - I gave
her two joints, you know? Let's face
it (laughs).
But at that time, the law called
for 20 to life, for giving the two
joints ... And just before the trial,
when they saw that we were ready to
go to trial on that ... they thought,
'This will really dramatize the is..
sue.' And we'd have a chance of
winning. So the day before the trial,
they dropped the 20 to life charge
and just tried me on possession.
MB: So that was the ten ...
JS: Yeah, then I got a nine-and-a-
half to ten year sentence. And they
wouldn't give me an appeal bond ...
Actually, they declared that I was a
danger to society, and that's why
they couldn't give me a bond ...
MB: Reefer madness.
JS: Yeah. Even though it was two
joints and plus I was mounting a
constitutional challenge (to have
marijuana declassified as a narcotic),
which was originally successful. So,

to me, the appeal bond was even
more grievous than the possession. I
mean, at least I possessed the two
joints. You know, I never denied that
I possessed them. I possessed at least
two joints every day (laughs) ...
MB: What was the initial reaction?
Was it covered throughout the coun-
try by the media? Was there an out-
JS: We used to have a thing called
the underground press. You ever
hear of that? It's so remote now, his-
torically. But every major city and
every major college campus in the
country had an underground paper
... I'd been writing for the under-
ground press basically since it star-
ted, because it kind of grew out of
the underground poetry and litera-
ture which I was part of ... So in the
underground press, it was a cause
celebre ... "Free John Sinclair" be-
came quite a well-known slogan.
And of course, I was part of a group
of people that was by then known as
the White Panther party. And it was
agitating constantly, probably in a
(pause) very irritating way, to those
who weren't praised ...
PA: I'm sure the mayor might have
... it might have had a little effect
MB: What was that?
PA: Oh, those were quite radical
days ... (an Ann Arbor underground
paper) had a little thing of the mayor
giving himself head.
JS: No, with his dick in his hand.
PA: Was the dick in his hand? I
thought it was in his mouth? ... Oh,
man, they were pissed.
MB: That'd do it.
JS: My other favorite was when they
got Sheriff Harvey's wallet.
PA: Sheriff Harvey was this very,
what would you call him?
JS: Porker.
PA: He was this real porker sheriff.
And he was gonna ride all these hip-
pies out of town. He once rode the
Grateful Dead to the edge of the
county after they performed in West
Park on an American flag they used
as a rug. Harvey lost it completely,
and escorted them to the outskirts
and said, 'Get out of the county and
never come back.'
JS: Somehow, he lost his wallet in a
bar somewhere. And they brought it
to the Argus. And they took all the
stuff and photographed it and ran a
big spread of all the stuff in his wal-
let ...
PA: One time, when the hippies or
the radicals or whatever took over
South University street -
JS: That was hippies.
MB: They took it over?
PA: Yeah, just took it over. Sorta
said, 'We're here.'
JS: Had a street party.
PA: Had a big street party. Motor-
cycle guys were doing wheelies up
and down the street. That's where
the English press got 'fucking in the
streets.' 'They're actually fucking in

a f
'f #
4 1
" r

The low point of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally? Definitely Allen Ginsberg singing. Ugh. Freda people NOW.

the streets.' Actually, it was a
blowjob, but ...
They took over the streets, and
Harvey said, 'We can't have this.
Take the streets back.' So he got all
his cops, man, at the end of the
street, and he had a broken arm at
the time, so he was in a cast. And he
came charging in, and everybody
was just going, 'Is this guy nuts?' He
had this big military sweep, from
South U and Washtenaw, swept the
street, bashing everybody they
JS: I was in Boston at the time ... I

JS: The great thing about the movie
is that it's like a real slice of left-
wing cultural radical life ... This re-
ally presents the way it was for us,
which you really don't see drama-
tized. You know, The Big Chill and
things like that, that kind of charac-
terized the mainstream student,
which was pretty far removed from
actual radicalism ... One of the Big
Chill characters might stop at the
fringe of a rally ...
PA: They wouldn't go out to one of
our park program concerts. We had
park program concerts that averaged

'So, to me, the appeal bond was even more
grievous than the possession. I mean, at least I
possessed the two joints. You know, I never
denied that I possessed them. I possessed at
least two joints every day (laughs) ...
- John Sinclair

called in to check and they said,
'Man, there's a riot on South U. Har-
vey, pigs, helicopters, blah blah
PA: It was basically a police riot.
There were uo riots until Harvey ...
MB: Now there's a big controversy
because they just deputized -
PA: Right. Good. It's about time
somebody got a little excited. Some
of the circumstances are the same.
Republican eras, and lower-middle-
class is getting squashed more and
more ... That's why we're showing
this movie. Because young people
are interested in it..

Former Daily Editor-in-chiet ennie uavis (no relation to current ua
Editor-in-chief Matt Rennie) made a fiery speech at the rally.

,. _ _-


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Meat so tender, it just falls
off the bone.
All You Can Eat 74 $5.75
served with Fries & Slaw

about three to five thousand people
every Sunday at one of the parks in
the city. And they sort of agreed to
it, because they thought they could
keep the lid on things, keep the kids
happy ... Just one quick side story. I
used to take one of the more radical
members of John's group with me to
the meeting with the citizen's city
JS: Good cop, bad cop.
PA: Good guy, bad guy we'd play.
And, you know, I was one of the
guys around town doing concerts at
the University ... I would tap Skip
Taub under the table with my foot,
which was the sign, 'Go into a radi-
cal rage.' And he would start,
'Power to the people,' just going on
this guy, rattling this guy.
JS: Now, do you wanna deal with
him ...
PA: Yeah, I seemed reasonable. I'd
stand up and say, 'Skip, Skip. Please
calm down. This is going too far.
This isn't the appropriate place for
this stuff.' And I'd say, 'Whew. OK.
Now that we got that over, what do
you think about this proposal here
.' To see how all of this has re-
turned now, now if you're not a stu-
dent at the University of Michigan,
you're not allowed in the Michigan
JS: Come on!
MB: Yeah, you have to show ID
JS: Come on!
PA: You have to show ID to get into
the facilities. All this is coming
around again. If there was a Vietnam
going on, you people would be get-
ting pretty radical.

JS: If Desert Storm had turned into a
monsoon, and lasted a couple, three
years, those yellow ribbons
would've turned ... That's one thing
about the Right Wing: They'll never
MB: It's true.
JS: The left kinda has to organize
around the shit as it comes and goes,
but the right, they never stop, they're
always trying to push their agenda
PA: Let me give you some back-_
ground on this thing. John's in jail..
And Leni Sinclair, John's wife (at_
the time), got a call at two in the
JS: Lennon had decided to stay in
the United States. And thenthey be- a
came enamored of the movement,
and they left the Beatles, and he *
wanted to do something that was
meaningful beyond the pop world .
MB: And you were in Jackson?
JS: Yeah.
MB: And part of this is maximum
JS: I spent a year in Marquette,
which is a maximum security insti-
tution, but I got run out of there for,
MB: For organizing?
JS: Yeah.
MB: What were you doing?
JS: Well, I was working with these,
Black prisoners, so we could have a
strike. We wanted Black Studies
courses (laughs) ...
PA: Didn't they pull you out of your,
cell in the middle of the night?
JS: Yeah ... So when I got to
Jackson, they kept me locked up in,_
Administrative Segregation. So I
was never with the main population.
Whew. What an experience.
PA: I, as Events Director, recom-
mended that the event be moved to a
smaller facility, because, until the
Lennons came on board, it didn't'
look like it was gonna be successful.
JS: Commander Cody was the
PA: Cody wasn't even confirmed.
Nobody was confirmed. Nobody re-
ally wanted to do it, because it didn't
look like it would be a big deal.
was in Crisler Arena, and I was say_
ing, 'Man, take it to the Power
Center or something.' I sort of left
town to get away from the pressure .;
'of it. I came back and Leni said,.
'Hey, we gotta go to New York andZ
talk to John Lennon and Yoko Ono'T
They're gonna perform at John's 4
show.' I said, 'Right. I'm gonna go*
See SiNCLAIR, Page 10*.

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