The Libertarian Forum July 1969-“Defense Funds” or that time Libertarians financially supported rioters

Chicago defense fund

Excerpt from Rothbard’s newsletter the Libertarian Forum.

For the most part, conservative media has looked down on the tactics used by protesters in the wake of the killings of Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, and others. Libertarians have been similarly skeptical, including the Murray Rothbard’s Luwig Von Mises Institute. With this is mind, there have been times that Rothbard himself financially supported rioters. In his personal newsletter The Libertarian Forum in 1969, Rothbard and other libertarians were asking for donations to help pay for the medical and legal expenses of those arrested at the People’s Park protest in Berkeley and eight activists arrested in Chicago for organizing the protests during the Democratic National Convention


The death of James Rector.

For those who don’t remember, the People’s Park protest was when then Governor Reagan sent the California Highway State patrol and the Berkeley police to stamp out radical students who started a park. He’s reason was that it was “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants.” Reagan was elected on the ticket of being tough on protesters and he wanted to prove it. The police opened fired on them with shotguns. One student named James Rector died and dozens more were severely injured.  Reagan later declared a state of emergency and sent in 2,700 National Guard troops. Roughly 250 students were arrested.

The Chicago eight were arrested under Title 18 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (anti-rioting laws that targeted African-Americans) for organizing anti-Vietnam War protests during the Democratic National Convention.The campaign to support them was nationwide and even involved linguist and radical Noam Chomsky. To quote the Committee to Defend the Conspiracy, which Chomsky sat on:

1968 Democratic Convention

1968 Democratic Convention

The nature and origin of the Chicago violence, the lack of specificity in the indictment, the doubtful constitutionality of the charges and the singling out of men who enjoy national prominence on the left, strongly suggest that the federal government is now embarked on a program to constrain dissenting political activity. The eight defendants—Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale and Lee Weiner—represent a broad range of styles and commitments on the political left. Their indictment reveals how sweepingly Title 18 can be applied to control and limit free political activity. If convicted, each faces up to ten years imprisonment and fines up to $20,000.”

It’s weird how things change. Then again, this was before the split between right-libertarians and New Left after the Vietnam War. I highly recommend reading John Payne’s 2005 article in the Journal of Libertarian StudiesRothbard’s Time on the Left“. It’s explores the brief period of cooperation between right-libertarians and the New Left and their parting of ways.


2 thoughts on “The Libertarian Forum July 1969-“Defense Funds” or that time Libertarians financially supported rioters

  1. Pingback: Rothbard on Che Guevara | Taming Cynicism
  2. Pingback: The Journal of Libertarian Thought (1967): “The Black Revolution” | Taming Cynicism

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