Published on Sunday, December 22, 2002 by the Maine Sunday Telegram
Berrigan Remembered with Maine Rally
by Ted Cohen
BATH Philip Berrigan, the famous pacifist who died earlier this month, was honored Saturday by a group of anti-war protesters outside Bath Iron Works. "He was a teacher who taught us about consciousness," said Jack Buzzell of Portland, representing Veterans for Peace. "If we don't speak up here, we are as complicit as the next man."
Buzzell, an Army veteran, was among about 25 people who rallied outside the shipyard to remember Berrigan. Buzzell decried the use of tax dollars for BIW destroyers, money that could otherwise be used for education or health care.
"We don't need weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We don't need to perpetuate world domination."
Berrigan, 79, a former Catholic priest, died Dec. 6 at Jonah House in Baltimore, a communal residence for pacifists that he founded in 1973.
Berrigan and five other activists were convicted for damaging a Navy destroyer docked at BIW in 1997. The protesters boarded the ship, damaged its control panels with hammers and spilled their own blood on it from baby bottles.
Berrigan was given a two-year prison sentence and ordered to refrain from criminal conduct following his release. Among those convicted and jailed for the 1997 incident at BIW was Susan Crane, from Jonah House. She came to Saturday's rally to explain that Berrigan "talked about the need to love our enemies. The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' applies to everybody."
Crane called Berrigan "an example of how to live one's faith."
George and Maureen Kehoe Ostensen of Belfast were among those urging that BIW build hospital ships instead of war ships.
Another protester, Richard Rhames of Biddeford, said, "We've got tons of money, but we're spending it on the wrong things. We're building more weapons we don't need, while we can't afford to build schools we do."
Rhames called himself a fair-weather protester, saying that unlike some of those who were around him, he's not willing to go to jail for his beliefs. "I'm a dilettante compared to them," he said. "I like to sleep in my own bed at night."
As the protesters staged their rally, BIW police watched them closely to make sure they didn't enter the BIW property.
In a city with an economy that depends heavily on BIW's jobs and the goods the company buys, war protesters aren't necessarily popular.
"They would not be here protesting if the iron works weren't here," said Everett B. Perkins, a BIW retiree and Army veteran. He said he disagrees with their message but believes in their right to publicize it.
Berrigan saw his protests as "prophetic acts" based on the biblical injunction to beat swords into plowshares.
Though Berrigan was an Army veteran who fought in Europe in World War II, he persistently and publicly criticized the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
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