Saturday, 12 September 2015

Sacco & Vanzetti

Do you remember an Italian actor named Gian Volonte`?  He played Ramon Rojo in "A Fistful of Dollars" with Clint Eastwood, and then played Indio in "For a Few Dollars More" with Clint & Lee Van Cleef.  Why mention this?  Well, Volonte` was a very politically motivated man and was well known for constantly talking about politics and their issues, on set.  He then made a film "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" about a corrupt and brutal cop.  Another issue close to his heart.  Therefore it would have natural for him to appear in a film about the execution of two Italian anarchists in 1927 in Massachusetts, USA.  They were Nicola Sacco & Bartolomeo Vanzetti.  They were convicted of an armed robbery in which a cashier was shot dead by an assailant and a guard wounded.  The trial was, to put it mildly, extremely biased.  The prejudice displayed by both a prosecutor and judge, was breathtaking.  The robbery occurred on April 15th 1920.  Sacco & Vanzetti were arrested because they had a car just like one used in another robbery.

    What about their alibis?  Sacco said he went to Boston in order to obtain a passport.  Sacco`s story was corroborated by the Italian Consulate.  This confirmation was usurped by the judge by questioning whether the Consulate had gotten the date wrong!  Sacco had a firearm, which prosecutors said was the murder weapon, but ballistic examinations were contested by the defence.  Ballistics was still in it's infancy.  Why did he have a gun?  Simple, he said, because he sometimes worked as a nightwatchman at his place of work.  His boss confirmed all this.  As for Vanzetti, he was in Plymouth, Massachusetts, selling fish.  His story was confirmed by numerous customers.  The prosecutor countered this by casting doubt on memories well after the event, and besides, Italians banded together, with no regards for Law & Order.  Though how conjecture can be accepted as evidence......

    They admitted that they were not truthful about their whereabouts when they were arrested.  They had gone to Mexico in 1917 to avoid being drafted into WW1, but said if they had said so at the time, they believed they would have been deported.  The prosecutor launched into an attack on the morality of what they did.  Did they not want to be on the USa?  Was it right to act as cowards, etc, etc?  Again, not connected with the case, but that did not matter.  Today, would any court allow defendants to be referred to as "sons of bitches" or "dagos" and the like?  What a higher court think of a judge who called defendants "anarchistic bastards!"  Both admitted they were anarchists, which can be interpreted in different ways.  The court's view was not hard to distinguish.  Vanzetti was an activist who supported workers going on strike and standing up to tyrant bosses. (Like Joe Hill, who was stitched up for a murder and executed by firing squad in Utah in 1915)

    This was all the proof that was needed to show these two individuals were a danger to civilised society and robbery and murder was easily within their grasp.  Again, how does standing up for fair pay and working conditions, threaten the very fabric of society......?  Not surprisingly, they were convicted and sentenced to death.  There were a number of appeals, stays of execution, and calls for clemency from around the world.  One appeal about bias and prejudice was dismissed.  By the very same trial judge!  Appeals came from distinguished writers, H.G.Wells & G.B.Shaw, cancer pioneer Marie Curie and the most famous innocent man of the early 20th century, Alfred Dreyfus.  Authorities were having none of this and finally sent the duo to the chair on August 22nd, 1927.  A very long overdue review of the case, took place in 1977, when the Governor of Massachusetts, cleared them posthumously in a signed pardon.