1971 : Free John Sinclair Rally Held at Crisler Arena

December 10, 2021 all-day

Free John Sinclair Poster, courtesy of Michigan Today

John Sinclair, a Michigan native and alumnus of the University of Michigan- Flint, was an influential leader of the 1960’s counterculture. Sinclair also co-founded the White Panther Party, along with Pun Plamondon, in November 1968. Influenced by leaders of the Black Panther Party such as Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, the White Panthers advocated economic and cultural freedom.

In July of 1969, Sinclair was sentenced to 9 ½ to 10 years in prison for possessing two marijuana cigarettes. While in prison, he wrote extensively about the counterculture movement and became one of its national symbols. A two-and-a-half year legal battle culminated with a massive Free John Now Rally at Crisler Arena on December 10, 1971. The rally was attended by some 15,000 people, headlined by musical artists like John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Stevie Wonder, and featured speakers such as Allen Ginsberg and John’s wife, Leni Arndt. Three days later, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered Sinclair be released and later overturned his conviction.

Sources :

John Sinclair wikipedia entry.

John Sinclair, a radical poet, serving the 29th month of a nine-and-a-half to 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana, answered a telephone in prison last night and heard 15,000 young people who were protesting his imprisonment roar, “Free John, Free John.” Agis Salpukas, “15,000 Attend Michigan U. Rally to Protest Jailing of Radical Poet John Sinclair”, New York Times, December 12, 1971, p.76

James Tobin, “Free John Sinclair!”, Michigan Today, June 17, 2008.

A Decade of Dissent: Student Protests at the University of Michigan in the 1960s

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