Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism
Part IV: poets of the draft resistance: [the prison diary of Jim Forest], pp. -377 PDF (3.5 MB)
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. 377 THE PRISON DIARY OF JIM FOREST 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 of 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."