I remember the events surrounding the Sinclair case ("Free John Sinclair", June 2008), some with clarity. One thing I recall was that the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan invalidated the Sinclair conviction on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.
When the Free John Sinclair concert was held I was in my teens, and coincidentally cooling my heels in jail on a marijuana charge. I was out by the time the legal dust settled.
I also recall that there was a brief period thereafter when there effectively was no law against marijuana possession in Michigan. Potheads, their friends, and families rejoiced. Many people were freed from jails and prison. My own five-year probationary sentence was canceled.
Of course the politicians acted with all due haste and passed a new law regarding cannabis. This time, though, simple possession at least would be a misdemeanor. That was some progress at least.
- Warren Klofkorn
I attended the Free John Sinclair rally at the Crisler Arena in 1971. My buddy Jerry Edgar went with me, and he still has a framed poster from that night. It was quite a night to remember, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation and a strong sense of brotherhood. It was a large and rowdy crowd, mostly people ages 18 to 30, who would now be 55 to 67. The next day I had two exams, and aced them both.
- Bob Woodby
Sinclair's political program
Re: "Free John Sinclair": You write: "His political program was never terribly specific."
I remember it as being, "Rock and roll, dope, and f____ in the streets."
How much more specific do you want?
- Norman Owen
- M.A., PhD.
There was definitely a movie about the Free John Sinclair Now Concert, but it has totally vanished, or is it something no one talks about?
I watched the movie about a year after the concert in an Ann Arbor theater.
I am just wondering if I don't know where to look, or was it simply "removed" or I guess, censored?
- Ken O
Around the Arb - 1952
I moved into a room across the street from Stockwell and earned 18 meals a week at Alpha Delta Pi â€” they only served two on Saturday and one on Sunday. It wasn't far up North U to the Arb (Slideshow: Splendor in the Arb, June 2008), and lots of couples carrying coolers in one hand and blankets draped over the other, books in backpacks and radios or even record players would stroll there to study flowers, trees, and one another.
My roommate, famous among his friends for his trombone and his wit, was Walter Hastings Hay. His fame derives from the label on his door in South Quad (he moved out of my room in West Quad and into South when it opened in the winter of 1951-52). It read, in part: "Walter Hastings Hay, Esq. World Traveler, Great Lover, Accomplished Musician, Notary Public . . . " (The last was not true; he didn't notarize anything.) On a warm spring evening, with windows open because the air conditioning had failed in the new dorm, and there was no air conditioning in West Quad, Walt exchanged riffs with a trumpeter across the street. The music led to yells of "Knock it off! I've got studying to do." The yells led to challenges to "do something about your big mouth." Which led to a mob gathering between the quads. Then someone said, very loud, "let's raid the women's dorms!" That led to a march across campus to Stockwell and the other women's dorms along the street that led to University Hospital.
All kinds of "urban legends" followed. One was a story about a woman surprised in the shower who covered her face with the towel so she wouldn't be recognized. Another, well documented in Detroit newspapers, was that Deborah Bacon, Dean of Women, was asked to comment on the night's activities, and she responded, "Boys will be Boys."
I was still living in Chicago House, on the north side of West Quad, and I was unaware of what happened that night or I would have gone along to see what happened. I might have seen raiders march across the stage of the Michigan Theater, displaying the dainties they had looted (or been given) during their forays into women's dorms. I might even have been one of the raiders. But I wasn't. I might have recognized one of the raidees from class. The next year, when I moved close to the scene of the raids, I might have recognized people from that weird, unseasonably warm spring evening now engaged in the relatively sedate stroll to the Arb.
- Robert Beckett
- AB (English) AM (English)
I was at the Free John Sinclair concert also
I was a freshman living in South Quad at the time of the Free John Sinclair concert. George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh had occurred earlier in 1971, with many major surprise appearances from major artists. We here hoping for some major names as well, and Stevie Wonder didn't disappoint. He also sang "Ma Cherie Amour" that night.
- Patrick Sullivan
I too was an 18 year-old freshman in 1971, lucky enough to get tickets to the sold out Free John Sinclair concert. The area surrounding Crisler was a big party scene for the ticketless. I just related to my wife that the "tight seating" noted in the article was an oblique reference to me. A friend and I noticed as we entered the arena that the ticket takers didn't tear the tickets and simply dumped them in large trash cans. For the next couple hours we recycled tickets to the hungry hippies on the outside. We thought they would just have to sit on someone's lap.
Today, my views are more sympatico with Strom Thurmond than John Sinclair. I remember a little of those days and know we were out of control. Does anyone remember the Harpys?
We were the youth that John Sinclair and Jerry Rubin promised to mobilize against the establishment and "kick out the jams." I was in 10th grade at Huron High and an anti-war organizer. After school would go to the Friends Center next door to the White Panthers' house, where young men burnished their credentials as Quakers to get Conscientious Objector draft status. Every day we'd go dig bomb craters on the Diag or do something else of political importance, like bake crunchy granola.
I went to the Free John Sinclair concert. I remember that there was so much vomit on the floor of Crisler Arena, and empty Annie Green Springs bottles that I wasnâ€™t sure I could stand the wait for John Lennon. Stevie Wonder was my favorite part of the show — and Elsie Sinclair's speech of unconditional support for her sonâ€™s foibles. We drove a VW bug home at 4 in the morning watching for belligerent Washtenaw County Sheriffs.
I still love Bob Seger and Commander Cody, and my heart rate goes through the roof when a police officer pulls up next to me. And yeah, my generation is still working on kicking out a few jams in our own middle-aged ways.
- Wendy Wilson
Bio Station anniversary
I spent the summer of 1981 at the Biological Station (U-M's campus in the north woods celebrates centennial session, June 2008) taking classes in Physiological Ecology and Field Photography. We lived and breathed our study and it was a marvelous experience. I return over and over to the lessons of that summer, often in surprising ways. I will cherish it always.
- Beverly Delidow
- BS, MS
Free John Sinclair
I remember that I got my tickets way before anyone knew John Lennon would be at the Free John Sinclair concert. But it was general admission, so we got kind of far up seats any way.
This thing went on forever — everyone was waiting for John Lennon to show up. In the mean time we got some great music. I remember Commander Cody and Stevie Wonder the most. I'm pretty sure that Commander Cody was throwing cans of beans into the audience, but maybe that was someone else.
But a real event, especially for a freshman. I remember that night to this day!
- Bruce Wampler
When computerized registration first launched
When I was there at U-M, Pierpont Commons had just opened, East Engineering was where the Math and Psychology building are now, and it was the last year you used paper drop and add forms (you had an appointment and gave the forms to the registrar who put it in the computer).
- Ernest Travis
- B.S.E., B.A.
The well-written James Tobin piece about the Free John Sinclair era in Ann Arbor (Michigan Today, June 2008), freed a memory of a 1970 exciting news scoop — that I view differently over 35 years later.
During my college years, I earned some valuable, practical experience in broadcasting at a small, local radio station, WYSI (later WSDS), in neighboring Ypsilanti.
I was a typical, ambitious novice radio newsman who dreamed of landing a big "scoop," a major news exclusive.
My break occurred in the late evening hours of March 6, 1970, when I gathered some inside information from a reliable source.
Diana Oughton, 28, and two young men, all members of the radical, Ann Arbor-based, "The Weatherman" underground, were killed in a violent explosion in an alleged bomb factory/townhouse in New York's Greenwich Village.
One problem with reporting the story: since our radio station broadcast only during the daylight hours, we were off the air until 6 a.m. the following day.
It was painful. I literally sat on my major news exclusive!
Since a frustrated young newsman is extremely anxious, in haste, I decided to telephone the story to the popular radio station CKLW-Radio 80, Windsor-Detroit, who catered to a college-age audience.
The CKLW newsman was somewhat reluctant to accept an unconfirmed report from an unknown person from a small, day-time radio station in Ypsilanti.
But when the next "20/20" newscast hit the CKLW airwaves, they inserted my audio news report and the story was first broadcast loud and clear to the CKLW listeners throughout Michigan and North America.
Today, I have removed the rose-colored glasses and I look at this news adventure from the perspective of an older adult and father. In 1970, the broadcast of this tragic news story was an opportunity to further my career. And I suspect young journalists in the 21st century are often obscure to a tragic news event as more than just names and numbers and the importance of beating a newspaper deadline in reporting it.
My wife and I have a 28-year-old son who was joyfully married two weeks ago on a beautiful Saturday in South Bend. We pray that he and his bride will have much happiness and a long and fruitful life. Diane Oughton was 28 when she died. At her gravesite, March 24, 1970, the presiding minister explained Diana's death as part of the violent history of the times.
- Dale R. Leslie
John Lennon, human being
The Free John Sinclair concert was so crowded and it seemed like forever waiting for Lennon to arrive at the event. I made my way to the front of the stage and jumped into the press pit. No sooner had I jumped into the pit when all of a sudden I was offered a sip of beer from the lead singer from the band Joy of Cooking, who had played earlier that evening. When John Lennon hit the stage I was almost crushed from the surge of the crowd. I remember his National Steel Guitar strap had broken and he sort of yelled at Yoko to help him fix it. That's when I knew he was more human than a god.
- Mike Sevick
- BFA, MFA
I was an agricultural distributor in Ann Arbor after I graduated from U of M (my mother was so proud — NOT!) I knew all the White Panthers-turned-Rainbow People (Free John Sinclair, June 2008), but was a cultural hippie rather than a political one. I was part of the alternative economic system.
All to be documented in the movie "Illegal Smile" coming to the silver screen in about 5 years.
- BS in CCS
I remember the Free John Sinclair rally well, along with the controversy. The word on the street was that John Sinclair was badgered by the FBI undercover guy until John gave him two joints just to get rid of the pest. It was obvious, with all the open pot smoking, that the object was to get John out of circulation by any means necessary, to steal a phrase. The imprisonment was a travesty.
The rally was an experience, for sure. Most of it, I slept through. The speeches, for the most part, were not inspired or inspiring. The music, on the other hand, was exciting and engaging. For it to go on for 8 hours, though, was unfortunate. Besides classes, I had work (University Cellar Bookstore, 12-hour days at that time of year, book rush) to do. So the rally stole away some of my sleeping time, but I didn't allow it to steal all of the hours it occupied.
- Tom Schneiter
Bartering with the Rainbow People
In 1968 my husband and I, in preparation for getting married, bought a reproduction Jacobean dining room set from the Treasure Mart in Ann Arbor. Someone had already bought the china cabinet separately so we got their address and sent them a letter asking that they contact us if they ever wanted to sell the china cabinet since we had the rest of the set.
A few years later we got a letter from someone in one of those two houses on Hill and Washtenaw, i.e. the homes of John Sinclair's group (Free John Sinclair, June 2008), now calling themselves the Rainbow People. They had the china cabinet and would sell it to us because many of them were planning to move to Mexico to escape the FBI and needed money. However, they wanted a very inflated price. My husband and I said we wouldn't pay that much so they reduced the price to something more reasonable. I always thought it was interesting that, although they wanted to see capitalism brought down, in a pinch they were willing to participate in the system and turn a profit. But I'm very grateful they contacted us and I still have the china cabinet today, almost 40 years later.
- Terry Carnes
Memories of a Great Professor
Professor John Taylor changed my life. In class, he taught passion, patience and vision. He could take the most complex problem or equation, simplify it down to its components and breeze to an answer. Outside of the classroom, he taught as many of us as he could about how our engineering knowledge could be extended in to the world around us to benefit society. And he taught us about our responsibility to dream big for ourselves and for our world. Finally, he showed by example the need to participate in communities to create positive change.
- R. David Donoghue
I remember the Free John Sinclair concert, but I don't recall knowing who would be playing. I never saw a poster, let alone one advertising John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was just something to do on a Friday night. My roommate and I walked to Crisler Arena and bought tickets. If I recall, $2.50 each. Neither of us ever smoked pot, but that didn't matter, we had a great time and saw so many famous people. The story said John Lennon showed up eight hours later; I can't believe I stayed there that long. It must be true, because I did see John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The highlight of the evening for me was Stevie Wonder - since I'm from Saginaw!
- Ester C. Tanury (Zamora)
- B.A, M.A.
John Sinclair and the FBI plant?
I was involved in the "anti-war" protest movement in Mt. Pleasant at Central Michigan University as a young idealistic adult. I was just figuring out my political views and acting out my late adolescent issues, plus caught up in the times. It was fun and being raised in a Democratic household I knew from the start that Nixon was not "my guy."
Anyhow, I got invited to go to the Free John Sinclair concert by a Political Science graduate student/TA who had befriended my social circle. He had a white Economy Ford panel van and we loaded it up with young hippie types and hit the road for Ann Arbor. I grew up in MSU country and had never been to Ann Arbor.
When we arrived we made it to Crisler Arena but did not have tickets; there were five of us. Some fellow was scalping tickets for a profit and one of the boys in the group talked him down to the face value of the ticket ($5,I think) because capitalism was not acceptable and a bad thing...
I remember enjoying the concert. We sat upstairs and I do remember many of the acts that were there. It did seem like it was lasting forever, though. But it was interesting and the allure of John Lennon coming on kept the interest and anticipation elevated.
Seeing my favorite Beatle was huge!!
Anyhow, the more interesting piece of my story is that the Political Science TA who transported us in his van and went on to be in one of boys wedding presently is 60 years old or so and is a big time advisor for Bush/Cheney on terrorism and media control, etc...
He did a complete turn around on his political stand and as it turns out is a right wing hawk type. We have made attempts to contact him and inquire if he worked for the FBI all along?? We think he was a "plant" somehow connected to the Nixon administration, although he has never returned our emails, was rude to my friend in a phone conversation, etc.
We were small time young kids just going with the flow of the anti-war movement. By no means were we dangerous revolutionaries. But that is my story and memory. We made it back to Ann Arbor about 7:00 am and the rest is a blur!! I am glad I got to participate. I saw the footage in the "John Lennon vs. US" documentary and also went and saw the John Sinclair film when he spoke at the Michigan Theatre.
- John J Cowman
- BS & MSW
Yes, I was there (Free John Sinclair). I pulled out my old photographs last year to show my daughter. I remembered being amazed by the talent and fame of the performers, but the photographs reveal something I had forgotten: it was a media event. There were always more photographers on stage than performers. I barely knew John Sinclair. Despite being the photography editor for the Ann Arbor Argus (which John claims he had mobilized in the service of the White Panthers), I remember seeing him at parties but not actually talking with him. But, I was certainly sympathetic to the cause of people disproportionately punished by fearful people in authority.
- Peter Kip Mercure
- B.S. in Chemistry
ref: John Sinclair concert anniversary
In 1971 I worked stage security for the Free John Sinclair Now concert at Crisler Arena. Having worked the summer concerts as a "Psychedelic Ranger" we were enlisted for the concert and enjoyed the experience. John and Yoko were friendly but keeping folks away from them was a challenge. People were captivated by the Beatle persona and tried to reach out and touch them. The concert included many great performers and was a highlight of my short lived career in crowds and stage management!
- Mike Bodary
Stevie Wonder was the best
Yes, I was at the Free John Sinclair Concert! Although John Lennon had the biggest star power, what I remember most clearly about all the music is Stevie Wonder. Probably because musically it was the best!
- Lois Kallunki
We cared about John Lennon more than John Sinclair
Of course I remember the Free John Sinclair concert. When John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band arrived on stage, everyone stood up and cheered. Lennon was taller than I expected and utterly cool. Yoko Ono was shorter than expected and her voice singing "Sisters, oh sisters" was high, thin and resembled chalk scraping a blackboard. But the surprise of Stevie Wonder made up for that.
- Brenda Appelbaum
I was at the Free John Sinclair concert at Crisler. Though my memory of those days are fogged. But, I do remember John singing "It Ain't Fair, John Sinclair, In the stir for breathing air..."
Still crazy after all these years
- Larry Soberman
I was in that crowd at the Free John Sinclair concert, a psychology major trembling with fear and feeling that the most important event of my life was happening just then. I was there to care for fallen comrades â€” working as a drug crisis intervener/counselor with an organization I helped found in Ann Arbor called Drug Help â€” there to provide medical intervention, reassurance, understanding, and reality-testing to those whose use of "street pharmaceuticals" had led them into terrifying encounters with the dark side, even as they celebrated a revolutionary vision of freedom and unity.
Somehow, we knew that John Sinclair's arrest and incarceration (not to mention John Lennon/Yoko Ono's coming to our town to protest it) were proof-positive that the revolution was right around the corner. We knew it and we thought that everyone else knew it too. To be a small part of this exhilarating display of power and transformation was overwhelmingly thrilling. It set in place an image of the mountains we could move if only we held to our faith and our creative ambitions. Art would save us and free the world.
I recall that my "red cross" armband comforted me in distinguishing "me from them" â€” the ones who fell off the edge in this rush off the cliff. I wanted to nurse the wounded but not be completely swept out to sea. John Lennon too was evidently wept out to sea and John Sinclair still walks amongst us, singing his songs and smoking his sacraments.
- Jane Hassinger
- BA in Psychology
Free John Now
I was at the Free John Sinclair concert, but went home at midnight because that is when I promised my parents I'd be home. I was a senior at Pioneer High.
I remember Yoko passing out "love notes," thousands of them, to the crowd. They got passed up from row to row. She got there a few hours earlier then John. They said that his plane was late as I recall. I just remember her as kind of a loose cannon. She kept blowing kisses and saying "I love you," "I love you." Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman: They were the best! They sang songs like, "You'll drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin that hot.... rod.... Lincoln!"; "the lines on the road just looked dots."
- Linda Frederick (nee Flower)
Lost in the Ozone with a splitting headache
Re: What are your memories of the Free John Sinclair Concert?
- Craig Piechura
Sinclair rally memories
The concert and events surrounding the Free John Sinclair rally (June, 2006) were much as the author described. There wasn't much interest in the event until the rumor spread that John Lennon was going to be there. We didn't believe it, and only slowly as it sunk in, did we think, we can't miss this. And it was a truly magical night. Two other things about that night that struck me then, that the author did not cover, was the fact that a phalanx of black Panthers spread out through the aisles, passing buckets up and down each row to collect money for their group. And secondly, at some point, John Sinclair was piped in to the audience over a phone line from prison. I'm not sure if he sobbed a bit or not, but it sounded like it; perhaps he was overcome by the emotion of where he was and where we all were.
- Bob Wilson
The Leaders and the Best
I can't remember not knowing about the University of Michigan. Bo and Woody may have held the first door of awareness open, but it was Professor Kathleen Faller and her academic expertise which drew me to Ann Arbor academically. And it was a NIMH fellowship which made it financially possible for me to matriculate in 1988.
(1985-1988) I had been working in Colorado Springs, CO at the Dale House Project, a residential home for 16 adolescents. Together with six others, I had agreed to commit to 18 months of service.
I'm still chewing on the fact that we were responsible for raising our own salaries - $250 a month. Our parent organization, Young Life, was open to "hearing us out" as we worked together to say, "we need $350 a month" and voila! My first experience of negotiating "one for all and all for one" was a success.
My time in Colorado Springs put me right at the center of Reagan's star wars and so much more - ask me about my NORAD moments, Focus on the Family, the Challenger Disaster, 100 mile bicycle rides, Wild Women on the Water, and ... the profound - no, profane - numbers of youth in care who have been impacted by childhood sexual abuse.
One of our residents worked for a nearby pizza franchise. She became the best "pizza twirler in Colorado" and qualified for the national championship - held in Ann Arbor, MI. Thus my introduction to Domino's Pizza.
Academically, the MSW program was made for me. I loved it. Professors Churchill and Sarri were passionate, accomplished, and welcoming.
My practicum at Detroit's Children's Center afforded significant opportunities and directly led to my first professional job in Foster Care.
Driving to Mississippi, together with two classmates over Spring break led me to the best "sweet tea" in the Delta and the opportunity for in-depth discussions on what I now call, "the intersections of race, faith, and sexual orientation."
Interactions with administrators were limited, unless we count the time, I, on my bicycle, pedaling as fast as I could, turned a blind corner by the Frieze Building and ....ran smack dab into the Dean. The timing didn't seem quite right to introduce myself by name!
My last semester, Professor Sarri and her family kindly shared their home with me. This time was profoundly important to me.
I had not experienced the scope of possibility - international perspective, feminism, informed intellectual thoughtful conversation, to these heights before.
Rom Sarri's death was a great loss to me; I reacted by cutting off contact with the living. The folks who teach grief and loss know that "cut-offs" have their consequences - I concur.
Coming Out, embracing my same gender orientation began for me at U-M. For it was in Professor Follie's class where I first built up my courage to stand on the line, marking the space called simply "same gendered". Imagine my surprise, when almost a third of the class stood with me!
Coming Out, living authentically, weaving maize and blue through so many aspects of my life are additional stories for another time.
"Remarkable" does not even begin to describe...stay tuned!
- Kathleen Russell
I recall trying to get into the School of Law in 1960, but I was told that women were not able to attend.
I went to the School of Social Work instead. My career has been focused on therapeutic mediation with high conflict divorced parents. Most of my referrals come from attorneys and family court judges, most of whom are female.
No regrets, however...my work has been wonderfully rewarding.
Can anyone tell me when the law school first accepted women?
The Law School admitted its first two women in the fall of 1870, the same time that 31 other women enrolled elsewhere in the university. Madelon Stockwell, a student of the classics, had enrolled in U-M earlier in 1870, the year that women first were allowed into the University. Before Stockwell, Alice Boise attended classes on the down-low, which you can read about in U-M Heritage. --Editor
- Barbara Wasylenki