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John Froines, chemist charged in ‘Chicago Seven’ lawsuit, dies at 83

A few months before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a call came for John Froines, an antiwar activist and Ph.D. Yale chemist. On the line was Tom Hayden, another member of the anti-establishment Students for a Democratic Society and a rising star on the left.

Come to Chicago, urged Hayden. Dr. Froines’ experience in anti-violence organizing—sit-ins, community marches, vigils—was necessary. Tens of thousands of protesters were expected to flock to Chicago in late August with varying views and agendas, some of them determined to challenge the police.

Dr. Froines (pronounced FRO-ins), who died July 13 at age 83, will leave Chicago anchored in the public consciousness, alongside some of the counterculture leaders of the 1960s, as part of the Chicago Seven. The group has been indicted by the US government for allegedly fomenting riots and encouraging violence during street clashes between protesters, police and the National Guard. “The world is watching,” chanted some protesters.

The 1969 trial became a touchstone of the angst and divisions of the time – with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Hayden and two others accused of crossing state lines with intent to set off a riot, and Dr. Froines and anti-war activist Lee Weiner facing allegations of instructing protesters on how to build devices such as stink bombs and studded styrofoam balls.

Froines and Weiner were acquitted. Convictions for the rest of the “Seven” were thrown out in 1972 on appeal. Of the defendants, Weiner is the only survivor.

The procedure has fascinated the nation. It was partly a confrontation between power and protest struggles in the 1960s and partly the performance art of Hoffman and Rubin – well-known leaders of the International Youth Party, or Yippies – with tirades against the judge and acts of disobedience in the courtroom. Hoffman threw a kiss to the jurors during the prosecution’s opening statement. He and Rubin came to court wearing court robes. (An eighth defendant, Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, was dropped from the overall case.)

“Froines’ courtroom antics were relatively mild,” the Los Angeles Times reported during the trial. Cartoonists captured him slumped in his chair or grimacing wryly.

Dr Froines sometimes walked side by side in court with his friend Hayden, considered the most politically experienced of the bunch. Hayden helped shape the seminal Port Huron Statement, a 1962 manifesto on social change that became a point of reference for the anti-war movement and other student activism of the 1960s. (Hayden was married to actress Jane Fonda from 1973 to 1990 and became a California state senator.)

Dr. Froines has pursued a distinguished career as an environmental scientist, often engaging in research with social justice implications, such as examining pollutants that directly affect low-income areas or migrant workers. . But his Chicago Seven moment never left him. It has been revisited often in interviews, documentaries and movies, including a 2020 Netflix drama, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”, directed by Aaron Sorkin, with Danny Flaherty playing Dr. Froines.

A picture from 1969 of the seven accused, standing as if in a police queue, has become one of the iconic works of famous photographer Richard Avedon. Dr. Froines is second from the left with a deadpan expression and one hand in his trouser pocket.

As recently as 2021, Dr Froines recounted the tumult of this summer during an interview with @the bar, a Chicago-based legal business podcast. He noted he may have been arrested by plainclothes police after some protesters used a rag soaked in pungent butyric acid to clear the Hilton hotel.

“So I think it was partly due to chemical warfare, if you will,” Dr Froines said.

Opinion: ‘Chicago 7’ tries to make history practical

John Radford Froines was born in Oakland, California on June 13, 1939. His parents were shipyard workers during World War II. Dr Froines was 3 when his father was killed on his way home from the docks, according to the family statement.

Dr. Froines was a standout athlete at Berkeley High School, named to the Football Hall of Fame. After graduating in 1957, he served in the Air National Guard, and in 1962 earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Froines earned a doctorate in physical chemistry from Yale in 1967. He also became involved in community organizing efforts with students for a democratic society in New Haven, Connecticut, where he met his first wife. , anti-war activist and lecturer in women’s studies. Anne-Rubio. They married in 1965.

In 1968, after two years of postdoctoral training in Great Britain under Nobel Laureate George Porter, Dr. Froines and his wife were asked by Hayden to help coordinate events in Chicago during the Democratic convention. Many protesters believed that presidential candidate Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey would follow President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policy to continue the Vietnam War.

After the Chicago Seven acquittals, Dr. Froines traveled the country as a speaker at anti-war events, including helping to organize a May Day march in Washington in 1971 that led to the arrest of more than 12,000 people by police in what has been widely described as the largest mass arrest in US history.

In New Haven, Dr. Froines and his wife worked with a defense fund for Seale and Ericka Huggins during a murder conspiracy trial in the murder of a Black Panther member suspected of being an informant. This trial resulted in a hung jury, and Seale and Huggins were freed.

Dr. Froines taught chemistry at Goddard College in Vermont before becoming chief of toxic chemical standards for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington in the mid-1970s. reduce lead poisoning in industries.

At a conference in San Francisco in 1979, the then-divorced Dr. Froines met Andrea Hricko, a worker safety advocate. They married later that year.

Dr. Froines then held the position of Deputy Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In 1981, Dr. Froines has accepted a position at the University of California Los Angeles as a professor of toxicology. He remained at the university for more than 30 years, directing the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and conducting research in areas such as pesticide contamination, diesel pollution and air quality in landfills.

The Physicians for Social Responsibility group in Los Angeles recognized Dr. Froines in 2012 for his “courageous commitment to scientific integrity and for improving our understanding of the effects of toxic chemicals on the health of workers and communities.”

“John embodied the spirit of ‘science for the people’ by using his scientific knowledge and research to save the American public and workers from the toxic effects of pollution and hazardous materials,” said Bill Zimmerman, a consultant politician who had joined Dr. Froines. in the anti-war activism of the 1970s.

Dr. Froines died at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., of complications from Parkinson’s disease, his family said in a statement.

In addition to his wife, professor emeritus of environmental health at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Rebecca Froines Stanley of Hamden, Conn.; a son from his second marriage, Jonathan Froines of Los Angeles; and two granddaughters.

“No one is the same today as then [in the ‘60s]“, said Dr Froines to the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “I think it’s more useful to look at a person’s story – to see if it’s been consistent in the context of their values. We still need student protesters because many of the problems of the 60s persist and new problems have arisen. But no one is a student activist at 50. You should have your head checked.