Dr. Spock, others mark'Boston 5' trial 25th anniversary

BOSTON -- Dr. Benjamin Spock and four others tried for encouraging draft resistence during the Vietnam War gather in Boston this weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of the case that affirmed the U.S. right to dissent.

The reunion of the so-called 'Boston 5' comes as President Bill Clinton is urging caution in sending U.S. troops to trouble spots abroad.


Spock, the famed baby care specialist, Yale University Chaplain William Sloane Coffin and the others were charged with conspiracy to aid and abet young men in avoiding the draft.

They were charged with conspiracy even though most did not know each other before they were put on trial.

Their alleged illegal activities, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, consisted mainly of making speeches and holding news conferences.

Many activists believe the Boston 5 were targeted by the government in an attempt to silence anti-war protests.

The ACLU said the administration of President Lyndon Johnson tried them for criminal conspiracy in order to undermine their moral and political leadership, which gave a credibility to the anti-war movement.

The three-month trial began in Boston in 1968. Spock, Coffin, Harvard graduate student Michael Ferber and writer Mitchell Goodman were all originally convicted, but eventually cleared.


The fifth defendant, Marcus Raskin, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, was found innocent, 'much to (his) chagrin,' the AClU said.

The case was considered important because it was 'an enormous affirmation of the right of people to dissent,' said CLU Executive Director John Roberts.

Joining the five at the reunion will be most of their lawyers, including the CLU lawyers who represented two of the defendants, as well as the prosecutor, John Wall, who said his participation in the case 'radicalized' him.

Wall, 61, went on to become a Boston defense attorney and a strong financial supporter of the CLU.

The case, which is the centerpiece of the CLU's annual Bill of Rights dinner this weekend, was pivotal in the group's history.

The Boston 5 case marked the first time the ACLU or one of its state affiliates directly represented individuals.

The Boston 5 continue to be active in peace groups and activities.NEWLN: ccccqqe

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