On a warm spring day in 1966, a nineteen-year-old Minnesotan by the name of Barry Bondhus broke into his local draft board and dumped two large bucketfuls of human feces into a filing cabinet, mutilating several hundred I-A draft records in protest against the Vietnam war. The offender and his eleven brothers, sons of a machinist who had threatened to shoot anyone who attempted to induct his boys into the American army, had fastidiously collected their organic wastes for two weeks in preparation for the raid.
This primordial deed is known in the annals of the anti-war protest as The Big Lake One action, in honor of Barry Bondhus’s hometown, Big Lake, Minnesota. Barry Bondhus, who had calmly awaited arrest after his performance, served an eighteen-month sentence at Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution and came home in March of 1968 to run his father’s machine shop. Big Lake One was hardly mentioned in the press, but Bondhus’s was “the movement that started the Movement.”
Since Bondhus in 1966, over sixty Americans have awaited arrest after destroying government draft records with the less rustic media of blood, paint, and fire. The Big Lake One was followed by:
The Baltimore Four (600 draft records defiled with blood by Father Philip Berrigan, Reverend James Mengel, David Eberhardt, Thomas Lewis, October 1967);
The Catonsville Nine (Father Philip Berrigan strikes again in the company of his brother Father Daniel Berrigan and seven other Catholic priests and laymen, destroying 378 draft files with home-made napalm, May 1968);
The Boston Two (several hundred draft records mutilated with black paint by students Suzi Williams and Frank Femia, June 1968);
The Milwaukee Fourteen (some 10,000 draft records napalmed, September 1968);
The Pasadena Three (some 500 records burned, May 20, 1969);
The Silver Spring Three (several hundred records of a Maryland draft board mutilated with black paint and blood, May 21, 1969);
The Chicago Fifteen (some 40,000 draft records burned on May 25 of this year);
Women Against Daddy Warbucks (several thousand records mutilated in a Manhattan draft board by the first all-women band of draft board raiders, last July 2);
The New York Eight (some 75,000 records mutilated in a Bronx draft board on August 1st, and several thousand more in a Queens draft board on August 15th, by a group of four women and four men, three of them Catholic priests).
There is no name for this radical core of the peace movement. The only noun given to its forays is the word “action”; the participants are called “actors”; the only verb assigned to their gestures is “act.” “When is so and so going to act?” Men and women who believe they have exhausted every other means of protesting the Vietnam war raid a draft board, haul out records and burn them, stand around singing liberation songs while awaiting arrest. The draft board actions have elements of both terrorist strike and liturgical drama. They aim to destruct and to instruct; to impede in …
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Moral Choice October 9, 1969