1927 August 14

Boston Police Halt Sacco and Vanzetti Rally


Boston police on this day arrested Powers Hapgood, a Harvard graduate and political activist, for attempting to discuss the pending execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrant anarchists who were convicted of robbery and murder in Braintree, Massachusetts. (See their arrest on May 5, 1920.) The Sacco and Vanzetti case was one of the great civil liberties causes of the1920s, as many people believed they were arrested and convicted because they were both immigrants and anarchists, and also because of bias in the trial and the subsequent appeals. Between 2,000 and 3,000 gathered on Boston Common to hear Hapgood speak. The police revoked the permit for the meeting at the last minute.

Supporters of Sacco and Vanzetti were unable to secure an auditorium for a protest rally because in Boston the mayor had the power to license buildings. Mayors had no trouble revoking or threatening to revoke licenses for meetings they disapproved of on the basis of “structural deficiencies” in a building.

Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927. Protest rallies were held across the U.S. and in Europe. On August 23, 1977, Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed the day Sacco and Vanzetti Day in memory of the execution.

Many books and articles have been written on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, which continues to generate controversy. Some recent accounts question their innocence.

Read about the famous case: Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (2007)

Learn more about the trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/SaccoV/SaccoV.htm

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