Press Herald Online

Tuesday, October 28, 1997

Berrigan sentenced to two years in BIW protest; nine backers arrested

At left: Harriet Nestel of Leverett, Mass., Marcia Gagliardi of Athol, Mass., and Tom Feagley of Beverly, Mass., chant in support of peace activist Philip Berrigan on Monday outside a Portland courthouse. Nestel and Gagliardi were later arrested.
Staff photo by John Patriquin

By Susan Rayfield
Staff Writer
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
Anti-war activist Philip Berrigan was sentenced Monday to two years in prison for vandalizing a destroyer during a protest at Bath Iron Works last winter.

The 74-year-old former Roman Catholic priest from Baltimore is expected to get out of prison in 13 months. He will serve two years of supervised release and must pay $4,703.89, his one-sixth share of the damage to the USS The Sullivans.

Six protesters were convicted in the Ash Wednesday raid on the ship. Berrigan was the first to appear in Portland before U.S. District Judge Gene Carter.

On Monday, nine supporters were arrested after chaining themselves to a fence at BIW's plant in Portland.

''If Americans knew the truth about the Vietnam War, they would have stopped it,'' Berrigan told the court. ''Some say 4 million people were killed. If the American people knew the truth about our nuclear gamesmanship and intervention they would stop it.

''I know enough about the lies, bribery, waste, death and official treachery,'' Berrigan said.

Berrigan's 76-year-old brother, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke in the defendant's behalf.

The elder Berrigan took note of his family's commitment to the peace movement by recalling that he and his brother destroyed draft records in Maryland 30 years ago as part of their opposition to the Vietnam War.

''We were simply told by our parents, 'Follow your conscience and let the chips fall,' '' said the Jesuit priest, who faces a court appearance in New York next month for a Hiroshima Day protest.

Clark appealed to Carter to depart from sentencing guidelines intended for ordinary criminal activity and consider that Philip Berrigan had committed ''an act of conscience'' on behalf of humanity.

''Their acts were obviously symbolic: to try to show the world that a ship like the USS The Sullivans is a threat to humanity,'' Clark said.

After the hearing, Philip Berrigan returned to Cumberland County Jail, awaiting transfer to a federal prison.

In separate appearances Monday, Jesuit priest Stephen Kelly of New York City got 21 months in federal prison. Mark Colville, who is associated with the Cesar Chavez Catholic Worker in New Haven, Conn., got 13 months. Both also received two years of supervised release, and must pay the same restitution as Berrigan.

Hearings were scheduled Wednesday for the remaining three: Steve Baggarly, 31, of Norfolk, Va.; Susan Crane, 53, of Ukiah, Calif.; and Thomas P. Lewis-Borbely, 56, of Worcester, Mass.

The amount of restitution Berrigan was ordered to pay represents his share of the more than $28,000 in damages done to the USS The Sullivans on Feb. 12, when Berrigan and five others, calling themselves the Prince of Peace Plowshares, hammered and poured their blood on the destroyer.

The activists believe the destroyers have no value, and have refused to pay.

Berrigan could have been sentenced to 21 to 27 months in prison. U.S. Attorney Helen Kazanjian recommended the middle of the range. With time served and good behavior, he is expected to get out in about 13 months.

The veteran of more than eight years in prison for war protests, starting in the 1970s, has said he will not pay a dime.

Kazanjian asked that the Plowshares be treated like anyone else.

''Throughout, they have displayed an egregious sense of entitlement, deserving of special treatment,'' she told Carter.

Kazanjian questioned the group's compassion. The attack, in the middle of the night on a dark ship, ''terrorized'' the 300 sailors living on board, Kazanjian said.

''Despite their characterization of non-violence, they smashed parts of the ship, threw blood around, and had to be restrained,'' she said.

Outside the courtroom, chants and drums kept up a steady beat.

Portland resident William Slavick, who has known Berrigan for 30 years, said he would measure Berrigan's character by the highest standard - love of God and neighbor. When the law and public policy are at the service of justice and the common good, Berrigan lives in harmony with it, said Slavik, who is with the Catholic peace group Pax Christi. But when hundreds of billions of dollars are used for unneeded arms and wars, Berrigan ''accepts his responsibility to actively oppose such evil.''

''He is a heroic citizen,'' Slavick said.

Police arrested nine supporters during a demonstration at BIW's Portland plant.

They were arrested at 2:15 p.m. after chaining themselves to the gate of the repair yard on the Portland waterfront, about half a mile from the federal courthouse.

The protesters, including two juveniles, were booked at Cumberland County Jail on charges of criminal trespass and failure to disperse, said Lt. Nelson Bartley of the Portland Police Department.

Arrested were: Frances Crowe, 78, of Northampton, Mass.; Michael Donnelly, 61, of Portland; Mary Donnelly, 59, of Portland; Marcia Gagliardi, 50, of Athol, Mass.; Harriet Nestel, 58, of Leverett, Mass.; Audrey M. Stewart, 18, of Orono; and Jessica Stewart, 18, of Yarmouth. The juveniles were released to their parents' custody, Bartley said.

Staff writer Joshua L. Weinstein and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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