• Email
  • Single Page
  • Print

The Ultra-Resistance

In fact, both of the Milwaukee District Attorneys assigned to the case recommended that the State trial be put aside in favor of the Federal trial, and Judge Charles Larson, on the morning of May 5th agreed to postpone his State trial until June 23rd, well past the Federal date. But three hours later, reportedly under the influence of “a political pressure very high up,” he broke his word and set the trial back to May 12th, a week away. During that morning, some of the defendants who had already flown home had to be paged at airports, and were recalled to Milwaukee the same day to prepare for the trial. Enraged by these machinations, twelve of the defendants proceeded to prepare their own defense. This was a new tactic and one that probably will be repeated in other movement cases coming to trial this year.

It is certainly the first time in legal history that gum-chewing seminarians cross-examined each other while walking barefoot to the water fountain. There was a bizarre contrast between the genteel provincial decorum of the Milwaukee County District Court and the aggressive, impertinent informality of these self-styled lawyers and of their frazzled supporters. One of the two district attorneys who carried on the prosecution was black, the other white and Jewish. They were both twenty-nine years old, both dressed with Edwards and Hanley nattiness, both noted doves who had supported Eugene McCarthy’s Wisconsin campaign. “The immorality of this war bothers me more than its unconstitutionality,” Deputy District Attorney Allen Samson would say during a court recess. “We have to accept the Viet Cong as a fact of life. We’re using Vietnam the way Russia used Hungary and Czechoslovakia. If I were boss I’d have our boys home by tomorrow noon. I’m more violently anti-war than any one in the courtroom, but I don’t burn draft records, it’s bad for the Peace Movement.”

I’m as violently anti-war as anyone in the courtroom,” his assistant, Harold Jackson Jr., would say. He is from East Harlem and had gone through Groton and Colgate on scholarships. “Our draft laws are obscene. The Wyzanski decision* was great. It shows what one judge can do. But these draft-file burners are the worst thing that could happen to us liberals. They’ve polarized the community so I thought I would have to resign.” The two D.A.’s, looking lonely and uncomfortable at the prosecution bench, would glance apologetically, frequently, nervously at the Fourteen’s supporters behind them.

Confronting the shiny hardware of the Court, jamming its seats to capacity, sat the spectators from the Movement, whose rage at the system was intensified by the facts that D.A. Jackson was black, that D.A. Samson was a heavy contributor to Resist, that his radical kid brother was a prominent peace organizer at the University of Wisconsin, that they should not have taken the case. The priests, students, and defendants’ relatives were decorated as thickly as Bolivian generals with Resistance buttons.

There were several Movement celebrities: Tom Cornell, a prominent Catholic pacifist who had recently served a jail term for a protest career illuminated by the burning of nine consecutive draft cards; George McVey, the Movement dentist from Rochester who, out of devotion to his former Holy Cross classmate Philip Berrigan, drills resisters’ teeth at no charge late into the night; Father Bernard Meyer of the D.C. Nine, a group comprising four other priests and two nuns which had ransacked the offices of the Dow Chemical Company the preceding March in what was called “the first witness attack upon the military-industrial complex.” (“It’s very easy for us priests to go to jail after all those years of seminary,” observed Father Meyer, who faces a maximum sentence of thirty-five years, “three square meals and no women anyway.”) In the front row of the courtroom, chewing on raw carrots, pawing at each other like puppies in a litter, lounged a large contingent of pink-cheeked teenagers from a Summerhill-type school in Canada. Their year’s study consisted of a course in “Crime and Punishment,” and they had been taken to the Milwaukee trial as their school outing of the year.

The defendants sat at a long book-laden table at the left of the courtroom well, reading from law volumes, taking notes, raising their hands to address the Court, looking like a graduate seminar at a respectable university. The Milwaukee twelve were a mixed bag. Their ages ranged from twenty-two to forty-seven, they were dressed in a startling variety of attires—blue jeans, business suits, clerical blacks—and their only common denominator was their idealism and their rather formidable scholarship. A local sheriff had described them, with civic boastfulness, as “the classiest bunch of defendants ever.” One felt at times that Milwaukee was proud of them, as of its beer.

At the right of the table, by the prosecutor’s bench, sat the eldest and most scholarly of this brain trust, Christian Brother Basil O’Leary, head of the Economics department at St. Mary’s College in Minnesota, B.A. in economics from Loyola, M.A. in economics from the University of Chicago, PhD. in economics from Notre Dame. Brother O’Leary, forty-seven years old, a wry and spectacled scholastic in an impeccable pin-striped suit, was a contributor to Commonweal and an associate editor of Continuum, in which he had recently published an article entitled “The Role of Moral Theology in the Universe of the Person.” Referring to the events of September 24th, 1968, as “a symbolic, somewhat bizarre conduct to awaken my fellow citizens,” Brother O’Leary was to testify that he had gone into the Milwaukee action because, after due reflection, he had found no reason not to do so.

Others sitting around the defendants’ table:

Fred Ojile, 25, B.A. in philosophy from Catholic University, one year at the University of Michigan Law School, was a wiry youngster whose sunken cheeks, abundant hair, and stalking stride gave him a startling resemblance to Nureyev.

Doug Marvy, 28, the only Jewish member of the group, a graduate student in mathematics at Yale and at the University of Minnesota, was the author of several teachers’ manuals for grade school mathematics classes.

Robert Graf, 26, six years a Jesuit seminarian, B.A. in philosophy from St. Louis University, was completing his Master’s in sociology at Marquette.

Daniel Cotton, 25, also a former seminarian, had earned his B.A. in psychology at St. Louis University, where he had been a co-chairman of SDS, after two years of field work in Appalachia with the Glenmary Missionaries.

Father Alfred Janicke, 34, an enormously popular parish priest from St. Paul, Minnesota, had represented his archdiocese in the Minneapolis Urban Coalition.

Father James Harney, 28, who kept saying to the Court, “Don’t cut us up, Judge,” was an angular and inflammable Boston Irish curate.

Reverend Jon Higgenbotham of the Church of Scientology, 28, obese and bearded, the only defendant whose appearance bordered on the hippie style, had participated in the raid with particular elation, loudly singing “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead” as he danced around the burning draft files.

Father Robert Cunnane, 35, a powerfully built, jovial Boston Irish priest with the remains of a brogue, had been provoked into joining the Milwaukee Fourteen by his rage at the six-year sentence imposed upon Philip Berrigan for the Baltimore Four action. (“I said to myself, wow, this country is really bad when a priest pours some blood on draft files and gets six years in prison, these courts are digging their own graves.”)

Father Lawrence Rosenbaugh, 34, a gentle, round-faced priest who had worked as a longshoreman on the Milwaukee docks, belonged to the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a society which bans Commonweal, America, and Worship from its seminarians’ bookshelves as being subversive. Rosenbaugh, who joined the action “because Christianity wasn’t moving like a Movement should,” said he looked forward to prison life as being “just like seminary, with more time and freedom to read.”

Father Anthony Mullaney, 40, a tall, very handsome Benedictine monk with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, a former teacher at Boston University, had been radicalized by two recent years of social work in the Roxbury section of Boston. He used formidably scholastic language. “Picketing and burning draft files are not discrete variables, they are a continuum of action.”

James Forest, 28, whose bushy mustache and steel-rimmed glasses gave him the air of a Victorian intellectual, was a prominent Catholic pacifist to whom Thomas Merton had dedicated his last book. Son of a Communist Party organizer, a convert to Catholicism, Forest had almost become a Benedictine monk, and had been founder and co-chairman, along with Philip Berrigan, of the Catholic Peace Fellowship.

Four of the twelve—Graf, Marvy, Forest, Ojile—were married. The wives sat calmly through the trial, admiring their husbands’ competence at the bar. “Jim has six ways of making any one point and he always chooses the best way,” Linda Forest would say.

Two members of the original fourteen had decided to retain counsel: Jerry Gardner, 26, a graduate student of mathematics at Marquette University; and Michael Cullen, 27, an Irish immigrant who had left a lucrative job selling insurance for Omaha Mutual to start a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Milwaukee, and had become a hero of the city’s peace movement after a much-publicized ten-day protest fast in the Milwaukee cathedral.

The defendants, on good days, referred to their judge as “grandpa,” a kinder name than the Movement has given to any other man on the bench. A benign, gauche man in his sixties, he was officially called “Ozaukee County Judge Charles Larson.” His manner evoked some folksy early morning TV show like Captain Kangaroo, on which a fumbling jurist presides over a court of rebellious puppets. He was tall, mournful-faced, heavy-lidded, thin-lipped, cauliflower-eared, and his favorite word was “inflammatory.” He was the Wisconsin Commander of the American Legion, and, at the time of being offered his first judgeship twelve years ago, had “reluctantly and with a heavy heart” stopped his campaign for the Legion’s National Commandership to step up to the bench. Former prosecutor at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, father of Vietnam veterans, chairman of the Wisconsin Chapter of Crusade for Freedom, little acquainted with the history of the Vietnam war, Judge Larson was also a devout Roman Catholic.

The presence at the defendants’ table of five priests, to all appearances the safest kind—regular guys, jovial, ball-playing, Bingo-organizing Irish curates—must have added much to the grief and confusion of his small blue eyes. One could not help pitying this pious provincial for whom priests were replete with an authority and sacredness undistinguishable from that of policemen and National Guardsmen, and whose allegiances to God-and-country were suddenly sundered by having to judge the saviors of his soul. For Judge Larson was a loyal, soft-hearted, sentimental man, an ardent amateur poet who was fond of quoting couplets he had written in honor of girls’ weddings: “She is blessed with qualities rare,/ Statuesque, impeccably attired/ Always knowing when to wear/ That which makes her most admired.”

  1. *

    in which a Massachusetts Federal District Court held that the present Selective Service System unconstitutionally discriminates against conscientious objectors who do not adhere to an institutionalized religion.

  • Email
  • Single Page
  • Print