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Philip Berrigan

Philip Berrigan (October 5, 1923 - December 6, 2002) was a Ploughshares activist and leader of the Catonsville Nine who, in 1969, doused draft records with homemade napalm and burnt them. On Oct. 27, 1967, Berrigan and three others dumped blood on Selective Service records in the Baltimore Customs House stating, "This sacrificial and constructive act is meant to protest the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood in Indochina". He was a Roman Catholic priest at the time.

"We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes," said a statement the Catonsville Nine issued. "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 drafted in 1943 and served in the artillery during the Battle of the Bulge (1945). He later became a second lieutenant in the infantry. He first gained national attention during part of the 14-year period during which he wore the Roman collar and clerical garb of a Josephite priest.

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, PA 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 resentenced and paroled for up to 23 and 1/2 months in consideration of time already served in prison.

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

Berrigan's final Ploughshares 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.

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, can turn this society around and restore it to faith and sanity."

Berrigan's brother Daniel, a Jesuit priest who participated in the 1968 Catonsville protest, later wrote the play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, which ran on Broadway for 29 performances in 1971 and was made into a movie in 1972.

Berrigan was the author of several books, including No More Strangers, Punishment for Peace, Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary, and Widen the Prison Gates. In 1996, he wrote his autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War, and with his wife wrote The Times' Discipline.

See: Ploughshares Movement Chronology