Peluso2 8/3 Year of the Plague

So more about the Berrigans and me. Daniel & Philip, brothers to each other and Catholic priests. Daniel, the poet, was a Jesuit and his brother Philip, a Josephite priest. And you can throw into the group Thomas Merton. But more about him later. The Berrigans were anti Viet Nam war activists and became famous in the Catholic war resistance. Even Martin Luther King was for a time on the board of the Catholic anti war group which got me in trouble. (To see them, watch King of Prussia, a film about one of the Berrigans dramatic escapades – staring Martin Sheen & the Berrigans & Liz. McAlister.) In 1968, along with a group of 7 others they entered a draft board and grabbed and burned some draft registration files. The Catonsville 9 was the play Daniel wrote about their trial.

The notorious Catonsville 9 walked into the Catonsville Maryland draft board and destroyed several hundred young men's draft records. They escalated American anti-war protests from non-violent sit-ins to confrontational actions, non life-threatening sabotage, The American Catholic left used their pulpits to build the resistance groups which, following the Berrigan example, successfully attacked many draft boards. The Berrigans, having fled after being sentenced, skipping bail, became news-worthy fugitives. They played cat and mouse with the FBI, hiding underground, usually with well-to-do liberals and met with and organized and motivated these cadres.

So I was a young math professor at Marymount Manhattan College. My first academic job after grad school. And Philip Berrigan was chaplain at Marymount, then a woman's college. And Elizabeth McAlister, a nun, was president of the college.

The Berrigans and Thomas Merton ran a hippy infested anti-war center, Iron Mountain, at an unused Episcopal church in the Bronx where I was a volunteer. Over the phone I raised money and soon became a member of one of the Berrigan cadres. Our group of about 10 young people decided to raid the two draft boards covering the small state of Delaware. Being 28 and employed I was designated to rent the apartment near Wilmington where the group lived the couple months during which we cased and planned our Delaware raids.

Liz, the president of my polite woman's college had joined the Delaware raiding group, as did me and Judy Peluso. And by then Liz and Philip were lovers. I those days many American priests and nuns were “coming out”. By then, 1972, Philip was no longer free on-the-run had been captured and was in a federal prison. Her love letters were smuggled into his jail by an “on-good-behavior”, accommodating prisoner. He was a self-serving informer. She wrote about Delaware and gave details which lead to my being caught.

The plan we used was used in many successful draft board raids. A young Harvard med school guy and I were to enter the small federal building which housed the draft board during business hours. We were to hide out and then, when the building was empty and locked, we were to let in some others (with a kids swimming pool and chemicals) and then inflate the swimming pool and fill it with bleach (chemicals to represent napalm which was made by Dupont, a big Delaware company) and dump files into the kids pool. Very symbolic.

So me and Barry W entered the stone and marble building near closing time and meandered up to the second floor and entered a large supply closet. We sat quietly in a dusty corner. Very quiet. And waited nervously. Then... Bang! Hands-up! We were arrested by FBI agents. I was caught with a co-conspirator hiding out in a closet in the Wilmington Draft Board.

The adventure of the arrest and the many years of pre-trial delays and the resolution will follow in Peluso3.