1932 – Al Capone begins his prison sentence

Alphonse ‘Al’ Capone had enjoyed a long and successful run as a gang leader in Chicago before the feds finally caught him. But they didn’t manage to get him on any of the murders, bootlegging, rum-running, assaults or robberies he’d committed (or ordered committed) – they got him on five counts of tax evasion. Capone’s 11 year sentence was a record high one for tax evasion, a sentence he began in the Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary.

Capone’s criminal charms would serve him well inside – he twice had to be relocated after suborning guards and obtaining illegal privileges. But when he landed in Alcatraz, his luck ran out. Unpopular with his fellow prisoners, Capone was eventually paroled with about six months of his sentence still to run. Things were no better outside of prison – the repeal of Prohibition had meant the end of Capone’s most lucrative racket and anyway, at 40 years old and in poor shape, he was in no condition to reclaim his old territories.

Referenced in:

Public Enemy No. 1 — Megadeth

1970 – The National Guard opens fire at Kent State University

In what Hunter Thompson called “this brutal year of our Lord, Nineteen-Hundred and Seventy”, there was brutality a-plenty on display, a veritable war across the USA. Largely fought between those who had awoken from the American Dream to the rather less pleasant reality, and those who wished very very deeply to stay safely asleep, there was violence on both sides of the table, and each side was convinced that the other had drawn first blood.

The Kent State shootings, at the university of that name in Kent, Ohio, were one of the last explosions of this violence. The students had gathered to protest President Nixon’s illegal invasion of Cambodia, which he had announced on May 30. In 13 seconds, 77 Ohio National Guard troops fired 67 rounds into a crowd of over 2000 students, killing 4 and wounding 9 others (one of whom was paralysed by their injuries). Further violence was narrowly averted by Kent State faculty members led by Glenn Frank, who pleaded with students and Guardsmen alike to disperse and was heeded.

In the wake of the shootings, universities across the nation held sympathetic protests, as did many others. No criminal charges were ever brought against the Guardsmen involved, despite the fact that no less an authority than Vice-President Spiro Agnew (a qualified lawyer) pronounced the killings to be murders.

Referenced in:

Ohio — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Driving Across Mythical America — Pete Atkin

1979 — Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

One of the most controversial British heads of state since King Charles I, Margaret Thatcher was 64 when she became Prime Minister, and had been in Parliament for twenty years. She rapidly became known for the strength of her convictions – which unfortunately included more than a few she’d developed after drinking the free market kool aid.

Margaret Thatcher would serve as Prime Minister until 1990, presiding over the privatisation of many government services and Britain’s successful prosecution of the Falklands War in 1982. Few world leaders have ever been as hated by the left, or as good at unintentionally recruiting for it.

Referenced in:

Prophets of Rage — Public Enemy