Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cattonsville Nine

Brothers for Humanity
Daniel Berrigan was born in Virginia Minnesota May 9, 1921, and is the brother of Philip.  Their father was a Socialist, a farmer and a railroad worker. The brothers come by their values honestly. There were six boys who grew up in the mêlée of the cantankerous ambiance of a small farm near Syracuse, New York.
When he was 18 Daniel he joined the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. In 1952 he was ordained a priest. He was influenced deeply by what he called an “activist theology” that came forward from the concentration camps and anti-fascist resistance movements of World War II Europe. While working for the Church in France he came under the influence of the Worker Socialist Priest Movement.
Through civil disobedience it was argued one could fight against social ills and bring the church into the world of real people. When he returned to the US he became a professor of theology. Soon becomes a civil rights activist.

Philip Berrigan. He was born in Two Harbors Minnesota October 5, 1923. The story begins in 1943 after only one semester in college he was drafted into the Army and sent to Europe where he saw combat during World War II. The violence of war and the racism in the US military radicalized Philip. Because the violence of War and the Racism in the Military he soon became a political activist. After the war he entered the priesthood in the Catholic Church. He became a Josephite priest. He now believed that the US was a Militarist and Imperialist Power devotes the rest of his life to non-violence, civil rights and anti-colonialism.

October 17, 1967 Philip Berrigan, artist Tom Lewis, and poet, teacher and writer David Eberhard and pastor The Reverend James L. Mengel with poultry blood purchased from the Gay St. Market mostly chicken and duck blood, mixed with their own blood they carried out their rally. The blood was poured on the selective service records located in the Baltimore Customs House. While waiting for the Police to show up and to arrest them they passed out Bibles and provided an instructive lecture inside the building for the Draft Board Workers on the evils of the Draft, Neo-Colonialism, Imperialism, Blind Nationalism and War. Berrigan read a statement "This sacrificial and constructive act is meant to protest the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood in Indochina". Berrigan was sentenced to six years in prison. They became known as the Baltimore Four.

Catonsville Nine
In 1968, after his release on bail Philip Berrigan continued his active opposition to the War.  The day was May 17, 1968 the place Catonsville, Maryland nine Catholic Anti-War activists entered the local Draft Board on the second floor of the Selective Service Building and removed 378 draft files took them out of the building dumped them onto the pavement of the parking lot poured homemade Napalm on them and burned everyone of them. The Press and concerned citizen were altered ahead of time and had shown up to witness the event. The devoted protestors with their hands cupped together standing close to the fire they peacefully recited the Lord's Prayer.

Father Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest was arrested. Philip Berrigan, a Josephite priest, Brother David Darst, John Hogan, Tom Lewis an artist, Marjorie Bradford Melville, Thomas Melville Maryknoll priest, George Mische, Mary Moylan a nun were also arrested. This humble public expression was to help end the war in South East Asia. Following a brief a amount of time, five police officers showed up to, arrest the participants, and put them into the back of a police paddy wagon. The Catonsville Nine were tried in federal court October 5-9, 1968. The defense attorney was William Kunstler. They were found guilty of destruction of U.S. property, destruction of Selective Service files, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. They were also sentenced to a total of 18 years jail time and a fine of $22,000. A statement was issued "We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor." Philip Berrigan was sentenced to an additional three and a half years in prison. While waiting to go to jail Phil quit the priesthood and married a nun by the name of Elizabeth McAlister. After losing their appeals, Philip reported to jail, in April 1970, but Daniel became a fugitive. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation captured Daniel in August; he joined his brother in Danbury Prison.

“The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: Investigation of a Flame” was produced in 2001 by the filmmaker Lynne Sachs.

Philip Berrigan and six other anti-war activists were accused of exchanging correspondence hinting at the kidnapping Henry Kissinger and bombing steam tunnels, the government was unable to prove its case.

Also while in Prison wrote Phil secret correspondence to Liz, which when found out the couple was charged with conspiracy.  But, 1972 the Government lost, and conspiracy charges were dismissed. Upon Phil’s parole in 1973, he and Liz were married again in a public ceremony. Because he was still a Catholic the Church excommunicated both of them. They refuse to recognize their excommunication. At this time they decided to start a family and eventually would have three children.

In 1980 they were at it again both Berrigan brothers, Elmer Maas, Dean Hammer, Father Carl Kabat, Sister Anne Montgomery, Molly Rush and John Schuchardt decided to enter walked into the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, PA and preceded to pound on a nose cone with hammers saying they were beating swords into plowshares. During the trail they claimed such action was a necessary action for any citizen in order to save lives. The participants were charged with 10 felony counts each and sentenced to two more years in jail. Phil Berrigan whenever he was out of jail would lead another protest rally for the rest of his life in total he would spend a total of eleven years in prison. Once again he was release from prison in December 2001. Within a very short time he fell and broke his left arm he never got over it. In October 2002 he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. He died in December of that year. Daniel today continues to live in the Jesuit community apartment he has for the last thirty years. He still is active as ever.

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