Protest group arrested at White House

December 30, 1991|By Peter Hermann

Five Baltimore residents were among a group of anti-war demonstrators arrested yesterday afternoon when they scaled the fence of the White House, hung a banner from a tree and threw red ink or blood onto the gate of the visitors entrance, police said.

Thirteen people -- all members of the Atlantic Life Community, a religious disarmament coalition -- were taken into custody by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.

All face misdemeanor charges.

An ALC member, Mary Berberich, said the group was in Washington for its annual Faith and Resistance Retreat.

She said the East Coast-based coalition was exploring the theme of "America, Founded in Exploitation," as a challenge to President Bush's New World Order, which it compared to the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyages.

Mark Rupert, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, said that agents arrested eight people at about 11:20 a.m. when they jumped over the fence at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ms. Berberich said all of the protesters were quickly arrested, except for two who managed to climb a tree and hang a banner that said, "Slaughter of the Innocents, 1492 to 1992."

Mr. Rupert said two of those arrested -- including Phillip F. Berrigan of Baltimore -- were charged with defacing government property after they threw what they claimed to be human blood on a gate column at the visitors entrance.

Mr. Berrigan, a former priest who operates out of a peace mission in Baltimore, has made a career of protesting since the Vietnam War.

Mr. Berrigan has marched against everything from the death penalty in downtown Baltimore to weapons research at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory south of Columbia.

In 1988, he was sentenced to six months in jail in connection with a demonstration aboard a warship at the Norfolk Naval Base in which the ship's missile launchers were "symbolically disarmed."

Other Baltimore residents charged with unlawful entry include Gregory Boertje and James Reale, who Ms. Berberich said hung the banner.

Lin Romano and Michele Naar, also Baltimore residents, were arrested by Park Police after they refused to leave the protest site, Ms. Berberich said.

Mr. Bush was in Texas yesterday.

The group said they plan a protest today in front of the Pentagon. Ms. Berberich said plans "definitely" include members getting arrested.

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