The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

Synopsis

On May 17, 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, nine men and women entered a Selective Service office outside Baltimore. They removed military draft records, took them outside, and set them afire with napalm.The Catholic activists involved in this protest against the War included Daniel and Philip Berrigan; all were found guilt of destroying government property and sentenced to three years in jail. Dan Berrigan fled, and later turned himself in.The Berrigans and their colleagues went on to lives spent struggling against war, poverty, and injustice. And The Trial of the Catonsville Nine became a powerful expression of the conflicts between conscience and conduct, power and justice, law and morality. Drawing on court transcripts, Berriganwrote a dramatic account of the trial and the issues it so vividly embodied. The result is a landmark work of art that been performed frequently over the past thirty five years, both as a piece of theater and a motion picture.This new edition includes Berrigan's original introduction, and additional materials by Robin Anderson and James Marsh that bring its ideas and themes up to date in the context of the war in Iraq.

Excerpt

I sat in the Hungarian Coffee Shop across from St. John the Divine in New York City waiting for Dar Williams to walk through the door. She said to look for light-brown, shoulderlength hair and someone who was short. I described myself as tall with light hair, but that fit half the women here. It didn’t matter, I knew her when I saw her, from some unconscious memory of a photograph no doubt. I asked her to meet me because I wanted to know how she came to write “I Had No Right,” the song on the Green World album (and the epigraph for this book) about Daniel Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine. I had worked out that Dar must have been two years old when nine Catholic activists walked into the draft board office in Catonsville, took the files outside, and burned them with what Dar calls “only a layman’s batch of napalm.” After talking to Dar for a little while, the answer to my question was obvious. She spoke easily about having to heal the earth, about making the world a better place. These ideas rolled off her tongue with a familiarity that made it obvious they were things she thought about every day. The Catonsville Nine wanted peace. They wanted to stop the bloodshed in Vietnam, and they were willing to put their freedom at stake to do it. They wanted to change the world. So does Dar.

Tracking the footprints left by The Trial of the Catonsville Nine on its journey through our culture in the last 35 years has been an encounter with artists, poets, academics, filmmakers, performers, and activists, both Catholic and secular, and many others who have found inspiration, hope, and outrage in its words. Daniel Berrigan, poet, teacher, and Jesuit priest . . .

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