Seattle Liberation Front clashes with police during protest at Federal Courthouse on February 17, 1970.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 6/01/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2129
On February 17, 1970, approximately 2,000 protesters led by the new Seattle Liberation Front (SLF) clash with Seattle Police during "The Day After" demonstration at the Federal Courthouse at 4th Avenue and Madison Street. Demonstrators pelt the Courthouse and police with paint bombs and rocks, leading to 76 arrests and 20 injuries. The demonstration protests contempt citations issued against the "Chicago Seven." Federal prosecutors later file conspiracy charges against SLF leaders, leading to the trial of the "Seattle Seven."

The February protest was prompted by contempt citations handed down against the "Chicago Seven" (Chicago Eight counting Bobby Seale, who was tried separately) defendants charged with conspiring to plan a riot during the August 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago. (All of the defendants were ultimately acquitted of conspiracy but punished for contempt of court.)

One "Conspiracy" Spawns Another

The Seattle Liberation Front was a loose collection of radicals and collectives organized by University of Washington professor Michael Lerner (b. 1943) in January 1970, following the collapse of the national Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) the previous summer. On April 16, 1970, a federal grand jury issued conspiracy indictments against Lerner, Susan Stern (1943-1976), Charles "Chip" Marshall (b. 1945), Mike Abeles (b. 1951), Jeff Dowd (b. 1949), Joe Kelly (b. 1946), Roger Lippman (b. 1947), and Michael Justesen (b. 1950).

All but Justesen (who "went underground" and as of January 2000 has never reappeared) were arrested and later tried in the Tacoma courtroom of Judge George Boldt (d. 1984). Judge Boldt declared a mistrial on December 10, 1970, and cited the defendants for contempt.


Sources: Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995); The Seattle Times, April 16, 1970; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 17, 1970.
Note: Several of the birthdates given in this essay were corrected on July 24, 2012.

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