The Catonsville Nine File
About the siteAbout the collections
HomeThe planning and consequences of the Catonsville Nine actionThe trial of the Catonsville NineHistorical context of the Catonsville Nine actionProfiles of the Catonsville NineBrowse the collections
The ActionThe BeginningResistanceBlood to FireConsequences
As the American involvement in Vietnam escalated in 1966 and 1967, members of the Baltimore Interfaith Peace Mission felt more and more that mass demonstrations were too safe and unimaginative. They sought a more symbolic act of civil disobedience - a non-violent attack on the machinery of war.

Customs House Raid
Out of this thinking evolved their first act of resistance. They chose the Baltimore Selective Service office, located downtown at the United States Customs House, and decided to deface draft records with the liturgical symbol of blood.

On October 17, 1967, Phillip Berrigan, artist Tom Lewis, poet David Eberhardt, and United Church of Christ minister James Mengel entered the draft board and poured blood on several hundred draft records. They were arrested and later tried and convicted for the action.

The press statement included these words: "We shed our blood willingly and gratefully....We pour it upon these files to illustrate that with them and with these offices begins the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood ten thousand miles away"

Looking Ahead
After the Customs House raid, Berrigan and other Interfaith members debated their next action. Some favored a change of tactic; others were reluctant to submit their families to further court action. Berrigan, however, argued the importance of extreme engagement and personal risk.

Sources for further investigation  
Related digital artifacts

5 other related artifacts are available