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The Catonsville Nine burned draft files form the Selective Service in Catonsville on May 17, 1968. From left, Brother David Darst, Marjorie Melville, Tom Lewis, George Mische, Rev. Philip Berrigan, John Hogan, Rev. Daniel Berrigan and Mary Moylan.
The Catonsville Nine burned draft files form the Selective Service in Catonsville on May 17, 1968. From left, Brother David Darst, Marjorie Melville, Tom Lewis, George Mische, Rev. Philip Berrigan, John Hogan, Rev. Daniel Berrigan and Mary Moylan. (Baltimore Sun Photo)

A committee marking the 50th anniversary of the seizing and burning of draft cards in Catonsville — a protest in 1968 that startled the nation and fueled other demonstrations against the Vietnam War — is hosting a series of commemorative events in May kicking off this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The group that came to be know as the Catonsville Nine included nine Catholic activists who came to the draft board office in Catonsville on May 17, 1968, seized 378 draft records and burned them on the parking lot to protest the war.

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The members were later tried in federal court and found guilty of destruction of U.S. property. They were sentenced to a total of 18 years jail. The incident became symbolic of the nation's mood regarding involvement in Vietnam and anti-war sentiments in general.

Berrigan died Saturday, age 94, at a Jesuit residence at Fordham University in New York. The notorious demonstration of the Catonsville Nine, and their ensuing trial, established him as a leading figure among advocates for peace and social justice.

On Friday, May 4, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Shriver Center, 1000 Hilltop Circle, will host a Catonsville Nine symposium with various speakers discussing the history of the incident, its impact on society at the time and its lasting relevance in peace movements.

A panel discussion, "Living Legacy Voices: History, Importance and Relevance of the Catonsville Nine," will take place at 4:30 p.m., moderated by radio host Marc Steiner and featuring among the panelists Margarita Bradford Furber — then-Marjorie Melville, one of the Catonsville Nine members.

Other events as part of the symposium will be a 6 p.m. dramatic reading "The Trial of the Catonsville Nine," featuring the Salem Players theater group.

On Saturday, May 5, a daylong schedule of events will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road, and Catonsville Library, 1100 Frederick Road.

Joe DeFilippo says he enjoys the intersection of music and history. A retired Baltimore County history teacher of nearly 40 years, he believes he can use music

Events include a film showing at 9:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. at the Catonsville Library depicting UMBC students' interviews of local Catonsville Nine-related activists and others, and an address at 10:30 at Catonsville Presbyterian Church by journalist and author Amy Goodman.

The day will also include a noon discussion at the library with residents including Bill Galvin, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector who is now an elder at Hope Presbyterian Church in Arbutus; State Del. Eric Ebersole, an alumnus of Catonsville High School; and David Hutton a Catonsville native whose 23rd birthday was May 17, 1968 — and whose draft record may have been among those on file that day at the Catonsville Selective Service Office.

At 2:30 p.m., a Catonsville Nine historical marker will be dedicated outside the Catonsville Library.

Then, on Sunday, a Catonsville Nine prayer service will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Salem Lutheran Church, 905 Frederick Road. The service will include comments from Pastor David K. Asendorf, Rev. Joseph Muth of St. Matthew Catholic Church, and Frida Berrigan, daughter of Catonsville Nine member Philip Berrigan. The event will also include music by the Charm City Labor Chorus.

This weekend's events are among commemorations taking place throughout the month sponsored by several groups related to UMBC, and by the Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans for Peace and other organizations. The schedule includes film showings, prayer vigils and lectures.

For the full schedule, go to catonsville9.org.

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