1921 – Sacco and Vanzetti are executed

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were two Italian-born labourers and anarchists resident on Massachusetts. On May 5, 1920, they were arrested for a robbery that had taken place the previous month. They were tried and convicted of the robbery.

Later, in 1921, they were tried again for a murder, and again convicted. The two men were sentenced to the electric chair, and executed on August 23, 1927.

Their arrests and trials aroused considerable controversy, both at the time and ever since. The prosecution’s case had many holes in it, and it was widely believed that the two men were convicted not so much for being guilty of the crimes they were accused of, as for being anarchists.

50 years to the day of the execution, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation declaring, “Any stigma and disgrace should be forever removed from the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. We are not here to say whether these men are guilty or innocent. We are here to say that the high standards of justice, which we in Massachusetts take such pride in, failed Sacco and Vanzetti.”

Referenced in:

Here’s To You – Joan Baez
Two Good Arms – Charlie King
Facing The Chair – Patrick Street
Sacco and Vanzetti – David Rovics
Sacco and Vanzetti – Against All Authority
Sacco e Vanzetti – Ennio Morricone and Dulce Pontes

1989 – China declares martial law in response to the Tiananmen Square protests

Inspired by, among other things, the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, approximately 100,000 Chinese protestors, many of them students, occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing for several weeks beginning on April 14, 1989.

In what can only be described as a massive over-reaction, the government of the People’s Republic of China declared martial law and sent in tanks and infantry to disperse the protestors. The army was delayed by other protestors, but on June 3, they reached the Square.

What followed has often, and not inaccurately, been labelled a massacre. Due to the government’s highly efficient censorship, an accurate death toll has never been released, and even today the incident officially did not occur. Unofficially, a number that has been variously estimated as between 140 and 7000 people died in the protests, and hundreds more were injured, all in an attempt to win rights that the majority of people reading this blog take for granted.

Referenced in:

China – Joan Baez
Blood Red – Slayer
Tin Omen – Skinny Puppy
Watching TV – Roger Waters
Hypnotize – System of a Down
Seven Days in May – Testament
The Tiananmen Man – Nevermore
We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
The King of Sunset Town – Marillion
Tiananmen Square – Chumbawumba
Black Boys on Mopeds – Sinéad O’Connor
The Ghost in You – Siouxsie and the Banshees