Published by: Washington State University Press
Release Date: March 2018
The Seattle 7 lived the late 1960s counterculture—young, idealistic, active organizers against racism and the Vietnam War, fond of long hair, rock’n’roll, sex, drugs, and parties. In January 1970 they founded the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF). Nationally, the FBI was practicing secret and illegal wiretapping, setting up warrantless break-ins and paying informers and provocateurs to destroy organizations like the SLF. But in Seattle, it went a step further.
Months after a February 1970 protest at Seattle’s downtown federal building turned violent, authorities arrested seven SLF leaders. The activists faced federal conspiracy and intent to riot indictments. During their chaotic trial, they received a twelve-day crash course in the real American judicial system. When the prosecution’s key witness faltered and the government’s case appeared doomed, the presiding judge issued a surprise ruling to end the trial and send the defendants to prison.
The book follows the defendants to prison, their fight to be released, and how they have lived their lives over the almost fifty years since then. Protest then and now is explored in the Epilogue.
Believing that the freedom to publicly dissent is the lifeblood of a functioning democracy, Kit Bakke was active in Students for a Democratic Society at Bryn Mawr College in the 1960s, and later joined Weathermen’s national antiwar, antiracist and anti-capitalist efforts. Born and raised in Seattle, she returned to work as a pediatric oncology nurse. She has bachelor's degrees in nursing from the University of Rochester and political science from Bryn Mawr College, as well as master's degrees in nursing and public health from the University of Washington. Now retired, she writes and volunteers in local philanthropic organizations.
“Protest on Trial chronicles a significant, real-life slice of history, but it reads more like a well-crafted novel—a compelling narrative that feels completely contemporary, and reminds us that dissent—now no less than then—is the essence of democracy.”
—Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days, Public Enemy, and Demand the Impossible!
“Using impressive interviews as well as the revealing trial transcript, this excellent narrative of the Seattle 7 conspiracy trial makes contributions to the history of the Northwest, Seattle, radicalism, and activism. The book performs a valuable service in preserving both the memories and contemporary evidence about the long overlooked 1970 trial.”
—William Rorabaugh, University of Washington Professor of History and author of American Hippies
“This is a heartening book that recognizes dissent as integral to democracy…it is well written in a tight and journalistic style.”
—Lorraine McConaghy, author and public historian emeritus, Seattle Museum of History and Industry
“Kit Bakke captures the Northwest’s most raucous anti-war trial in all of its drama, humor, angst and irony. In her deeply sympathetic account, we learn about the movement that spawned the Seattle Liberation Front, the chaotic events that led up to the trial, and, most vividly, the outsized personalities who went to trial as the Seattle 7. This is the definitive version of a powerful Northwest story, loaded with lessons for today.”
—Jim Kershner, author of Carl Maxey: A Fighting Life, columnist for the Spokesman-Review, and staff historian for HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
“A beautifully written and moving account of a local movement that could have been a more peaceable and much more effective alternative to Weatherman, and its crushing by the Seattle and Federal authorities. The book underlines the cruel impact of flimsy “conspiracy” prosecutions upon a burgeoning radical way of life. The trial of the Seattle Seven deserves to be as well-known as the more famous trial of the Chicago Eight; it is just as disturbing. Protest on Trial belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the end of the Sixties rebellion.”
—Arthur M. Eckstein, author of Bad Moon Rising: How the Weather Underground Beat the FBI and Lost the Revolution
“Kit Bakke’s case study shows how a handful of activists were put on trial, not for organizing one of the largest demonstrations Seattle had ever experienced, but rather for the more radical activities they achieved through their Seattle Liberation Front… Thanks to Bakke, their impact on Seattle and the nation…will live on to inspire every new generation to demand that we live in a real, accountable democracy.”
—Nick Licata, author of Becoming a Citizen Activist, and five-term Seattle City Councilmember
“Kit Bakke’s Protest on Trial: The Seattle 7 Conspiracy shines a light on the attempt to destroy a growing political movement in a small corner of the northwest while the US was mired in an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam... Bakke not only presents their ideas but she also exposes the crude repression they faced as the US government (mis)used its powers to attack individuals and largely destroy a vibrant movement. The book includes enough background context to help newer generations understand a war that much of the country had come to question – and the opposition to it. By looking at a small bit of the past, Bakke gives us valuable lessons for the future.”
—Helen Garvy, author of Rebels with a Cause: A Collective Memoir of the Hopes, Rebellions and Repression of the 1960s