Pigasus

Yippies

Pigasus was a 145-pound (66 kg) domestic pig who was nominated for President of the United States as a theatrical gesture by the Youth International Party in 1968, just before the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The youth-oriented party (whose members were commonly called ‘Yippies’) was an anti-establishment and countercultural revolutionary group whose views were inspired by the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s, mainly the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

Yippies were known for using dramatic theatrics in their demonstrations, and they used Pigasus as a way to mock the social status quo. At a rally announcing his candidacy, Pigasus was confiscated by Chicago policemen and several of his Yippie backers were arrested for disorderly conduct.

The pig’s name was a double entendre on Pegasus, the winged horse in Greek mythology and the famous saying ‘When pigs fly’ used when a highly improbable event should occur. Selected for the campaign by group members Dennis Dalrymple, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin, candidate Pigasus was purchased from a farmer by folk-singer and fellow Yippie Phil Ochs. The Yippies demanded that Pigasus be treated as a legitimate candidate, with U.S. Secret Service protection and White House foreign policy briefings. One reason why the Yippies preferred Pigasus was that ‘if we can’t have him in the White House, we can have him for breakfast.’

Pigasus was transported to the rally in a station wagon, escorted by seven Yippies. There were 50 Yippies carrying campaign signs and handing out literature. There were about 200 spectators on hand, along with ten uniformed Chicago policemen and several detectives, under the personal supervision of 1st District Commander James Riordan. The pig was placed in a police wagon and taken to the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society.

Jerry Rubin was in the process of reading the ‘acceptance speech’ for him when Pigasus was ‘arrested’ by the police. Seven Yippies, including Jerry Rubin and Phil Ochs, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The driver of the station wagon was also charged with obstructing traffic. Rubin later said that a policeman came to the jail cell and said ‘You guys are all going to jail for the rest of your lives—the pig squealed on you!’ However, the Yippies were released after each posted a $25 bond.

Pigasus and the Yippies were charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and bringing a pig to Chicago. At the ‘Chicago Seven’ conspiracy trial, defense counsel William Kunstler accused the Democratic Party of doing exactly the same thing.

The trial of the Yippies was widely covered by TV and print media.

In addition to singer/songwriter and Youth International Party activist Phil Ochs, numerous members of the Youth International Party testified to the seriousness with which Pigasus had been vetted and briefed, in preparation for his campaign.

Sources vary on the fate of Pigasus. There is some speculation that a police officer ate him. ‘The Chicago Tribune,’ on September 30, 1968, said that after Pigasus was taken into custody by Chicago police, they transported him to the Anti-Cruelty Society, along with a sow called ‘Mrs. Pigasus,’ and a piglet, all collected after being paraded by the Yippies as part of their demonstrations around the time of the convention. The swine were later transferred to a farm in Grayslake, Illinois.

Five months after the nomination of Pigasus, during the inauguration ceremony of President Nixon, the Yippies held their own “in-HOG-uration” ceremony – for President Pigasus. Eight years after the Pigasus stunt, the Yippies would nominate another candidate for President: Nobody. Many years later, The New York Times obituaries for Dennis Dalrymple, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin all highlighted the nomination of Pigasus for President during the Democratic Convention of 1968 as an extraordinary moment in political theater.

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