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May 1968 in U.S.A.: How the Catonsville 9 and Baltimore 4 fought the war

May 1968 in U.S.A.: How the Catonsville 9 and Baltimore 4 fought the war

While the Film Society of Lincoln Center wraps its showcase works exploring the legacy of May ’68, and NPR presents the echos of ’68, Baltimore City paper, offers this insightful, and thoroughly researched article by Joey Tropes exploring how thirteen anti-war activists in Maryland jump-started the anti-war movement in the U.S.A.

Hit and Stay
The Catonsville Nine and Baltimore Four Actions Revisited

“Forty years ago this week during the Vietnam War, nine Catholic peace activists took a draft office in Catonsville, and the nation, by surprise.

On May 17, 1968, the men and women who would come to be known as the Catonsville Nine entered Selective Service Local Board No. 33, located on the second floor of the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1010 Frederick Road, and removed 378 draft files. The files were mostly 1-A records, which corresponded to young men considered available for immediate and unrestricted military service. Together the men and women took the draft files to a grassy patch behind the building where tipped-off reporters were waiting for them. They then set the files ablaze with homemade napalm, recited a prayer, made statements to the press, and waited peacefully to be arrested. This was a “hit and stay” action. Simply put, this means committing an illegal act of defiance and then waiting around for the police to be arrested….

Today, in the midst of another endless war, this bit of local history is very much worth revisiting not only because it lent legitimacy to a movement that floundered on the brink of absurdly falling apart and highlighted the connection between the peace, poverty, and civil-rights movements, but also because many of these same activists are still working among us. As Mische says, anyone could do what the members of the Baltimore Four and Catonsville Nine did. And even at a time when there is no draft to motivate young people into taking action and an African-American man has a better than average chance to take the Democratic Party nomination and become president, rather than congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come, it might benefit Americans to remember just how connected things like poverty, race, violence, prison, and war in fact are and how far we still have to go.”

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