University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Arts Collection

Page View

Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism

Forest, Jim
Part IV: poets of the draft resistance: [the prison diary of Jim Forest],   pp. [375]-377 PDF (3.5 MB)

Page 377

On September 24, 1968, fourteen men, including five priests and a
protestant minister, removed approximately 10,000 1-A draft files from
Milwaukee's Selective Service boards and burned them with home-made
napalm in a nearby square dedicated to America's war dead. They
awaited arrest (singing "We Shall Overcome" and reading Scripture)
and were subsequently indicted on three counts each in the state and
federal courts. Bail on the state charges of burglary, arson, and theft
was originally set at $30,000 per person, but was reduced through
appeal. As ARTS IN SOCIETY goes to press, 13 of the 14 have
been found guilty of the state charges and are in prison.
James Forest, 27, is one of the Milwaukee 14, a poet, and co-chairman
of the Catholic Peace Fellowship. After receiving a conscientious
objector discharge from the Navy in 1961, he joined the staff of the
New York Catholic Worker House of Hospitality and later was managing
editor of THE CATHOLIC WORKER. He has contributed to several
books, was co-editor of A PENNY A COPY: READINGS FROM THE
CATHOLIC WORKER and has written for numerous periodicals.
Bob Graf, 27, a Milwaukee native and one of the 14, is an editor of
THE CATHOLIC RADICAL and graduate student in sociology at
Marquette University. He is a graduate of St. Louis University and
for seven years was a member of the Society of Jesus.
Jennie Orvino, author of one chap book of poetry -LIKE A TREE
and PAPER BREASTS (Gunrunner) - has coordinated publications and
speakers for the Milwaukee 14.
Had it been a dozen socks or pornography that were burned, the
result would have been acclaim from church and civic groups and
a $50 fine.
Or had the charred remains of the day's war victims been carried
to that grassy triangle (a war memorial, after all), Milwaukee and the
nation would have shuddered from the sight and stench of deaths
America prefers not to imagine. Perhaps arrest would have been for
violation of burial ordinances and sanitation regulations.
As it was, there were only dull forms - "records of our society's war
machine," as the public statement put it, paper links in death's chain
command. While the nation's bombs explode upon Vietnamese flesh, we
14 are in prison. With few exceptions,
church and civic groups remain silent or proclaim, as did the Milwaukee
Council of Churches "that the burning of draft records cannot
be condoned."

Go up to Top of Page