Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sacco and Vanzetti.

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco (April 22, 1891-August 23, 1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (June 11, 1888-August 23, 1927) were anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during a 1920 armed robbery in Massachusetts. After a controversial trial and a series of appeals, the two Italian immigrants were executed on August 23, 1927.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian anarchists accused of murder in 1920 and put to death in 1927 after a famously biased trial. The pair came to symbolize the bigotry directed toward immigrants and dissenters in America. Their struggle is retold in this probing documentary. Check out the market place for some great deals on some must see documentaries to educate your brain with some truth!

Sacco was a shoe-maker born in Torremaggiore, Foggia, who emigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen. Vanzetti was a fishmonger born in Villafalletto, Cuneo, who arrived in the United States at age twenty. Both men left Italy for the U.S. in 1908, although they did not meet until a 1917 strike. 

Like many left-wing radicals, Sacco and Vanzetti were opposed to the First World War. They took part in protest meetings and in 1917, when the United States entered the war, they fled together to Mexico in order to avoid being conscripted into the United States Army. When the war was over the two men returned to the United States. On 5th May, 1920, Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and interviewed about the murders of Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The men had been killed while carrying two boxes containing the payroll of a shoe factory. After Parmenter and Berardelli were shot dead, the two robbers took the $15,000 and got into a car containing several other men, and driven away. Several eyewitnesses claimed that the robbers looked Italian. A large number of Italian immigrants were questioned but eventually the authorities decided to charge Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti with the murders. Although the two men did not have criminal records, it was argued that they had committed the robbery to acquire funds for their anarchist political campaign. The trial started on 21st May, 1921. The main evidence against the men was that they were both carrying a gun when arrested. Some people who saw the crime taking place identified Vanzetti and Sacco as the robbers. Others disagreed and both men had good alibis. Vanzetti was selling fish in Plymouth while Sacco was in Boston with his wife having his photograph taken. The prosecution made a great deal of the fact that all those called to provide evidence to support these alibis were Italian immigrants. A postcript to the arrests occurred in 1926, when a bomb destroyed the house of Samuel Johnson, the brother of the Simon Johnson who had called police the night of Sacco and Vanzetti's arrest.

Vanzetti and Sacco were disadvantaged by not having a full grasp of the English language. It was clear from some of the answers they gave in court that they had misunderstood the question. During the trial the prosecution emphasized the men's radical political beliefs. Vanzetti and Sacco were also accused of unpatriotic behaviour by fleeing to Mexico during the First World War. The trial lasted seven weeks and on 14th July, 1921, both men were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The Sacco and Vanzetti Case received a great deal of publicity. Many observers believed that their conviction resulted from prejudice against them as Italian immigrants and because they held radical political beliefs. Following the indictment of Sacco and Vanzetti, anarchists in other countries began violent retaliation. In 1921, a booby trap bomb mailed to the American ambassador in Paris exploded, wounding his valet. The case resulted in anti-US demonstrations in several European countries and at one of these in Paris, a bomb exploded killing twenty people. In 1925 Celestino Madeiros, a Portuguese immigrant, confessed to being a member of the gang that killed Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli. He also named the four other men, Joe, Fred, Pasquale and Mike Morelli, who had taken part in the robbery. The Morelli brothers were well-known criminals who had carried out similar robberies in area of Massachusetts. However, the authorities refused to investigate the confession made by Madeiros. Many leading writers and artists such as John Dos Passos, Alice Hamilton, Paul Kellog, Jane Addams, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Ben Shahn, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Howard Lawson, Floyd Dell, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells became involved in a campaign to obtain a retrial. Although Webster Thayer, the original judge, was officially criticised for his conduct at the trial, the authorities refused to overrule the decision to execute the men. By the summer of 1927 it became clear that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti would be executed. Vanzetti commented to a journalist: "If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph. On 23rd August 1927, the day of execution, over 250,000 people took part in a silent demonstration in Boston. Fifty years later, on 23rd August, 1977, Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation, effectively absolving the two men of the crime.

Bartolomeo Vanzetti, statement to court after being sentenced to death;
"What I say is that I am innocent." Then he went on to say; "Look out; you are in a catacomb of the flower of mankind. For what? All that they say to you, all that they have promised to you - it was a lie, it was an illusion, it was a cheat, it was a fraud, it was a crime. They promised you liberty. Where is liberty? They promised you prosperity. Where is prosperity? I never committed a crime in my life - I have never stolen and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood, and I have fought against crime, and I have fought and I have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes that the law and the church legitimate and sanctify. This is what I say: I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth - I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that you can only kill me once but if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already."

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