Vanzetti on left, Sacco on right
On May 5, 1920, Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco (22/4/1891 -23/8/1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti 11/6/1888 - 23/8/27) were picked up, arrested and charged with the murder of two men during a robbery in South Braintree, MA, USA.
Today their trial and conviction is widely regarded as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history.In spite of conflicting ballistic evidence and despite the testimonies of numerous eyewitnesses,as many as 180, that they were elsewhere at the time of the alleged crime, they were convicted of first degree murder the following year. The socialist and labor movement did not forget them, recognising them as one of their own, and proceeded to rally on their side, many being convinced of their innocence, seeing them as scapegoats, singled out, because of anti-italian feeling and prejudice that was currently doing the rounds, and chiefly were being persecuted for their passionate personal beliefs in anarchism.Incidentally both men had no criminal record prior to this incident.
Protests were carried out in every major city in the US and across Europe on their behalf, and even in places as faraway as Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg, such was the strength of feeling that Saccco and Vanzetti garnered,sparking international outrage and raising questions that are still timely. Many writers, artists, academics, people from all walks of life pleaded for
their pardon or at least for a new trial.
Sadly after years of appeals, the two were executed on August 23, 1923, just over hundred days today. Shortly before he was executed Vanzetti said "If it had not been for this thing, I might have ived 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 careers and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do so such work for tolerance, justice, for mans understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words - our lives -our pains -nothing! The taking of our lives lifes of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddlar.The last moment belongs to us - that agony is triumph!".He also expressed his own personal belief in peaceful struggle and continued to plea his innocence.
International outrage led to riots in Paris and London,such was the sense of outrage that their cause inflamed at the time.
Their names still resonate with controversy but In 1977, Massachussets Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation declaring that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that 'any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.'
We will continue to remember Sacco and Vancetti and all other victims of miscarriages of justice.Their story timeless, as is the struggle for human rights, and is still relevant as todays headlines , we remember too across many lands, those that are still persecuted, because of their beliefs..
The struggle continues.
Christy Moore - Sacco and Vancetti (W.Guthrie)