The National Catholic Review

“All charges dismissed,” said the judge this past June 1st, when Dan Berrigan and his co-defendants appeared in a Manhattan court to respond  to charges of disorderly conduct on Good Friday. The charges stemmed from Dan’s and others with him (a dozen in all) 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, called in somewhat grandiose fashion, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. But for peace activists, it exists as a symbol of war’s destructiveness. Dan gave us a lively account of the court’s proceedings when he returned in good spirits later that June 1st day to our Jesuit community on Thompson Street in Lower Manhattan.

What did the group of a dozen actually do to incur their disorderly conduct charges? Dan explained that he and those with him simply took turns reading out the names of Iraqi civilians who had been killed during the war in Iraq--not just adults, but women and children too. As each name was read, one of the group would put down on the ground of the Intrepid’s entry way a footprint-shaped piece of paper with the name. Dan commented on how respectful the tourists were in trying to avoid stepping on the “footprints.” It was Passover, and a number of the tourists were, he believed,  Jewish. Dan said that the police themselves treated those charged, both at the Intrepid and in the courtroom, respectfully. Most were up in years, like Dan.

The day of the trial, the defendants had to wait until noon before their names were called. Dan’s was first. The judge read it out loud, and Dan, now 89, slowly made his way forward in the courtroom. “Are you the famous one?” the judge asked, meaning, are you the real Dan Berrigan? When Dan replied with  “A reasonable facsimile“, the judge--to the surprise of all--said that he himself was a Berrigan supporter during the Vietnam War, to which he too had been totally opposed. The judge then proceeded to call out the names of the accused, dismissing the charges of each one by one.

At the end of the proceedings, a lieutenant “in full regalia,” as Dan put it, asked to be in a photo of Dan and the co-defendants. “One of the guards also wanted to be in the picture,” Dan observed, “but he couldn’t because he said it was against the rules.” The same was true of the judge and two lawyers in the court representing people in unrelated cases. So the remarkable life of Dan Berrigan continues, his anti-war fires still burning brightly. There is good reason to expect that on Good Friday, 2011, Dan–90 years old by then--will again stand with a group of non-violent peace activists near the entryway of the Intrepid, awaiting arrest on the same charges of disorderly conduct.

George Anderson, S.J.

 

Comments

John Wakefield | 10/27/2011 - 1:46pm
Dan Berrigan was a hero for us .. at Gonzaga.  Some of the Jesuits had been with him and were greatly moved by him.  I was a student and the aura that came off Dan Berrigan invaded our campus in Spokane.  Some time later, I am playing music in New York City and I cross paths with Dan.  He is protesting something, near St. Pat`s.  I can see something in your 90 year-old face, Father Berrigan:  that Irish stubborness and the basic belief, with parrehesia, expressed, that "this is the correct thing, the human thing, we must do it!"  I am here in the Dominican Republic living and working, musician and writer.  Making a movie here .. this island is in chaos, we have had a huge disaster and the world is deaf, dumb and blind:  I mean next door, in Haiti .. I have composed a symphony, "Haiti," to premier in Port-au-Prince, with a pair of miracles!  I recognize .. seeing that you are still alive, that we can indeed be one hundred percent with the convictions we all know are the ones we need to bring to the turf of every day life.  You are right in there amongst the rabbit blows, reminding the whole world that it is possible.  I wrote a play about a soldiere back from  Iraq, without his legs below the knees, at that rehab place in Dallas.  It is a gruesome play.  It is a gruesome war.  And, guess what?  No one .. vets, et all, have expressed the most minor interest in this play - and I will give ALL the money it makes to the injured ones who we drop like cold turkeys.  You have been pivotal in my orientation, Father Berrigan .. they gave Job another 60, I hope you have another 90!  We need .. you!   
Anonymous | 6/16/2010 - 9:16pm
Oh, and Joe, may I suggest the White House for your protest, in view of how much money Mr. Obama has accepted from Big Oil & Goldman Sachs?
Anonymous | 6/16/2010 - 9:15pm
YAWN.
marc magisana | 6/16/2010 - 3:34pm
"A prophet is never appreciated in his own country."

I can't think of any person in my lifetime who has brought together artist and activist, the poet and the protestor, like Father Berrigan. A brave man who took chances to force America and the Church to see what they did not want to see:i.e.his ''burning paper instead of children''. He's one of our most under-appreciated poets/theologians as well.
Beth Cioffoletti | 6/16/2010 - 1:24pm
Interesting the respect and "awe" with which Berrigan and his co-horts in crime were treated in this courtroom this time around.  Maybe we already know that he is a legend.
JOE GIGLIO MR | 6/16/2010 - 1:12pm
Perhaps next year the protest can be in front of the corporate offices of a member of the militaty industrial complex?  Does Halliburton have an office in NYC?  GE does.
we vnornm | 6/16/2010 - 10:48am
I am and have been a great admirer of Daniel Berrigan, and invited him to speak at our Peace Studies Program at DePaul University in 1971.
 
Strategically, perhaps there is a better symbol for protest purposes than the Intrepid? Her achievements in the Pacific Campaign may have shortened the war and saved lives, American and Japanese. She welcomed back to Earth a number of U.S. astronauts. During the bad days of the Cold War she plowed the waters in a defensive capacity to protect the U.S. from Russian submarines.
 
While her role in Vietnam may be highly lamentable, many vets revere her. Perhaps there is a better symbol for Dan Berrigan to protest in the future? Methinks choosing the Intrepic may hurt the cause. bill