It’s been 86 years since the August 23, 1927 electrocution of two Italian-born anarchists in Massachusetts.
The two men, Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were charged with killing two men during an armed robbery of a shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts in 1920.
Numerous witnesses placed the men in different places on the date and time of the robbery killings. According to witnesses, Sacco was in Boston’s North End, and Vanzetti, in Plymouth.
But such reports were to no avail, and both the court and press concentrated on the men’s anti-capitalist and anarchist beliefs, which were projected as evidence, not only of their radicalism, but of their guilt.
There was substantial conflicting evidence, both of ballistics and alleged eye-witnesses, but all of this was beside the point.
When the two men were arrested, they gave false names, more likely than not because they feared deportation. And they were armed. When pressed to explain in court why they were armed, they explained that they were anarchists, and in so doing, perhaps prejudiced the jury all the more.
When the two men filed post-trial motions, of course, after their conviction seeking a new trial, Judge Webster Thayer told a Darmouth college professor, “Did you see what I did to those anarchist bastards the other day?
What he did was deny them a new trial.
One of their many supporters was a Harvard Law professor, Felix Frankfurter, later a Supreme Court Justice, who wrote a piece showing their innocence published in the Atlantic magazine. .
In his speech before the Court, Vanzetti made the following moving observations: “I found myself compelled to fight back from my eyes the tears and quench my heart throbbing in my throat to not weep before him. But Sacco’s name will live in the hearts of the people when your name, your laws, institutions and your false gods are but a dim rememoring of a cursed past when man was wolf to the man.”
Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927.
In 1977, the governor of Massachusetts issued an edict clearing the two anarchists –– 50 years after their electrocutions.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.