Dan Berrigan, Catonsville 9
Photo by Bob Fitch
CSPG’s Poster-of-the-Week honors Father Daniel Berrigan who celebrated his 90th birthday May 9th. A poet, peace activist and Jesuit priest, Fr. Berrigan, along with his brother Fr. Philip Berrigan, were repeatedly arrested for protesting the Viet Nam War, and other causes. Philip, a Josephite priest, was the first priest in the U.S. to be arrested for an act of civil disobedience. In his lifetime, Philip he had spent about 11 years in jails and prisons for civil disobedience. Both brothers were for a time on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for committing acts of vandalism, including destroying government property, and in 1970 Daniel spent four months living underground as a fugitive from the FBI.
In 1968, Daniel Berrigan traveled to North Viet Nam with Howard Zinn to bring home three U.S. prisoners of war. On May 17, 1968, Daniel again made national headlines when he manufactured home-made napalm and, with his brother and seven other Catholic protesters, used it to destroy 378 draft files in the presence of reporters and onlookers in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland draft board. This group came to be known as the Catonsville Nine, and is commemorated in the Poster-of-the-Week.
After their arrest, convictions and sentencing to prison, Daniel wrote in a "meditation":
Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning Of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the frontparlour of the charnel house...The time is past when good men can remain silent, when obedience can segregate men from public risk, when the poor can die without defense.
On September 9, 1980, Daniel Berrigan, his brother Philip, and six others began the Plowshares Movement. They illegally trespassed onto the General Electric Nuclear Missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they hammered on nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files. Known as the "Plowshares Eight," they were arrested and charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts.
Daniel Berrigan has maintained a high level of social activism around a number of causes, including protests against American intervention in Central America, the 1991 Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He speaks out against capital punishment, supports LGBT rights, and is a contributing editor of Sojourners Magazine. On April 2, 2010, Good Friday, Daniel Berrigan and 11 others were arrested attempting to dissuade tourists from going on board the Intrepid, an aircraft carried moored in the Hudson River. The Intrepid is now a floating museum, but for peace activists, it exists as a symbol of war’s destructiveness.