Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Good Friday 1970, the activist priest and poet Daniel Berrigan, whose resistance to the war in Vietnam included the ritual destruction of draft board records as a member of the Catonsville Nine, eluded the FBI and went underground immediately after giving a speech to thousands of students in the Cornell University gymnasium by exiting from the building inside one of Bread & Puppet Theater's disciple puppets. Berrigan died yesterday at the age of 94. This photo documents that day.
"'On the very day he was scheduled to begin his prison term, [Daniel Berrigan] left his office keys on a secretary’s desk in Anabel Taylor Hall and disappeared.' –Anke Wessels, director of Cornell’s Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy 
"Cornell celebrated Berrigan’s impending imprisonment for his involvement in the Catonsville Nine action by conducting a weekend-long 'America Is Hard to Find' event on April 17–19, 1970, which included a public appearance by the then-fugitive Berrigan before a crowd of 15,000 in Barton Hall. Also scheduled to appear were Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, Country Joe and the Fish, and Bread and Puppet Theatre.
Berrigan evaded FBI agents, who were present in large numbers, by climbing into one of the 15-foot tall puppets, walking out of the venue, and into a getaway car.”

From another post:
“I was in solitude all of a sudden in this large gathering,” Berrigan recalled when someone whispered in his ear, “do you want to go out of here?” After a few moments of contemplation, the fugitive priest concurred. He would make his escape from the clutches of the FBI with a little help from the Bread and Puppet Theater. Father Berrigan recalled being told by an anonymous benefactor, “just follow me, the lights will go out, just hold this stick.” He later described his escape:
“When the lights lowered for a rock group, I slipped off backstage. Students helped lower around me an enormous puppet of one of the twelve apostles . . . Inside the burlap, I had only to hold a stick that kept the papier-mâché head aloft, and follow the others, making for a panel truck . . . I climbed in, blind as a bat, sure of my radar, spoiling for fun. It was guerrilla theater, a delight, just short of slapstick. An FBI agent ran for the phone, our license plate was recorded, the chase was on. But our trusty van, hot with destiny, galloped for the woods, and we made it.”
Later, in 1981, Bread & Puppet was inspired by and collaborated with Daniel Berrigan, his brother Philip, and their colleagues of the Ploughshares Eight anti-nuclear activist group to create the production "Swords and Ploughshares."

1 comment:

Ms. said...

I was, and still am moved and grateful for him. It is sad when a great being leaves the planet.