Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Day The Crazy Parade Came To An End, PART TWO, Focusing On The Role Of Former Draft Office Raider Charles "Chuck" Larry Turchick...

Photo, blog post by John Hoff blogging from Alexandria, MN

By virtue of the fact he goes by "Chuck Turchick" and not "Charles Larry Turchick," a lot of people don't know the very interesting back story behind activist Chuck Turchick and his 1970 conviction for breaking into the local draft offices in Alexandria, Minnesota.  Google searches for "Chuck Turchick" tend to bring up his activism around police conduct issues and his writings for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. But search "Charles Turchick" and you will quickly find out the guy is practically FAMOUS as an anti-war activist in the early 1970s.

To get right to the heart of my online information goodies regarding this fascinating history, click here for the appeals court ruling and here for an extensive retelling of the story of the "Minnesota 8."

This is Chuck Turchick. This is where he's coming from. This is why he gets so worked up about abuses of police authority; because some unknown informant in his own organization sold him up the river in the early 1970s for breaking into a draft office. I haven't uncovered anything online to show the identity of this informant has ever been definitely revealed or discovered. (There was speculation it was a guy named Ulen, who helped break into the Alexandria office with Turchick but took a plea deal rather than go to prison)

Old Hippies Never Die, They Just Go Bald 

Most recently, former hippy Turchick was part of the "parade of crazies" loudly opposed to the oh-so-necessary overhaul of the Civilian Review Authority, click here for Part One. And though it may seem I have a critical tone toward Turchick by writing about these pertinent historical facts, I would like to start out by stating...

...that Vietnam was a turbulent time in our history. Sincere people, including friends and mentors I greatly admire, vigorously opposed the war and the draft. A close blood relative fought in that war and thought Vietnam was pretty messed up. SO I DO NOT CONDEMN OR CRITICIZE TURCHICK FOR HIS ACTIONS IN THE EARLY 1970s.

I do, however, believe it's relevant information which explains a lot about the motives of a prominent "rabid, anti-police critic" and tends to show a trend that I've been revealing and writing about. The loudest voices shouting out condemnation of the Minneapolis Police Department are political radicals with extremist views. They do not represent the mainstream of society even if they crowd into council chambers during hearings and make a noisy little mob all around "Spanky" Pete Rickmyer, a Level Three Sex Offender. They can and will shout "See you at the riot" when they don't get their way, but I don't think one dozen people all talking at once will ever count as an actual riot.

Taking A Spin In The Wayback Machine

A few days after my 18th birthday, I walked into the post office in Alexandria, Minnesota and registered with selective service. I had confidence, however, that I would never be drafted. If there was ever a war, I planned to enlist. As fate would have it, I have enlisted in time of war not just once, but twice. (Though I only served overseas once, in Afghanistan)

I grew up near Alexandria and went to high school there. The story of the "Minnesota 8" and their apprehension inside the local draft office is legendary, though it was too long ago for me to have any personal memory of it. A play called "Peace Crimes" dramatically tells the story of the Minnesota 8, more or less serving them up as idealistic martyrs.

As related in the court case of United States v. Turchick, et al, FBI agents had advance word that peace activists were preparing to break into the draft office in Alexandria, Minnesota. So the suspects were placed under surveillance as was the draft office itself. To keep the records safe from the break-in, the records were removed. In testimony described as "undisputed," it was established the a trio of anti-war activists (Turchick, William Leo Tilton and Clifton Ulen) climbed onto the roof of the building and gained entrance by cutting a screen and then opening a window. Then they cut out a glass window in the door of the draft board offices and entered at about 25 minutes after midnight.

The trio was well prepared for their task, which was to make off with the draft records. They had pliers, prybar, hammer, screwdrivers, pocketknife, glass cutter, a micro-flame torch with cylinders of oxygen and butane, an Army field pack to add a dash of irony, a roll of plastic garbage bags along with the wire ties for the bags, a can of black paint and "miscellaneous items." What more would you need for "miscellaneous items," I have to wonder.

The trio only had time to open a couple drawers and disturb a few papers on a desk before the cops arrived. In court, they tried to argue the lack of an essential element for their conviction. After all, no draft records were actually destroyed or removed. That didn't fly. The court inferred their intent from their actions of breaking into the office and carrying the means to make off with draft records.

Also, defendants were about going nuts to obtain information about the identity of the government's informant. They made all kinds of arguments about how the informant could be a "material witness" to their intent. But the court didn't bite, and satisfied itself with an affidavit presented in chambers that Turchick and Tifton's 6th Amendment rights had not been violated.

Turchick's Promising Life Is Permanently Derailed

In a 217-page biographical work available online, (linked to previously, but here you go again) Francis X. Kroncke documents the history of the Minnesota 8 in exhaustive detail, with a particular emphasis on his moral justifications and/or rationalizations for his actions. My particular focus is Chuck Turchick, who loves to constantly attack the cops who struggle to keep my neighborhood safe from gun toting thugs who shoot into houses and kill children, so naturally I just want to skim Kroncke's biography slash manifesto and find the parts about Turchick.

(The online manuscript contains a cover sheet saying the manuscript is not to be copied or circulated without permission of the author. Huh. I wonder what THAT is doing there? In any case, I will quote from it if I like)

Kroncke describes how he was involved in successful raids until an attempt to break into the draft office in Little Falls, where his team was apprehended. The next day in jail, waking up to a breakfast of "soggy buns and weak coffee," Kroncke finds his team has been joined by "Bill, Chuck and Cliff." A head count reveals eight raiders have been captured, which means some got away. The group was split up in the jail, residing in different tiers, but Kroncke resided on Tier A with "Chuck."

"Mike and Chuck play endless games of cribbage and some weird word-game that neither Brad nor I can get into," Kroncke wrote. Later, he quotes from an article written by Molly Ivins, July 13, 1970, which describes Turchick as 23 years old at the time of the trial. Turchick was the valedictorian of his class at St. Louis Park High School, Phi Beta Kappa and a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota with a major in philosophy. Turchick had won a scholarship and was (re)enrolled in law school for the following fall when he was caught committing, well, a felony.


The quoted article further states Turchick was a VISTA volunteer for a year following his graduation as a philosophy major. He worked in a Job Corps camp in Illinois and worked on housing issues in Milwaukee. The article quotes Turchick's father, David.

He came back so disillusioned and discouraged and bitter, I guess from seeing how bad things could be in this country. But he still wanted to help humanity. He enrolled in law school last fall but dropped out after a few weeks because he said the work was so simple he was bored. They took him back again for this fall anyway when he reapplied. Chuck is something special, an idealist. He's not like those kids who are messed up with drugs.

In the article, Turchick was also described as the 11th ranked tennis player in the state who had won innumerable trophies and is a fine classical pianist.


Now Turchick hangs out with a group of crazies and sometimes gets stuff published on Twin Cities Daily Planet, where his bio states, "Chuck Turchick was a bum, now he's retired. He hates to write but gets headaches unless he spews forth with his weird, other-worldly thoughts." Thus it appears a promising and privilege middle class life was utterly derailed by Turchick's hippie activism. He now seeks to have impact and meaning by such efforts as venting on issues concerning police conduct review. The hard, hard spot in his heart for police is easily inferred from his background.

Nothing Says Sincerity Like Writing Crap By Hand

I am told by a source that Turchick recently applied to be on the Civilian Review Authority with a "hand written" application which mentioned he had "been to law school" (it didn't say he graduated) and he was a convicted felon. Perhaps Turchick his hoping to "pull a Dave Bicking" and put himself in a position where nobody else applies to be on the CRA, so the Mayor has to appoint SOMEBODY.

I have to ask myself why Turchick, whose membership in the Minnesota 8 makes him something of a martyr for the anti-Vietnam war effort, doesn't apply for a pardon to erase his felon status. You would think a pardon like that would have been a shoe-in under the Clinton administration. Of course, I don't know that Turchick HASN'T applied but, well, word is he still needs to list "convicted felon" on a CRA application, so make of that what you will.

But hey. He's not like those kids who are messed up with drugs.
CORRECTION, NOVEMBER 3. I received the following info from Chuck Turchick by email. 

...(Y)ou quote from Frank Kroncke or Molly Ivins. I graduated from North High School, not St. Louis Park which I never attended; and while I did play tennis in high school, I was once ranked 3rd in the state not in tennis but in table tennis.


boathead said...

What an interesting article and a throw back to those wonderful days. Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were true heroes and Brad Benike kept a low profile because,at the time, he did not want to lose his job coaching football to parochial school children at the Basilica.His brother was the head coach, Bruce, and Brad, ex- star fullback from Concordia by way of Glencoe, was his assistant. They took all of us to Glencoe to play a scrimmage game and his pre-game talk was of how these country boys were going to kill us because they ate raw hamburger sandwiches for breakfast. What an era. A parochial school employing a draft board burner during the height of the most interesting time to be raised as a child.I miss those times and if you think people are crazy nowadays, i will tell you that you are fucking nuts and the majority of people these days ain't got the balls nor the conviction to be anything other than a technologically paralysed shit eating, worthless, spoiled parasite. I really do not have the time for whatever these gentlemen are doing now, but i have a million stories in my head about what was going on then,since then, and now. I am dissapointed in our plastic fucking society and miss the days before everybody became a fucking genius. Good Day.

Anonymous said...

You mention the fact that a dozen loud mouthed radicals do not represent the view of the majority of citizens, don't forget that most of the time those loud mouthed radicals don't even live in the city, or very few of them do. That always irks me!

Johnny Northside! said...

This blog post contains a correction. See an addendum which has been added to the bottom of the blog post. For further in depth discussion about this blog post and Chuck Turchick's reaction, go here.


Mike O'Brien said...

Thanks for the memories. I graduated from North with Chuck Turchick in 1964. Attended the U of M. I joined the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department and actually spoke to Chuck when he was booked in the jail. Our class had other "celebs" like Ira Heilicher. Interesting times for sure.

Mike O'Brien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Northside! said...

What more can you tell us about that conversation?