Defense plant vigil caps Catonsville Nine reunion Martin Marietta 'war-making' assailed

May 24, 1993|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

Peace activists capped a Catonsville Nine reunion weekend by spattering the entrance of Martin Marietta Corp.'s Middle River defense plant with blood yesterday and holding a vigil on company property.

Unlike their anti-war movement mentors a quarter-century ago -- two of whom provided yesterday's vigil with moral support -- the self-styled "Middle River Nine" found it difficult to get arrested immediately.

One managed to get arrested at midafternoon on a trespassing charge by wandering away from the other demonstrators, and most of the others followed suit by ignoring a company official's request that they leave by 6 p.m., Baltimore County police said.

The protest began at 10 a.m. as the activists threw their own blood on the Naval & Aero Systems division building, knocked futilely on a door and read aloud a letter addressed to Martin Marietta's chairman, Norman R. Augustine.

"We call on you to stop the war-making," read the Rev. John Bell, a Washington activist. "It is not enough to say that all of this weapons work makes jobs."

"The Catonsville Nine protest raised a voice against the Vietnam

War," he said. "But it was also a voice raised against militarism . . . the policies that line the pockets of war-makers like yourselves at a terrible cost."

Martin Marietta, which has headquarters in Bethesda and 94,000 employees around the world, is Maryland's largest company. With the $3 billion acquisition of General Electric Corp.'s aerospace operations this year, it became the nation's largest defense contractor.

Among the company's products are Patriot missiles and launchers, and night vision systems for F-16 fighter planes. About 70 percent of its work is defense-related.

The closest the demonstrators came to their stated goal of a meeting with Mr. Augustine was an exchange between Mr. Bell and Al Kamhi, the Middle River plant's director of public affairs.

"We want Martin Marietta to stop making weapons of death," Mr. Bell said.

"I'm sorry, that's the end of our conversation," Mr. Kamhi replied.

A dozen Baltimore County police officers and two police wagons were on the scene for more than two hours, but after discussions with company officials, all but two patrol officers left about 1:45 p.m.

"We don't have business going on as usual," Mr. Kamhi said. "They're not disrupting anything. The officers have other things they need to do."

About 3:30 p.m., Lynn Fredriksson, 29, of Baltimore, was arrested after she began wandering around the property and refused to return to the vigil, police said. She was issued a criminal citation for trespassing and released.

Police said Mr. Kamhi, about 5:55 p.m., asked the other demonstrators to leave by 6 o'clock. They left -- but only after being arrested by the police. They were issued criminal citations and released.

The peace activists held empty bowls that Lin Romano of Baltimore said symbolized "people who hunger for food, housing, jobs, health care, human rights" while the government spends tax dollars on weapons.

The protesters were mostly children or teen-agers when the Catonsville Nine burned draft records with homemade napalm outside a Frederick Road Selective Service office 25 years ago to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Two of the Catonsville Nine, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., and Thomas P. Lewis, stood on Eastern Boulevard for an hour yesterday behind banners supporting the vigil. Six members of the group gathered at Goucher College this weekend for a reunion.

Occasional motorists honked in sympathy or opposition; one passenger shouted, "I'm for war!" But a festive atmosphere far removed from the tensions of 1968 prevailed. Father Berrigan's 11-year-old niece, Katie, frolicked in the grass, and Mr. Lewis played with his 16-month-old daughter, Nora Marie.

The connection between the two protests a quarter-century apart "is we're still stuck with Martin Marietta and we're trying to help them unstick," said Father Berrigan, who lives in New York. His brother, Philip, is still a Baltimore peace activist.

Another protester, Dave Eberhardt, recalled spending 21 months in federal prison for pouring blood on draft files at Baltimore's Customs House in October 1967 as part of the Baltimore Four, a precursor to the Catonsville Nine.

He was joined in that act of resistance by Mr. Lewis, the Rev. James L. Mengel and Philip Berrigan, whom Mr. Eberhardt regards as a modern-day prophet.

"Having Philip Berrigan in town is like having Amos or Hosea, having a saint. He gets so little recognition," said Mr. Eberhardt, now director of Offender Aid and Restoration, a nonprofit group that works with prisoners. "Would that Gov. [William Donald] Schaefer or Mayor [Kurt L.] Schmoke could have welcomed the Catonsville Nine."

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