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The Bob Fitch Photography Archive Movements for Change

The Berrigans & the Catonsville Nine, 1968-1972 72 items

Catholic peace activists Dan Berrigan, Phil Berrigan, David Darst, John Hogan, Tom Lewis, Margie Melville, Tom Melville, Mary Moylan, and George Mische burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. Almost 300 draft boards were vandalized in protest from 1968 to 1972; Dan and Phil had poured blood on draft records in Baltimore the previous year. On May 17, 1968 the nine went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, doused them with homemade napalm, and set them on fire. The Catonsville Nine were tried in federal court October 5th, 1968. Despite lead defense by counterculture icon William Kunstler, they were found guilty of destruction of U.S. property, destruction of Selective Service files, and interference with the Selective Service Act, and were sentenced to a total of 18 years' jail time and a fine of $22,000. Four of the nine -- Mary Moylan, Phil Berrigan, Dan Berrigan and George Mische -- went underground when it came time to show up for prison. A week later, initially disguised as a giant puppet, Dan appeared in the midst of 7,000 applauding friends at a Cornell University rally titled after one of his poems -- "America is Hard to Find." In the presence of pursuing FBI agents, Dan resumed his disguise and slipped off stage to join Phil and George in hiding. A friend of the Berrigans, Bob Fitch was invited into the getaway car and for several days photographed the activists. The FBI finally caught Dan Berrigan in 1970. He was paroled after serving two years of a three year sentence; three photos depict him at Stanford University in 1972.