[PAST] Sacco and Vanzetti: 80 years have passed and new targets of repression have been chosen

(Speech delivered by Jennifer Dowdell on behalf of Dorotea Manuela of the Boston May Day Coalition who couldn't attend the rally of 8/23/07 due to illness)

On August 23, 1927 Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco were executed by the state of Massachusetts for, allegedly, the robbery and murder of two factory paymasters on April 15, 1920 in South Braintree, Massachusetts. In the eighty years since the electrocution of these men, despite literally hundreds of books, articles and theses by journalists, scholars, attorneys authors and jurists neither the guilt nor the innocence of these men has been definitively established and probably never will be.

I am not going to focus on the facts of the case nor am I going to argue their guilt or innocence.

Rather, I want to examine the climate and the context in which the trial, the sentence and appeals took place, and their relevance to today.

Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants, anarchists and unskilled workingmen.

Three years before their trial an event occurred which sent tremors and shock across the entire western world, the Russian Revolution.

In the years immediately before the trial, a wave of massive strikes took place across the United States. Steelworkers, lumber and shipyard workers, miners and others went on strike. Here in Boston the police went on strike in 1919.

Although most of these labor actions were brutally suppressed, they provoked another great tremor. The ruling classes and their political allies hysterically denounced the Red Tide that was sweeping the nation. They were, of course, fully supported by the media.

This Red Scare meshed neatly with the xenophobes, nativists and reactionaries who loathed and feared the masses of immigrants coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. In the public view these were the "great unwashed", Catholics, Orthodox and Jews, people who spoke no English, who had no skills or education, uncivilized heretics, pagans and Christ killers who would sap the few existing social services, cause taxes to rise and take jobs from the "real Americans".

Therefore, these two Italians were guilty even before the trial began. Judge Webster openly expressed his bias, as did prosecutor Katzman. While the defendants, during the trial, were confined in a barred metal cage.

A reporter for the Boston Transcript commented, "theres no story ... just a couple of wops in a jam"! Some jurors, during the trial, openly expressed hostility toward the defendants.

In spite of worldwide protest at the unfairness of the trial, these men were put to death.

How strangely reminiscent are today's events. Arabs are kidnapped from the streets of Berlin and confined in secret prisons or are shipped to Guantanamo where they rot without hearing or trial. We do not even need the sham trials of Sacco and Vanzetti.

In addition, our xenophobes in Congress and the press announce that yesterday's Italians are today's Latinos. They come here, we are told, to draw our resources, to burden our schools, to overwhelm our services and to collect welfare. Paradoxically these lazy Latinos are taking all of our jobs.

Of course, when convenient, exceptions are made. When disaffected or dispossessed and undocumented Cubans fled Castro, they were welcomed with open arms. When Cubans crossed the Gulf in small boats and landed in Florida, they were heroes. And when Castro emptied some prisons and mental hospitals and brought the inmates to the port of Mariel where they were allowed to sail to the USA people in the USA wept for joy, even though they had no documents.

In the USA there are tens of thousands of undocumented Europeans who live and work here. We hear very little about them. But, then, they don't look Latino.

Nor do we hear about NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) which has had a devastating impact on Mexico's economy, pushing tens of thousands into abject poverty, driving them to leave home and family in order to survive. And we aren't told that they pay taxes, provide necessary and mostly menial labor and contribute disproportionately little to social disorder.

And the president of the USA and the media just love the word radical. Anyone to the left of Karl Rove and any Muslim is a dangerous radical.

As that great Philosopher, Yogi Berra, said "its d�j� vu all over again".

We of the Boston May Day Coalition call upon all Bostonians and all people of good will to demand an immediate halt to all raids and deportations and to end the brutal separation of parents and children. We call upon the congress to ratify the "United Nations Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families". This Convention has been ratified by over fifty nations. Please sign and circulate these petitions.

And in response to the increasing raids and deportations the Boston May Day Coalition is establishing a Rapid Response Network. Please sign up for information and to volunteer.