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Who Were the Yippies?

We’ve heard of hippies and of yuppies, but who were the hippies? To understand this term we must go back to the 1960’s, the height of the counterculture movement. There was a lot of rebellion against the system. Though the hippies chose peaceful methods, some groups (like the Students for a Democratic Society or SDS) did not hesitate to use physical aggression to make their point.

Between these two extremes were the Yippies, members of the Youth International Party. The group was established by Abbie Hoffman, his wife Anita and Jerry Rubin. The Yippies did not actually resort to violence but they were considered to have a more radical approach than hippies. They used harmless public pranks or organized guerrilla theater—humorous, entertaining but definitely attention-getting methods. Many of their “protests” used irony or absurdity. For example they often talked about putting LSD into the water supply. They also poked fun at the New Age approach of hippies by calling for members to gather around the Pentagon and levitate the building. Some of their statements were rude and filled with obscene language, but these aimed to shock or disrupt the public and not actually lead to militant action.

In 1968 The Yippies organized a “Festival of Life” convention in Chicago, where members of the group met with other counterculture leaders from the SDS and grassroot organizations like Ntional Mobilization Committee or MOBE. The government also secretly sent agents to monitor proceedings but nothing concrete emerged—except, maybe, to nominate a pig (which they baptized as Pigasus) to be president.

In response to the convention Chicago further increased its security leading to a number of altercations between rallyists and the police. The leaders were arrested and by the 1970s the group had disintegrated.

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