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Philip Berrigan

Philip Francis Berrigan (October 5, 1923December 6, 2002) was an internationally renowned American peace activist, Christian anarchist and former Roman Catholic priest. Along with his brother Daniel Berrigan, he was for a time on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for acts of vandalism including destruction of government property.



[edit] History

Philip Francis Berrigan was born in Two Harbors, Minnesota, a Midwestern working class town, the younger brother of Daniel Berrigan. Their father, Tom Berrigan, was second-generation Irish-Catholic and proud union man.

In 1943, after a single semester of college, Berrigan was drafted into combat duty in World War II. He served in the artillery during the Battle of the Bulge (1945) and later became a Second Lieutenant in the infantry. He was deeply affected by his exposure to the violence of war and the racism of boot camp in the Deep South. Philip soon entered a Josephite seminary and became active in the Civil Rights movement. He marched for desegregation and participated in sit-ins and bus boycotts. He was ordained in 1955, but left the priesthood 18 years later, in 1973. He would marry later in life to Elizabeth McAlister of Jonah House [1], in Baltimore, which they founded as a community to support resistance. Their three children--Frida, Jerry, and Kate—all grew up to be anti-war activists.

[edit] The Baltimore Four

In the 1960's, after activity in civil rights, Philip Berrigan began taking more radical steps to bring attention to the anti-war movement. On October 17, 1967, the "Baltimore Four" (Berrigan, artist Tom Lewis; and poet, teacher and writer David Eberhardt and United Church of Christ missionary and pastor The Reverend James L. Mengel) poured blood ( including blood from several of the four, but additionally blood purchased from the Gay St. Market- according to the FBI- poultry blood- perhaps chicken or duck used by the Polish for soup) on Selective Service records in the Baltimore Customs House. Mengel agreed to the action and donated blood, but decided not to actually pour blood; instead he distributed the paperback Good News for Modern Man (an edition of the New Testament) to draft board workers, newsmen, and police. As they waited for the police to arrive and arrest them, the group passed out Bibles and calmly explained to draft board employees the reasons for their actions. Berrigan stated in the written statement, "This sacrificial and constructive act is meant to protest the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood in Indochina". He was sentenced to six years in prison.

[edit] The Catonsville Nine

In 1968, after his release on bail, Berrigan decided to repeat the protest in a somewhat modified form. George Mische played the decisive role in organizing this action. A local high-school physics teacher- Dean Pappas, helped to concoct homemade napalm. Nine activists, who later became known as the Catonsville Nine, walked into the draft board of Catonsville, Maryland, removed draft records and burned 378 draft files in a lot outside of the building. The Catonsville Nine, who were all Catholic, issued a statement:

"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."

Berrigan was again arrested and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

[edit] The Harrisburg Seven

Berrigan attracted the notice of federal authorities again when he and six other anti-war activists were caught trading letters alluding to kidnapping Henry Kissinger and bombing steam tunnels.[1] Although the government spent $2 million on the Harrisburg Seven trial in 1972, they could not win a conviction. This was one of ther first reversals suffered by the U.S. government in such cases.

[edit] Other Non-Violent Actions 1968 to 1975

Other non-violent actions against the Vietnam War and the government-military complex were organized by a group that referred to themselves as the Catholic Left. Phil Berrigan either helped to plan or inspired these actions, along with many other organisers- such as Jerry Elmer (his book A Felon for Peace). The characteristic of these actions was that each action was stringently non-violent. Also, the action would done by a small group of people willing to take responsibility whether or not it meant facing jail time. The planning for the actions was always a series of mini retreats in which those who finally acted worked to further their political and personal commitment to non-violence. The following are some of those actions:

The DC Nine - nine men and women, 7 were priests and nuns (this was a daytime protest against the Dow Chemical Company and its production of Napalm). The DC Nine were later tried in Washington DC but an appeal was won in their favor. Some jail time was served.

The Milwaukee 14 against the Milwaukee Draft Boards - September 24, 1968: fourteen men burned 10,000 1-A draft files. After being arrested, they spent a month in prison, unable to raise bail set at $415,000. Father James Groppi came to their aid, co-chairing the Milwaukee 14 Defense Committee. Members were later placed on trial and many did considerable jail time. [2][3][4][5]

The New York Action - Included men who were Jesuit Priests at the time. Against the NY City Draft Boards.

The Chicago 15

The Boston Eight - included other priests and nuns. These people stole files out of 4 Boston Draft Boards in order to prove that the State of Mass was drafting mostly Puerto Ricans and poor whites to fill the quota's. No charges were ever brought though the actors claimed responsibility the day after the action to the press in Boston and again during the November Moratorium in Washington DC.

The East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives - An action against the Philadelphia Draft Boards and GE Company which had specific contracts to create incendiary weapons for use in Vietnam.

The Camden 28 Group - action against the Camden area FBI offices to expose the methods of J.Edgar Hoover against war protesters. The group was arrested and the trial resulted in a hung jury.The Buffalo Five, an action coordinated with the Camden Action against Buffalo Draft Boards. Five of the group were put on trial and they were found guilty however Judge John Curtain handed out now jail sentences. His statement at sentencing indicated support for the action. A book has been written about this action by Ed Mcgowan and a documentary made by Giacchino- which appeared on PBS TV.

The Harrisburg Seven - the plan was to put people in the government like Henry Kissinger under Citizens Arrest for the waging of an illegal war. Phil Berrigan and others were arrested for conspiracy. They had only gotten together to discuss the idea.

This is but a cursory and abbreviated summary of the draft actions, including actions where responsibility was claimed, and actions which may not have numbered in the 200's.

[edit] The Plowshares Movement

On September 9, 1980, Berrigan, his brother Daniel, and six others (the "Plowshares Eight") began the Plowshares Movement when they entered the General Electric Nuclear Missile Re-entry Division in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where nose cones for the Mark 12A warheads were made. They hammered on two nose cones, poured blood on documents and offered prayers for peace. They were arrested and initially charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts. On April 10, 1990, after nearly ten years of trials and appeals, the Plowshares Eight were re-sentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison. A documentary was made about this action called "In the King of Prussia" by Emile d'Antonio.

Since this action over seventy Plowshares actions have taken place around the world against weapons of war, several involving Berrigan himself.

Berrigan's final Plowshares action was in December 1999, when he and others banged on A-10 Warthog warplanes in an anti-war protest at the Middle River Air National Guard base. He was convicted of malicious destruction of property and sentenced to 30 months. He was released December 14, 2001. In his lifetime he had spent about 11 years in jails and prisons for civil disobedience. [2]

Phil's wife, Elizabeth McCallister, and others, maintain Jonah House in Baltimore- and a web site that details all Plowshares and other actions can be googled.

Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University, has said, "Mr. Berrigan was one of the great Americans of our time. He believed war didn't solve anything. He went to prison again and again and again for his beliefs. I admired him for the sacrifices he made. He was an inspiration to a large number of people."

In one of his last public statements, Berrigan said,

The American people are, more and more, making their voices heard against Bush and his warrior clones. Bush and his minions slip out of control, determined to go to war, determined to go it alone, determined to endanger the Palestinians further, determined to control Iraqi oil, determined to ravage further a suffering people and their shattered society. The American people can stop Bush, can yank his feet closer to the fire, can banish the war makers from Washington D.C., can turn this society around and restore it to faith and sanity.

[edit] Death

Philip Berrigan died of cancer at the age of 79 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is buried at Jonah House. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth McAlister, and their three children, Frida Berrigan, Jerry Berrigan, and Kate Berrigan.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "No Again on the Conspiracy Law". Time. (17 April, 1972) Retrieved on 8 September 2007.
  2. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society
  3. ^ Milwaukee 14 Today
  4. ^ Napalm
  5. ^ MKE 14 Men burn draft files with homemade napalm

[edit] Further reading

Berrigan was the author of several books, including No More Strangers, Punishment for Peace (ISBN 0-345-22430-2), Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary (ISBN 0-03-084513-0), Punishment for Peace (ISBN 0-345-02430-3), and Widen the Prison Gates (ISBN 0-671-21638-4). In 1996, he wrote his autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War (ISBN 1-56751-101-5), and with his wife wrote The Times' Discipline.

see Daniel Berrigan's books- 50 ? in number?

Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, "Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Lives & Times of Daniel & Philip Berrigan (Basic Books, 1997; Westvew Press, 1998) He also contributed to Disciples and Dissidents, published in 2000 by Haley's. Fred Wilcox edited the book.

see also Jerry Elmer Felon for Peace

Art Laffin-Plowshares Actions, a Chronology

See: Ploughshares Movement Chronology

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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