Today is the 86th anniversary of the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. And, as it does every year, the Hampden County Chapter of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, along with the Springfield Diocese Catholic Charities Agency, will hold a memorial service this evening to mark the occasion, featuring an address by former Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants who were convicted of murdering two men during a robbery at a shoe factory in Braintree in 1920. They were also anarchists—a fact that many felt prejudiced the jury against them and precluded their having a fair trial.
“ The executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, in the reactionary period of the ‘Red Scare’ during the 1920’s, were based on their ethnic backgrounds, and their political beliefs, rather than on any decent definition of a just, legal proceeding,” John J. Fitzgerald, of the anti-death penalty group, wrote in an analysis of the case. “The truth in the case is still being debated. Defenders of Sacco and Vanzetti charge that: the trial was unfair; the evidence was flimsy, at best circumstantial; and that they were really convicted for their political views, not for robbery and murder. To this day, many people still have a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.”
The case, Fitzgerald wrote, is “a classic example of the injustice inherent in the application of the death penalty. The death penalty, unlike life imprisonment, does not allow for the correction of a mistaken conviction of an innocent person.”
Tonight’s memorial service will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Bishop Marshall Center at St. Michael’s Cathedral on Elliott Street. The event is free and will include refreshments and a performance by folk singer/activist Ben Grosscup. Dukakis will be awarded the group’s Ken Childs Award for his work against the death penalty. In 1977, then-Gov. Dukakis’ administration produced a report that found evidence that the men did not receive a fair trial. On the 50th anniversary of their execution, he issued a proclamation that did not pardon the men or assert their innocence, but said they’d been unfairly tried and convicted and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.”
• On a lighter note, this weekend, the Bing Arts Center hosts a comics and pop culture convention—called, aptly enough, “BingCon.”
The event will include artists and writers; vendors selling comic books, crafts and other goodies; a raffle and door prize; a film—and, one can only assume, a fair share of folks dressed up as their favorite comic hero or villain. (I just recently learned there’s a name for that: “cosplay.”)
For more details, check out this Reminder article by Mike Dobbs, who’s been working hard to promote the event.
BingCon takes place on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a film at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 and will benefit the Bing’s renovation fund. The Bing is at 716 Sumner Ave.