The Catonsville Nine were nine Catholic activists who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968, they went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured over them home-made napalm (an incendiary used extensively by the US military in Vietnam), and set them on fire. Then they sang, prayed, spoke with reporters and waited to be arrested by the Baltimore County police.
“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.”
The Catonsville Nine were tried in federal court in Baltimore in October 1968. Large demonstrations occurred outside the Federal Courthouse on Calvert Street during the trial. The nine were found guilty of destruction of U.S. property and were sentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail.
The Catonsville Nine inspired many other anti-draft and anti-military actions in the 1960s and 1970s, including the D.C. 9, Silver Spring 3, Chicago 8, Harrisburg 7 and Camden 28. It is unknown how many persons were not drafted because of these actions.
As of 2009 the movement had morphed into a continuing movement with an emphasis on nuclear weapons including the so-called “Plowshares” actions.