Harrisburg 8

A documentary about the trial of a group of Catholic anti-Vietnam protesters charged with a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.

00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with a blue screen.

00:31Copy video clip URL Fade into the title screen and sequence for the program. One of the Harrisburg Eight talks about the upcoming trial. We see footage of a highway sign that reads Harrisburg, 8. “I can’t predict the outcome in Harrisburg at the end of this trial, but just on the chance that we’re convicted, in the minds of the American people we will be convicted for a conspiracy to bomb and to kidnap.”

01:22Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of the Federal Building. Protesters armed with signs and flyers get the word out about the trial of the Harrisburg Eight. One of the protesters comments, “Because I think it’s something that has to be done. Those of us who believe that there are things in this country that should be changed feel that we have to do something to see them changed and we have to put ourselves on the spot to do it.” Another woman says, “Well it’s an attempt to bring people to trial to scare other people by the example of these people and to bring these people to trial for saying things and talking about things and really for speaking out against the war. The whole thing of the conspiracy is pretty much of a made up thing to bring these people to trial.”

04:10Copy video clip URL Bob Hoyt of the Harrisburg Defense Committee goes into detail about the case developments and those involved. The group had been accused of plotting to kidnap National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and bomb a few heating tunnels in Washington D.C. The plot had allegedly been conceived by Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, two Catholic priests who were already serving time in jail for draft board raids. Both men denied the charges.

05:45Copy video clip URL Congressman William R. Anderson explains his reasons for sending a letter to then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover urging him to give the men a fair trial. “I said in effect that I thought he had departed from his charter and that if he had evidence of recognition of any crimes, that he should resort to due process of law.” The videomakers then cut back to Hoyt, who once again lays out the story. Hoyt goes into detail about each member of the Harrisburg Eight: their work, education, and political backgrounds. Eqbal Ahmad, Father Phillip Berrigan, Sister Elizabeth McAlister, Father Neal McLaughlin, Tony Scoblic, Father Joseph Wenderoff were the first six charged for the conspiracy. We watch as short clip of Ahmad as he addresses a panel about the charges.

11:07Copy video clip URL Hoyt then goes into detail about the two others charged in the case, John Theodore Glick and Mary Cain Scoblic. Hoyt goes on to say that the case is extremely complicated due to the many civil liberties issued raised.

12:27Copy video clip URL McAlister comments on the trial. “It’s very hard at this point for any one of us to sit here now at the point of the process we’re in and to believe that this indictment has anything to do with good faith or that it’s got anything to do with the pursuit of justice.” McAlister goes on to say, “I don’t know how to put this terribly concretely for the sake of people, but I have felt an astonishment at each change, at each move the government has made in this process. I can’t believe they’ve done this. And when you go through this week after week over a period of say, six or eight months, then you come to the end and you say this has nothing to do with me, or with justice.”

13:33Copy video clip URL The videomakers speak with a carpenter about his opinion on the trial of the Harrisburg Eight. He criticizes the group, condemning their actions and plots to bomb government buildings. “That actually should be stopped because there would be no end to that… I actually don’t go for that kind of stuff. Those buildings were put up with a lot of money and a lot of taxes and stuff like that–and bombing a building and destroying things, that I don’t actually believe in.” He goes on to say that he got his information about the group from the newspapers. This is then followed by a clip of Glick talking about the media’s negative and inaccurate portrayal of the group members. “The eight of us have been portrayed by the charges–especially in the first indictment with the bombing and kidnapping charges–as bombers and kidnappers when the fact is that we have consistently adhered to non-violence.”

16:01Copy video clip URL Father Joseph Wenderoff and McAlister comment on their plight. Wenderoff states, “Our acts have been directed towards saving lives. Not one of them have been directed toward a destroying of life, and that’s the principle by which we operate.” McAlister goes on to say address the group’s burning of draft cards and states that they are “hunting licenses against human beings.” This is then followed by a footage of Ahmad addressing a panel. “This is an era of invisible wars, of unseen, unnoticed depression which reminds me to say we are victims constantly of the terminology of the oppressed or of the oppressor–euphemisms that hide reality, deceive the public, permit presidents and his advisers to elude and dilute accountability to the public. They use the words ‘limited war.’ One wants to ask, ‘Limited for whom?'”

17:52Copy video clip URL The videomakers conduct interviews with people off of the street about the trial of the Harrisburg Eight. A man gives his opinion on the actions of the group and states that they were breaking the law. “I think it creates more wrong, certainly, than right if each of us can decide what is right for the country.” McAlister then comments on the meaning of the word “resistance.” “What resistance means to me is a long hard look at the values with which we live in our society, the priorities with which we live in this society, the priorities in which we’re complicit–unless we take the step that says ‘no, I won’t cooperate with these values and I stand for other values.’ It’s not a negative world. It’s a positive world and specifically I think the values that really make this country now are the values of property of persons, the value of law and order over justice, and to resist is to say those aren’t correct wagons and I really want to put my life behind the alternative values.” Tony Scoblic then makes a few remarks about the negative connotations that go along with the term “resistance.”

21:22Copy video clip URL Cut back to the carpenter who offers his opinion on the case once again. Father Neal McLaughlin then begins to talk about the conspiracy charges the group is currently facing. He states that many of the charges aren’t based on any type of criminal action. “What we are accused of is thinking and planning and agreeing with each other to do something. Now we have had to answer everywhere we’ve gone to people who are desperately curious about this case as to whether or not they should believe in us or the government who’s accusing us, and we can say until we’re blue in the face that we are not guilty. We didn’t do this. We didn’t plan any conspiracy of such a nature that we were accused of and yet we have had it thrown right back in our face.” Wenderoff then talks about the government’s intention to “make a conspiracy law stick with eight people so as to throw fright and fear into the American mind.”

24:05Copy video clip URL Cut to footage from a protest march against the Vietnam War. One of the protesters comments on the notion of conspiracy. This is followed by a comment from Defense Attorney Terry Lenzner who states that the Harrisburg Eight trial promotes the fact that anybody can be indicted by the government on fragile evidence for the sake of political justification. Congressman Anderson then comments on the government’s effort to stifle the peace movement and states that “1984 is going to get here a lot sooner than the calendar indicates.” Lenzner goes on to comment on lack of outrage among Americans due to complacency.

28:05Copy video clip URL Rev. E.H. Summerfield comments on the Harrisburg Eight. “We cannot judge them until we have reevaluated and reexamined our own beliefs and our own actions in the light of our own religious convictions as against the evil of Vietnam.” As Summerfield speaks, we see footage of the Harrisburg Eight entering a court building. “Men and women of conscience must ask themselves with whom the future of mankind rests: with those who wage war or with those who protest against war in the name of peace.”

30:05Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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