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For 30 years: art, civil disobedience, jail.

PORTLAND, Maine -- Art led Tom Lewis-Borbely to his first arrest. It was a civil rights demonstration. He was the artist doing sketches in the crowd. In the 30 years since, he has often been the artist doing sketches in jail.

His first act of demonstrating, against segregation during the 1960s, came rather unexpectedly. "I realized I was part of the rock- and firecracker-throwing crowd," he said, so he stepped away from that group to join the demonstrators.

He would later protest the Vietnam War and become one of the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine, the groups that threw blood on and burned draft files, respectively, in those two Maryland cities in the late 1960s. Catonsville, in 1968, was one of the first major public antiwar demonstrations by both Daniel and Philip Berrigan.

Now 56, Lewis-Borbely faces his most serious charge, as one of the Prince of Peace Plowshares activists. Since Catonsville, he has been arrested or jailed an average of once a year, from two days to 30 days.

Here he could be looking at 10 years or more.

Lewis-Borbely has a new book coming out, 25 etchings in an Orbis volume of Daniel Berrigan's reflections on Ezekiel. The two dozen were selected from 200 -- and some were on display in Portland.

Married to Andrea, and with a five year-old daughter, Nora, the artist compared the Catonsville and Plowshares actions. "Plowshares is a much deeper understanding -- a maturing sense of the biblical," he said. If there is a Plowshares conspiracy, he said, "then the conspiratorial book is the Bible."

In organizing Catonsville, he said, everything came together "very quickly." Catonsville was not simply Vietnam, it was Africa and Guatemala, too. "Thirty years later," he said, "it is the same issues and more, and everything is more complex."

In Cumberland County Jail awaiting the May 5 trial, the Plowshares men held a daily scripture study with other prisoners. Crane organized one for women prisoners. What Lewis-Borbely misses most in prison after his wife and daughter is the opportunity to etch. In jail he sketches prisoners' faces, gives them a copy, keeps a copy and tells them they may appear in a future work.
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Title Annotation:activist Tom Lewis-Borbely
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:May 23, 1997
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