Poetry & Prose

Click here to edit subtitle

other major actions

 

Other Major actions

other major actions
Interlude: Draft Actions Were Taking Place In the Meantime-
 
                                   DC 9 Action
Anti-draft actions continued apace. George Mische reports more than 250 (what source)!  A favorite- the “DC 9”, broke into Dow Chemical Headquarters in D.C. in the first action against corporate America. The same night a raid on the main Selective Service offices in D.C. was planned, but the SS had shunted their records by truck to a less vulnerable building at the last minute. Had they been tipped off? Some argued that had infiltrated the movement. The D.C. 9 had trouble with a window; as I remember it, they wanted to cut it neatly and pull it into the building, having taped it, so that it wouldn’t fall on anybody outside under the window on the sidewalk, but they had taped the wrong side. There had been a dramatic photo of Mike Dougherty  behind the broken plate, a gusted swatch of papers floating down in front of him......M.S. trying to rip too big a book in half, A.M. calling to his wife as the cops came, the whole group singing their own version of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as they were shoved into a van. It had been the first group to take on a corporation rather than a draft board. Dow Chemical, manufacturer of napalm and herbicides, was a perfect choice. When we returned to the same office to demonstrate during the trial, Dow had installed a guard and camera aimed at the door.
The DC 9 statement courtesy of the "Hippy Land Site?":
"Today, March 22, 1969, in the Washington office of the Dow Chemical Company we spill human blood and destroy files and office equipment. By this action, we condemn you, the Dow Chemical Company, and all similar American Corporations.
We are outraged by the death-dealing exploitation of people of the Third World, and of all the poor and powerless who are victimized by your profit-seeking ventures. Considering it our responsibility to respond, we deny the right of your faceless and inhuman corporation to exist:
 
You, corporations, who under the cover of stockholder and executive anonymity, exploit, deprive, dehumanize and kill in search of profit;
You, corporations, who contain (or control) Americans and exploit their exaggerated need for security that you have helped create;
You, corporations, who numb our sensitivity to persons, and capitalize on our concern for things.
Specifically, we warn you, Dow Chemical Company, that we will no longer tolerate your refusal to accept responsibility for your programmed destruction of human life.
You, stockholders and company executives alike, are so willing to seek profit in the production of napalm, defoliants, nerve gas, as in the same spirit you co-operated with the I. G. Farben Company, a chemical manufacturer in Nazi Germany, during the Second World War.
You, who without concern for development for other nations or for their rights of self-determination, maintain 100% control over subsidiaries in more than twenty nations.
You, who in the interest of profit, seek to make it in the military interest of the United States to suppress the legitimate national desires of other peoples. Your product is death, your market is war.
Your offices have lost their right to exist. It is a blow for justice that we strike today.
In your mad pursuit of profit, you and others like you, are causing the psychological and physical destruction of mankind. We urge all to join us as we say "no" to this madness.
 
(Signed) Rev. Robert Begin, Rev. Bernard Meyer, Rev. Joseph O'Rourke, S.J., Rev. Dennis Maloney, Mr. Michael Sasaki, Rev. Michael Dougherty, S.J., Sr. Joann Malone, SAM, Rev. Arthur Melville, Mrs. Catherine Melville. "
 
here insert bit from George on Jo Ann and Denny
quote from Sam Smith's "Multitudes- an unauthorized memoir"
 
"In 1969, my friend Gren Whitman called from Baltimore to borrow my office "as place for the press to meet before an action." I asked what was up. "Don't ask," he instructed. "I don't want you to know. That way you won't be liable." I agreed to help. The reporters and the activists arrived at my office at the scheduled time and within minutes departed on their still-unidentified mission. Later that day I learned that nine protesters had broken into the offices of the Dow Chemical Company and spilled blood over the files in an anti-war protest. The next morning Kathy woke me saying that I'd better look at what was in the Post. Inthe upper left corner of the front page was a story describing the attack. In the lead it said that reporters had been told to meet at the offices of the DC Gazette and gave the address, 109 8th Street NE. I was upset and angry. The Post, it appeared, was setting me up for retaliation -- legal and otherwise. My only role in the affair had been to provide a gathering place for my news colleagues and now the Great Prude of 15th Street was out to punish me for having done their reporter a favor. I called a lawyer friend who came over and calmed me down. Nothing more came of it. Which, however, is how I came not to trust the Post. It was a time of hidden agendas and multiple agendas. The police had found a few black militants willing to disrupt white peace groups and a few white radicals willing to do the same. A member of the DC Statehood Party steering committee was, I'm pretty certain, a police informer. When I referred in passing to reported police ties of a certain ostensibly radical black council member, he gave me a wink the next time I showed up at the council press table and never denied it. On May Day in 1971 (note by dave- i was at Lewisburg and guards from Lewisburg were shipped down to DC to handle this demo)  the police arrested 13,000 people in DC --including reporters and bystanders -- in what was probably the largest mass arrest in American history. I noticed a prominent black militant trapped in one of the corrals the cops had improvised. About a half hour later, he was out of the corral and talking to a top department official. Then, not long after, he was back inside the roped off area. You learned to look for things like that just as I had learned to keep looking behind me at demonstrations so I could see where the cops were moving. Which is how I didn't get arrested on May Day 1971. Some of those trapped were detained in an old sports arena; others were herded onto the playing field of RFK Stadium. That night the temperature dropped to the thirties. I went to the courthouse -- crowded as a Thanksgiving weekend airport -- sometime after midnight to bail out Gren on personal recognizance. I wore a coat and tie and when the judge asked if I were a DC resident, I stood at parade rest and replied, "A native, your honor." My friend was released.For three days the DC police department had literally ran amuck. In a searing report ,the American Civil Liberties wrote later: "(would this be interesting? note by Dave- then go find it!)

                       Milwaukee 14, Camden 28
As of 2010, Bob Graf, of the 14 had put together a web site, with news updating the participants: I wrote to him:
 
Yes- you will see that beside recounting my experience w the actions- I have written quite a bit (in the chapter entitled Trial of the C-9) about my arguments w George Mische- sort of a love hate relationship- (George helped me a lot way back in the day) but I not really into "more militant than thou". Sure Dan and Phil have feet of clay- so does George!
I keep up relations w Jonah House and Liz and respect them highly- and George- well- he is George.
He threatens to write a book- more power to him- I think I'll just let my stuff lie there free on the internet. I have a couple of books of poetry after all and am not in it for the money.I am big into poetry. Maybe I can publish on Kindle!!!
Jerry Elmer's book- A Felon for Peace is very good.
I have had a good career here at the jail- (Inmate Programs) and, actually received a full and unconditional pardon from Ron Raygun which enabled me to work in corrections- altho our personnel dept is so disorganised I don't think they ever would have checked, Now it's just a joke to me- did he ask me for a pardon? him starting all that deregulation, trickle down crap!
At one time I kicked myself for not being part of the 9, but now I tend to get lumped in with them- in so far as any one cares. I am a dedicated socialist to communist and support a far left group.
I juggle 2 irreconcilable balls in my head- 1- marxist revolution, 2 xtian pacifism- i love them both!?!?!?
Please send me emails for the 14 that are living and forward this if you care to and give them all my love- unless one of them- as happened w the Baader Meinhof, has turned into a right winger!
If there are any reunions let me know- we'll hopefully not b like the band of brothers marching in some parade watching the asses of young cheerleaders altho that wld b the best part.
As I approach death, I am enjoying harvesting the reunions, films like the upcoming one "Hit and Stay" which Joe Tropea is still finalizing as of this date-the fruits of what we sowed- and glad for having sowed some shit- unlike most folks!
 
(i have to find this)-    Milwaukee 14 draft  file pyre photo- "Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead"(there is video of the pyre on Joe Tropea's trailer for his documentary - "Hit and Stay")
 
As the Milwaukee 14 stood around their burning pyre of files, John Higganbotham sang from the "Wizard of Oz", "Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead."
Jim Forest of the 14 writes interestingly about one response:
 
Dear Mr. Forest,
 
My husband and I are planning to attend the Anti-War March in Washington this coming weekend. The very thought of going to DC has brought back memories of similar marches we participated in when we were much younger and living in Milwaukee.
You wouldn’t know it but we have thought of you often since September 24, 1968. Without a doubt, my husband’s 1-A records and very likely his induction notice were destroyed in the action taken by the Milwaukee 14. There is no telling how that action changed the course of our lives, but I am sure it did. The truth is I am embarrassed that we never thanked all of you for what you did for us.
Our going to DC may be in part a way to reconnect with our past, but there are so many parallels to the ‘60’s that it’s startling. And although you helped spare my husband from serving in the military, we have a son-in-law who is a career Marine. He and our daughter will celebrate their 5th anniversary in spring although they have been together for only one of them. Steve has been in Iraq more than half of almost every year they’ve been married. He has missed every Mother’s Day since the birth of their son in 2003 and will miss the birth of their second child in July. He will be leaving at the end of February for his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. His story isn’t unusual among today’s volunteer
So I hunted up our Peace buttons and a pin my Mother wore that says “War isn’t healthy for children and other living things.” And we’re going to join the expected tens of thousands of people in DC in the hopes of making a statement of protest against this current war, hoping that our son-in-law and everyone else’s son or daughter will come home to stay.
Unlike the mostly young crowd we were in when we marched in San Francisco in November of 1969, I am
And while you may not be in the crowd with us, you will be there in spirit.
With more gratitude than you know,>
 
following Jim Forest responds to some questions from a student:
 
What do you think is the effect, now 38 years later, of the act that you, and the rest of the 14 did that day?
 
I was amazed at the impact — more than I would have expected: a two-page photo in Life magazine of the action, front page coverage in newspapers across the country, reports on TV news programs nationwide, national press attention while the trial was going on, respected poets coming to Milwaukee to do public readings in our support, lectures given by various scholars, supportive mail from all sorts of people (one of the astronauts on the first moon trip sent me as photo he had taken of the earth from space). One of the “epistles” in Leonard Bernstein’s “The Mass” was a letter about visiting me in prison.
Now, 38 years later, of course it’s just one item on a long list of protest actions that occurred during the Vietnam War. What surprises me is that it hasn’t been altogether forgotten. I recently received a newly made Milwaukee 14 poster! Do you think that your actions that day had an affect on the draft? Sure. For starters it closed down conscription for a time in a major US city. In Milwaukee for several months the only people who were sent to the war were volunteers.judging from the mail we received, I think we helped more draft-eligible people decide that they would not take part in the war. More people became conscientious objectors. The fact that about half our groups were Catholic priests (and one a Christian Brother teaching economics at Note Dame) meant that our action had particular impact on the Catholic Church. It probably was a factor in the opposition to the war that was increasingly voiced by the Catholic hierarchy. here were more and more refinements of ceremony at the destructions and new ways of surfacing or coming up out of the underground to announce that an action had taken place. Some persons acted, then did not wait to be arrested as we had. Some destroyed files and did not claim responsibility. Others made it difficult for the feds by coming forward to take credit for hitting several draft boards without specifying which. At Camden, N. J., a large group claimed that they had destroyed files along with the few who actually had. Dan Berrigan reports in his autobiography (again underline) "To Dwell in Peace" that after one action "files were mailed back to their owners, with a note urging that the inductees refuse to serve".  Peace Warriors is a book by Ed Mcgowan devoted to the Camden action.

                                        Camden 28
 
A book entitled Peace Warriors Camden 28 action- by Ed Mdgowan., along w Jerry Elmer's and Murray Polner's is required readings on that actions. Did the FBI try to link the Camden action to Harrisburg 8 action? (a thought of George's?) Ed was a member of that draft action group, 8 of whom attacked the draft board in Camden, N.J. in 1972. I’d like to find out what has happened to the members of said groups- what are they doing now? (talk to Ed more maybe, Doug Marvey) Some of these, as earlier mentioned were actions unlike our blood pouring where folks did not wait around to turn themselves in but surfaced later, and there were many actions against draft boards where the actors wanted to get away with it and had no intention of turning themselves in. Does the FBI have a record of those draft board actions? This is the book Mische says he will write, What about sh tslinging Barry Bondhaus? the “Big Lake One”? George claims to have vistited him and tells me about him in 2007 when he visits.
Anthony Giaccino's definitive film on the 28 that is shown on 9/11/7 on PBS. Of all the trial presentations- it is far and away the best-  others being “Trial of the C-9”, “In the King of Prussia”- directed by Emile d’Antonio (also very impressive) "Holy Outlaw" by Lee Lockwood, and the upcoming magnum opus by Joe Tropea.. The dvd “Convicted” about the Plowshares nuns and an action in Colorado- is also wonderfully done.
Speaking of groups with numbers, defendant Mike Doyle appealing to the jury in his closing statement mentioned how the Vietnam War had reached into towns in South Jersey and killed (my transposition) the Millville 5, the Pennsauken 3, the Salem 9, the Pennsgrove 6, the Vineland 10 and the Camden 31- (these were N.J. residents who died in Vietnam).
It turns out that John Grady, whom I had met, had possibly organized a few of the later actions, just as George Mische had possibly organized some of the middle actions, at least played leading roles. The FBI suspected Grady of masterminding the attack against their own FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. I devoured McGowan’s book, found it fascinating. In it Ed presents all the detail of this complex action and remarkable trial. It was the only trial where the group was acquitted, the Harrisburg 8 trial resulting in a hung jury. Because the trial IS so meticulously presented, part of the book is somewhat boring but it picks up towards the end when you get to the testimony of the defendants.
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan said at the time: “I think Camden was one of the great trials of the 20th century. As Ed writes: 󈫼 community members sided with the resisters against their government’s war on its own dissenting citizens.” The jury had taken matters into their own hands and listened to Grady when, in his closing, said that “legislators are crying out for your courage and God willing you will give it to them with the final two words” (in other words “not guilty”.) This was a rare moment in U.S. history- but, of course, not the only one! McGowan’s book goes into some fine points about the legal thinking on this kind of civil disobedience. The Camden Judge- Judge Fisher, had given the defendants more leeway than any other of the action Judges, but even he, as had the other Judges, made that old tired point that our prosecutor Steve Sachs had- that the law is sacred and that the charges referred to strictly criminal actions with no “inquiry into designs, motives of any law enforcement agency (i.e. the government;s “creative involvement through Hardy) would be relevant. (Prosecutor Barry’s argument in the Camden case, perhaps sensing that he was losing the case, was that the jury’s “breaking the law” by siding with the defendant would lead to chaos and anarchy). Where had I heard this before- only over and over again ad nauseam at the trials of all our draft board actions. Most of the Judges wouldn’t even allow testimoney on defendant’s beliefs in like Judge Fisher had, and he had even been somewhat helpful on the matter of jury nullification, instructing that while juries “don’t have the power to do it, they HAVE done it”. This was not a stupid jury nullification, as at O.J. Simpson’s trial where he was acquitted of murder he plainly comitted, but a wise one. For the law is just as subject to change for the better as anything. It is not “written in stone”. Bad law has , like bad property, no right to exist.
It turns out that the 8 who had actually gone into the draft board (the other 20 acted in various support modes) had been informed upon and were caught dead in the act by the FBI. The FBI by this time were taking the Draft Action groups very seriously - suspecting them of having broken into the FBI office at Media, Pennsylvania- which action proved very embarrassing to the gumshoes - revealing their sneaky, cointelpro actions. I set out to contact Ed, and got the Grady’s number in Ithaca, N.Y. from Willa Walsh of the Baltimore Catholic Worker house- Viva House. John was a dear, leprechaunish, Dylan Thomasish, Irish, curly haired lad- who had an unforgettable laugh. I had nursed the hope ever since meeting him of hearing that laugh again. John was so bubbly and full of life, you couldn't ignore him. And yet he died about a month before Phil and had alzsheimers for the last 8 years of his life. His daughter, Claire told me that alcoholism had been a problems and that he had separated from the family but later returned to Ithaca. The Gradys and Mcgowan had been at Phil’s funeral- but I didn’t start reading the Camden 28 book until a few days later. Liz Berrigan told me that John had “fried his brain” I’m sure she would agree “pickled” to be a better choice. I thought of Dylan Thomas- whom John resembled.
Other salient points of Ed’s book? : one of the sad point of this action was that it had not gone as planned- due to informer Robert Hardy. Some of the defendants made the argument that “despite their intention to raid the Camden boards, they had run out of gas and were jump started by the FBI in the person of Hardy, that the FI manufactured the crime” (Hardy had facilitated the action supplying a ladder and rope, even offering a gun to Keith Forsyth on the night of the action)” that the FBI “just didn’t comprehend the informal recruitment practice or the non- heirarchical form of the Action Community- they thought it was set up like themselves”.
Ed supplied some antecedent cases of American history- cases which had led to “jury nulllification” (which was the great triumph of the Camden case): William Penn, John Peter Zenger, tea parties in Boston and Philly, Fugitive Slave Act cases, etc. Howard Zinn, who had written a foreword to Ed’s book, had mentioned such cases in his People’s History of the United States. Howard had been at Phil’s funeral.
Joan Reilly had quoted a striking poem that dealt with the generation gap, father son problem that had been a part of my life, a poem by a Vietnam vet: “It may be we cannot change./ You shout we hope to make you see/ How we have changed./ While you have chosen to be father,/ We have fought/ And are fighting/To be brothers to our sons”, and Mike Giacondo quoted Buffy Sainte Marie’s song “Universal Soldier”: “He’s a Universal Sodier,/ and he really is to blame,/ His orders come from far away no more,/ they come from him, and you and me./ And brothers can’t you see,/ this is not a way to put an end to war.”
Richard McSorley died in the 90's I believe,  and I was struck by the Irish contribution to our part of the anti-war movement- the Walshes, Gradys, Berrigans, Doyles, etc..
I thought of the similarity between the Camden 28 and the Watergate, what was it 7?  Big difference was that the Watergate burglars had been on the wrong side!
One naturally wonders, who will carry on in Phil’s footsteps. The government hopes no one! Then too, with his constant one action after another style- I wonder who has this beat at the Justice Dept. or FBI? Are they at the funeral? Probably. And yet, have they, over the years, learned to handle these types of actions a little less brutally? Ed Mcgowan makes clear in his book that the government and FBI had taken the Catholic left very seriously after the embarrassments to Hoover of Dan’s underground and the Harrisburg trial and the Media FBI office raid. There is even speculation that the “western White House”- Nixon? was involved.
At about the same time that the Camden 28 film aired on PBS- 200?) , my brother, Jonathan- was dying ashamed- and often bawled crying when I visited (I couldn’t understand him to figure out why). I realized that a big part of the problem was that J was dying without the benefit of community. Phil, his fame notwithstanding, died surrounded by family and fiends, his every need attended to. But my brother had estranged all but us- his two brothers and sister and mother and one daughter and the step daughter. My brother did not share (nor did I) our mom’s faith in an afterlife and God. J was dying without interests and values. It was hard to watch. Phil was tethered. Tethered to Jonah House- his peace movement community. Frida’s description of her father’s death in an interview with Amy Goodman for “Democrary Now” is very moving, and to me, at the time of my brother’s dying, consoling.

Harrisburg 7

The following was written by ?  at the occasion of the 40th reunion of the Harrisubrg trial in 2012  William O' Rourke, author of The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left was present for the occasion as sell as others related to the trial, including Liz McCallister from Jonah House in Baltimore..

"The defense team—a modern-day dream team comprised of former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, acclaimed civil liberties attorney Leonard Boudin and a handful of others—would employ the art of scientific jury selection. Through painstaking questioning, they reduced nearly four hundred prospective jurors to twelve.

During the trial Zoia Horn, the head of the reference department at Bucknell, became the first librarian ever to go to jail in the cause of intellectual freedom. Despite being granted immunity by the prosecution, Horn refused to testify. Her friend and colleague Gene Chenoweth, who was the informant Douglas’s unsuspecting academic advisor, watched helplessly as the tight-knit college community in Lewisburg was torn apart by the spy in their midst. Our nation “stands on freedom of thought,” wrote Horn, “but government spying in homes, in libraries and universities inhibits and destroys this freedom.”

Prodded in part by the conservative reporting of the Patriot News, a new independent newspaper emerged – The Harrisburg Independent Press or HIP. Alongside ads for the city’s then ubiquitous x-rated theaters (always in a groovy font), its first editor, Ed Zuckerman, not only covered the trial but bravely exposed the seamier side of local politics, including what the paper asserted were the “the conflicts of interest” of then Dauphin County DA Leroy Zimmerman.

In the end, despite millions of dollars and countless hours of investigation by the FBI, the government failed to obtain guilty verdicts on the central conspiracy charges. Prosecutor William Lynch only secured convictions on the smuggling of contraband correspondence in and out of prison. The defense team accurately anticipated the mood of the jury when it shocked the legal establishment by deciding to rest its case without calling any witnesses. “Your Honor,” summarized Clark, “The defense insists upon their innocence. They oppose this war and always will. The defense rests.”

In sum: Besides using each action to organize new protesters, we hoped that the government would decide it cost them too much to prosecute after such inspiring trials as the Catonsville 9 or the Milwaukee 14. But the government went right ahead with its prosecutions, knowing that it cost the movement time and money whether convictions resulted or not. The actions were connected depending on how much organizing persons of previous actions felt like doing; some, notably George Mische, did a lot. Without their guiding hands or "outside influence", the actions would never have occurred (of this more later). Pacifists would stress the point that the means determined the end or that the means would be in the end. For example if you came to power violently, your new regime would maintain power violently,the dogmatic pacifist would say. Thus after we poured blood on files we did not try to escape or hide but publicly awaited our captors. Also draft action groups took pains to avoid violence. But this philosophy could not extend to truthfulness. At the time, to relate details of such organizing was dangerous and would have brought charges to the conspirators. The Quakers had a powerful maxim: "Speak truth to power." But our preparation had to be secret.
I had been up to Milwaukee to attend the trial of the "Milwaukee 14. I made friends there with Jim Forest (see above) , who later introduced me to WIN Magazine- where I wrote some articles and book reviews. I published a poem about it through “Gunrunner Press.” Francine du Plessix Grey wrote a definitive article about the trial in the New York Review of Books- “The Ultra Resistance”.  Each anti draft action produced something new technically as well as spiritually. As we had, each new action employed the “media” in different, interesting ways. Damage done to files had escalated from Barry Bondhus’s shit through our blood to the Catonsville napalm nand more files were destroyed. Draft Boards were being torched without any one waiting around to take the credit in the classic Thoreau/Ghandian style. The “Boston 2” used black paint; records were cut by scissors, tarred, dumped in laundry bleach. After each action, ceremonies were invented.
Jerry Elmer writes interestingly of this period in his book Felon for Peace- here are two reviews by Joe Tropea and me for the Amazon site:
Memoirs are a mixed-bag. Some, like Bill Ayer's Fugitive Days are filled with pages of anecdotes and passion. They're endlessly interesting and entertaining, but may leave the reader feeling more like they've just read a novel rather than a memoir (read: history). They may even leave the reader with more questions than answers--not necessarily a bad thing. With Felon for Peace, Jerry Elmer has offered an analytical work that manages to be highly personal, entertaining, and informative. It leaves the reader with a perhaps more useful set of questions.
Elmer is a fearless writer: He takes on antiwar movement/scholar heavyweights like DeBenedetti and is not afraid to criticize his fellow activists. And he does not hesitant to criticize himself or admit when his own thinking was flawed.
Felon for Peace is an important work, as historians interested in the Vietnam War era well know--activists from the period need to offer up their versions of their history. They would do well to use Elmer's work as model (or inspiration). And despite that it lacks foot- or endnotes, any class on American history, peace studies, or activism would be better for using this excellent text.
review by a fellow peacenik and draft board attacker October 21, 2009
david eberhardt-aged 68-poet and member "baltimore 4" (poured blood on draft files in 1967 with Father Phil Berrigan)- web site is google david eberhardt then poetry and prose- i discuss many of the same issues that Jerry does.
I feel priviledged to review Jerry's book.I began to read it on 9/21/9. Jerry goes over a lot of the ground that I covered as undoubtedly would George Mische (of the Catonsville 9) when he got around to writing his book. Jerry knows or mentions many of the people George does- Joe O' Rourke, Jo Anne Malone. He draws some of the same conclusions about "elitism" about Phil Berrigan as does George.
Jerry discusses (on pg.88- a debate between WRL 's Jim Peck vrs Joe O Rourke of the draft actions and his remarks are priceless viz a viz "elitism".... it's worth quoting: "The gist of Joe's attack was, You have not done what I have done; therefore you have made no contribution whatsoever to the peace movement (can Joe have been that ignorant about Jim Peck and general peace movem,ent history?-de). I have found the one right tactic to end the war, raiding draft boards; nothing else has any value.
This was elitism at its most outreageous, but it was highly typical of the attitude of many (I would say- some (de) in the Catholic Left. To Phil Berrigan, the entire world was devided into two parts- actors (those what had taken part in draft board actions) , and everybody else. If you were not an actor" (and I, de, might point out- if you had only acted in one action and not more)- Phil had little use for you, unless he thought he could recruit you to be an actor. A word that Phil frequently used was "serious". People were only serious about anti war work if they took part in a draft board action." How true!
But you could say that about protest in general- that the world is deivided into actors and non- actors. We need more actors!
Me? I didn't see a bad side to Phil- (and I poured blood with him and spent time at Lewisburg Prison in the same cell and knew him at various times all his life); maybe I was blind- yes, Phil, had that single focus side- but I still thought of him as gentle enough- I knew he was after we got out of prison and while we were in it. We all have our faults. Certainly Dan is gentle. Jerry has a devastating passage re Phil being catty about Eqbal and his own brother Dan in his letters to Liz from Lewisburg re Harrisburg (I can only imagine what he said in private about me?!?!). Jerry was a precocious anti-warrior- active in high school at 16 years old. Jerry's book seems to contain good shades of grey- he is aware of the complexities.
In his book, Jerry gives a good rationale for what we draft action protestors did and a good history as well- e.g., in Feb. 1947! The "WRL and FOR organized Break with Conscription demonstrations in 36 states- among the organizers were A.J. Muste, Dave Dellinger, Bayard Rustin and Jim Peck". As a lawyer, Jerry has a great sense of legalities and legal precedents- dating back to his high school days- he was filing motions even at the age of 16!
I realized reading Jerry that my movement memoirs need a lot of editing and are anecdotal, lacking the connective tissue or skeleton or muscle to make a body- his book has it. He well discusses the most important issues- whether draft actions are a proper non violent tactic in the first place (old War Resisters League hands like Dave McReynolds (apparently Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton did not for the same reasons) did not apporve) (Jerry concluded "OK" because it is the property that is taken, not human life); whether to stay around like we and the C- 9 or to split- hit and stay? or hit and split?- whether to claim responsibility (a la Gandhi) or surface or just disappear-; the value of prison and the particular Catholic view of suffering (the "suffering servant" that is Christ) and how he disagrees. George M's criticism of the Plowshares and Berrigans hinge on this very point- unbeknownst to George. When George reads Jerry's book- it will be a revelation- Jerry has already written George's book and mine!! to a degree.
I could see why my history of the actions, scanty as it was, became so much more murky after the Harrisburg 8 and Camden 28, because actions like the N Y and Boston 8 (let alone the Beaver 55?) were actions where the perpetrators purposefully made it difficult for any one to have to be nailed for responsibility.. The Boston 8 would have been the Boston 9, but Jerry didn't surface.
Jerry's book is must reading- along with the Polner Disarmed and Dangerous (where is the underline feature?), and the books by Phil Berrigan- Prison Journals, and The Lamb's War, and the book on Plowshares actions by Art Laffin!

                                   A (very sketchy) Chronolgical List
   
As chronicled on a site called "HippyLand" and in a list by filmmaker Joe Tropea in 2009 as he prepared for his documentary film on the draft actions:
 
starting in 1968- (ie after our Baltimore 4 action and the Catonsville-9)  Sept. 24- Milwaukee 14;
1969: 3/22- DC 9;  May 20, -Pasadena 3; May 21, Silver Spring 3 (Les Bayless?); May 25, Chicago 15; July Þ, Women against Daddy Warbucks- NYC;  New York 8; Aug. 1st; Oct. 31, Beaver 55- where?  Akron?; ("who were not 55 but only 8 and were named whimsically by Tom Trost"); Nov. 7, Wash. Dow Chemical offices hit again; Nov. 7, Boston 8;  Nov. - Akron 2;
Daddy warbux photo here? Or see above
1970: Feb 6, East Coast Conspiracy (Philadelphia?) ; May 19- We the People; June 13-14-Rhode Island Offensive for Freedom (RIPOFF- Jerry Elmer); Jul 10- Minn 8, July.- New Haven; summer- Delaware actions; Pontiac 4; Sept. 6- Rochester Flower City Conspiracy; 12/18--Hoover Vacuum Conspiracy; 12/24- San Jose 1.
1971: Jan- Harrisburg; Mar. 8- Media Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI; Apr. 29- The 4 of Us; Apr. 30- 2nd Harrisburg; June- Citizens arrest of Curtis Town; Aug 21- Buffalo 5; Aug 22- Camden 28;
1972: 3/2-Hickam 2; 3/ 27- York 5; July- Great Lakes Conspiracy; Nov.- CREEP 17;
1973: Aug. - White House Prayer Raids;
1974--Mar.- VOPRO 4; Apr. UN4  

Believe me, there were plenty of draft boards destroyed with no one taking credit! The hoary (whorey?) newscaster, Walter Cronkite, stated in 1971 a count of close to 300...and I'm sure there were more....and then Plowshares began at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. We had somewhat seriously disrupted Selective Service. The Milwaukee 14 had burned files from 9 different Boards.At one point , according to Liz McCallister, all of the Delaware draft boards were "done". By the time of the Camden 28 trial- where the defendants actually participated in choosing the jury- the jury incredibly found them not guilty- although the defendants did not deny their actions..
There was a momentous raid on FBI offices in Media Pa., where no one stayed around to take credit and no one was arrested- the FBI's Cointelpro Unit had been revealed- that they had proactively been trying to infiltrate, spy on us, and disrupt us with dirty tricks!  Of course- in Camden, partly do to their enabling, the jury acquitted the 28-one of the actors had been an FBI informant and had provided support that the action could take place. The FBI had snookered him into believing they would let the action go "so far" and that the participants- who were friends of his (he was a parishioner in Father Doyle's church!) would not be facing serious charges- they would only let the action go so far- then the FBI went back on its word. During the trial, this same informant's son was killed in a horrible accident- and who were the persons that came to the funeral and offered him support- even though he was snitching them sout- the members of the 28! He did an about face- changed his testimony- contributing to the acquittal- a rare moment in American jurisprudence.
There is also a wonderful similar list of the Weather Underground's bombings in the Dan Berger book on them- Outlaws of America.
But me? I was on my way to the "big house" , once you got used to it of course, peace and quite of prison. The din around me was subsiding. We had hurled ourselves against the trundling, sh t filled behemoth of America long enough- it was time to curl up in the belly of the beast- safe from it's blandishments and assaults.
A Review for Amazon and an Interchange on the book With Clumsy Grace- Charles Meconis
A Clumsy Grace concerns anti draft board actions by the "Catholic Left-1961-1975. This review is somewhat personal- the best kind?- in that I was close to the incidents described. You will be able to read my biases!
Reading it,- I realized that a lot happened around the time of the Harrisburg 8 trial that soured people on Dan and Phil Berrigan, the most famous of the movement participants, (and Phil Berrigan certainly qualifies as a founding father on these types of actions) - which continue to this day as the "Plowshares Movement".. Certain participants, like Joe Wenderoth and Neil McGlaughlin felt ripped off- manipulated- that certain hypocrisies and character flaws and ineptitudes came out...I had wrapped myself in the safe prison blanket of Lewisburg and the Farm Camp (I had poured blood on draft files with Phil Berrigan in 1967) - not choosing or wishing to be involved the way Phil did.
As a hero, perhaps Phil Berrigan did not come off in a stellar light- as his letters to his future? wife, Liz McCallister are quite snarky- even about his own brother. Not to mention the fact that Phil had fallen for smuggling letters out of the joint by a person- Boyd Douglas- the only con allowed to go out of the prison and study at Bucknell U, who turned out to be an informer?!? At one point he writes to Liz- "the whole violence/non-violence bag" in a cavalier sort of throw away style; but this was Phil!- a charge ahead, ex military, no nonsense organizer for the peace movement- like George Mische. Also he was supposedly hypocritical advising absinence while courting his future wife, Liz. My opinion? So what- we're all human folks. (Except for killers like nixon and the bushes- they truly are NOT human- well- I guess the actually are.)
Hopefully the film maker, Joe Tropea - who is making a documentary about the anti draft actions- look up "Hit and Stay", will shed more light on the complexities of this period of time-although what more is there to way than what Charles M says in this book?  The role of informants as the FBI became more and more alarmed at our effectiveness is fascinating. The FBI began to realize that we draft file destroyers were haveing a real effect!
More recently, Md. State Police were spying on activists (round about 2006 and 7) and may still be doing so at the time of this writing (2010). With all the Homeland Security money, and given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be surprising if government agencies hadn't continued all their wrong doing as regards us citizenry. Most likely they have continued it, trying to avoid all the mistakes of the past.
The more I read Meconis' book- the more it upset me-not his writing but some of the material on which he reported:  the Harrisburg 8 and the Camden 28 as failures? the Catholic left "destroyed and over"? (Neil McGlaughlin's statement?)
Of course there had never been a "Catholic Left" in the sense that we truly understood the left- we didn't!  not the left of Karl Marx or Debs or the Unions of the 30's and 40's.. We were a "Catholic Left" in that many of the actors were Catholics and our actions definitely leaned towards the left. You could see by Meconis' book that several of the draft action actors became more left- like me!
But the two actions thoroughly described in the book-  Camden 28 and Harrisburg 8 gained amazing acquittals exactly because of the boneheaded informer in the one and a change of heart by the informer in the other (see the Giacchino film- "The Camden 28"). Neil Mcglaughlin' s statement in the book about the death of the Catholic left? - what revisionism- what an overstatement and unnecessary despair from Neil.
As long as Catholic Worker Houses like Viva House or Art Laffin's in DC continue- as long as there is a Carl Kabat awaiting trial for attacking a missile base in Utah (2008?) ,or the latest Plowshares group attacking Trident subs in the state of Washington (2009?) - as long as we can read the Sermon on the Mount- the "Catholic Left" continues- o it may not be successful in the terms of the world- it never pretended to be.  The attitudes of some of the actors Meconis interviewed might as well have been stated by CoInTelPro (the FBI department that spied on and tried to disrupt the peaceniks), for Christ's sake!
This was the same FBI that had tried to derail a saint- Martin Luther King- and yes, King also had clay feet. We're all human, folks.
Anyway, thankfully, the Meconis book ends on a positive, praiseworthy note. Liz McCallister (Phil Berrigan's widow) and Jonah House get fair play, God bless em.
This book is a must for any students on this issue or any persons who are going down the same non-violent path- it demonstrates the power of this idea, so much maligned in this military county. Books like this will change the world!
 
The other two premier books on the topic? Felon for Peace by Jerry Elmer, and Disarmed and Dangerous by Murray Polner.
 
From: Charlie Meconis
To: David Eberhardt
Sent: Saturday, October 16, 2010 2:49 PM
Subject: Re: hi- george mische hipped me to you
 
Hi David, great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words concerning With Clumsy Grace.. Coming from someone with your level of involvement I am honored. It was both a labor of love to preserve history--and my PhD dissertation examining the action community as a case study in social movement theory. The book was the "popular" version, stripped of all the academics. I used the lessons to inform my actions with the anti-nuclear movement here in the Seattle area in the 80s when Jim Douglass was a key figure. I also shared my interview transcripts with Polner.
I certainly agree with your list of faves re the action community. I'd really like to get my hands on a copy of the The Holy Outlaw to show my daughter (who's 27 now), and even talked to people at the NET archives about it, but they have  no plans to release it in any modern form. Too bad.
 
another of Charles' letters- following some intemperate remarks by me:
 
Wow, what a turnaround in your response to my book from you first e-mail early in!
I'm sorry that you are so upset. I'm saddened that you stoop to words like "bs" and then compare my work to something from CoInTelPro. Those words really hurt. Surprising from an advocate of nonviolence.
As someone who took part in a draft board action, attended both the Harrisburg and Camden trials, who was arrested at the White House with Dan, who remained friends with Phil and Dan (Dan presided over my wedding), who worked closely here in Seattle with Jim Douglass in the 80s, and who spent 4 months in prison for trying to stop the building of the Trident base here, and then took part in the attempted blockade of the first Trident submarine and was indicted on a 10 year felony charge for that action in the tradition of the Action Community, I think your judgments of my work are off the mark.
I think the fact that you were involved primarily in the early days of the Catholic Left and I was there for the later period might explain some of your apparent disappointment. I felt it was important to tell the truth about our movement, both good and bad, as the participants themselves expressed it to me.
Please finish the book--especially the Conclusions chapter-- and then get back in touch with me and I will glad to continue our dialogue. And thanks for the lead on renting "The Holy Outlaw" from AFSC. I have also sent some money to the making of the new film Hit and Stay, I hope they can finish it, and hope that more of your interview makes it in.
 
shalom,
Charlie
I had apologized.
                                       On to Plowshares

The momentous first  Plowshares  Action- the Plowshares 8-  took place, Oct. 5th, 1980 at the General Facilities, Westchester, PA , both Phil and Dan participating. Concentrating on parts and plans for the Mark 12 missile, this action was an ACTUAL act of disarmnament- contrasting all the windy phrases of U.N. officials or “statesmen” such as Henry Kissinger. I found it interesting how Phil talked about the role of faith in felicitous finding to important locations in the building- “we were going in like blind mice”! With faith, Phil said, we always find the weapons- as if God were guiding them. Emile D’Antonio directed a film on this action with famed Hollywood actor, Martin Sheen, playing the Judge. Phil discusses the action in his 1998 interview with Amy Goodman. (I am not surprised about how pleasant and expansive Phil, and later his other family members- Liz, Frida, and Jerry are in talking with (selected) members of the media and press. We always cultivated a good relation with the press in our movements. They didn’t have to be blazing activists! We had to get our message out!!) This Plowshares action was humorous in the details of the actors’ jail stay. I believe they started out with no bail situations, but as one of their members, John Shuchardt, exercised his skills as a jailhouse lawyer, helping inmates in the jail with numerous problems, the group became more and more of a liability to their warders, and their bails were reduced and reduced until, finally, they were told: “I just want you out of my prison”. As Phil puts it with a twinkle- “We became intolerable”.
Molly Rush- a Plowshares 8 participant recalls: "Most likely it was Phil and Schuchardt who got us together. Planning done by all of us at a retreat"

Copyright ©2010

Welcome

Recent Blog Entries

by davideberhardt | 3 comments