Showing posts with label Anarchism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anarchism. Show all posts

11 January 2019

He did it, but they couldn't prove it

Carmine Galante of Bonanno clan
is regarded as Tresca's killer


On this date in 1943...

Tresca
Carlo Tresca, sixty-three-year-old editor of the Italian-language newspaper Il Martello (The Hammer), sat alone in his third floor Manhattan office after the close of business on Monday, January 11, 1943. He was preparing to host an eight-thirty meeting of a committee of the anti-Fascist Italian-American Mazzini Society.

Tresca, who embraced an anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist) philosophy and was arrested dozens of times for pro-labor mischief and other offenses over the years, had actively opposed Fascism since early in the rise of Benito Mussolini. His views on the movement, once dismissed as radical rabble-rousing, gained popularity upon U.S. entry into the Second World War near the end of 1941.

Committee member Giuseppe Calabi, of 415 Central Park West, arrived about fifteen minutes late to the office, above the Crawford clothing store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifteenth Street. None of the four other committee members showed up at all.

Tresca and Calabi waited for other members until after nine-thirty and then gave up. Tresca asked Calabi to accompany him for dinner. The editor had a favorite bar and grill, located about half a block away, on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. He often stopped there in the evening as he made his way from work to his Greenwich Village home, 52 West Twelfth Street. Calabi accepted the invitation. The office lights were turned out and the men exited the building onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.



Galante
On that same night, thirty-five-year-old Carmine Galante, of 876 Lots Avenue in Brooklyn, had an appointment in downtown Manhattan. Galante had been paroled a few years earlier from Sing Sing Prison after serving two-thirds of sentence for shooting at a police officer during a payroll holdup. There were months left on his parole, and he had been called to a meeting with the State Parole Board at 80 Centre Street.

Sidney Gross, in charge of the parole office, noted that Galante seemed nervous during the meeting. He grew concerned that Galante was slipping back into the old criminal associations that had repeatedly landed him behind bars since he was a teenager. Gross secretly assigned investigators Fred Berson and George Talianoff to follow Galante when he left the office.

The investigators positioned themselves near the building exit and waited for Galante. At shortly after eight o'clock, they were surprised by the speed with which their target rushed out onto the sidewalk and jumped into a waiting automobile.

With wartime rationing of gasoline and rubber, automobiles were generally reserved for only the most important travel, and they were entirely unavailable to Berson and Talianoff. They reasonably expected Galante to walk to the nearest subway station. As the dark sedan drove away, the investigators did the only thing they could do. They wrote down the sedan's license plate number: 1C-9272.



Tresca and Calabi took just a few strides on the dimly lit sidewalk, passing a man who was impatiently pacing back and forth, when that man stepped up behind them and fired a handgun at Tresca's back. The two men instinctively turned toward the sound of the gunshot. Tresca got a second bullet in the face. The gunmen fired another wild shot or two before climbing into a dark sedan and heading off to the west on Fifteenth Street.

Police officers and an ambulance from St. Vincent's Hospital rushed to the scene. Tresca was dead before he reached the hospital. A postmortem examination found that either of the .32-caliber bullets that entered his body would have been sufficient to end his life - the first ripped through one of his lungs and the second lodged in his brain.
NY Daily News

Calabi could provide little identifying information about the gunman. He was about five-foot-five, wore dark clothes and had his hat pulled down low, leaving his face in shadow. Calabi estimated that the gunman was in his mid-thirties.

Investigators found no .32-caliber firearm at the scene. They did find a .38-caliber handgun, tucked behind an ash barrel around the corner near the Fifteenth Street exit of the office building. This suggested that preparations were in place to assassinate Tresca as he left the building, no matter which exit he chose. It also suggested that a second gunman may have been involved.

Some eyewitnesses told the police that, despite the darkness, they could tell that the gunman's vehicle was a 1938 or 1939 Ford. A matching car soon was found abandoned at a subway entrance one-half mile away at Seventh Avenue and West 18th Street. (Seventh Avenue was not yet a southbound one-way street in 1943, allowing the automobile to drive up northward from Fifteenth Street.) Its license plate number was 1C-9272.

Police learned that the vehicle was purchased as a used car from Confield Motors just eighteen days earlier. The purchaser paid for it with $300 in cash. It was registered to Charles Pappas, 82-07 Eighty-Second Street in Brooklyn. The authorities found that the name and address were fictional.

Detectives wondered about the Mazzini Society members who failed to show up for the meeting. Tracking down the members, they found that each had a different reason for failing to make it to Tresca's office that night. One recalled a prior engagement, one insisted he was never notified of the meeting, one knew about it but didn't feel it was important to attend and the last simply forgot about it.



The next day, parole board investigators heard of the Tresca murder and saw the familiar license plate number of the abandoned automobile. Sidney Gross called police with information about Galante. He then led officers through Galante's known hangouts and located him at a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. Police arrested Galante as he emerged from the restaurant.

Questioned about his movements after leaving the parole board office, Galante stated that he took a subway uptown, went to a movie theater and then spent time with a girlfriend. He knew little about the movie he supposedly watched, and he refused to divulge the name of the girlfriend.

Police had already caught the parolee in a lie. They revealed that witnesses saw Galante get into an automobile. Galante stubbornly stuck to his lie.

Two of the many mourners who paid respects to the
late Carlo Tresca at the Manhattan Center.
Library of Congress

Police and prosecutors were certain that Galante was involved in the killing of Tresca. However, they did not have enough evidence to build a murder case against him. The authorities had to be satisfied with returning him to prison on a parole violation.



Garofalo
Galante today is widely regarded as the gunman who took Tresca's life. But the precise reason he did so remains unclear. Law enforcement sources have indicated that Galante was ordered to perform the hit by Frank Garofalo, underboss of the Bonanno Crime Family in New York. Some say this resulted from a personal dispute between Tresca and Garofalo. Others say it was a favor done by Garofalo for New York mobster Vito Genovese, who returned to Italy in the late 1930s and sought to improve his standing with Mussolini. (The Genovese theory seems unreasonably tangled.)

Still others believe there was an arrangement between Garofalo and newspaper publisher Generoso Pope. Pope, whose original surname, "Papa," was very close to the name used to purchase the Ford sedan, faced intense criticism from Tresca for his prewar support of Mussolini and Fascism. Following U.S. entry into the war, Pope made every effort to portray himself as a Mussolini critic and a key political ally of the Democratic Administration in Washington. Pope was influential in the Italian-American community, was well regarded by anti-Communist U.S. political leaders and included not only Garofalo but also Frank Costello (and possibly Tommy Lucchese) among his underworld friends.

Pope
(The Pope-Costello relationship continued into the next Pope generation. Multiple sources indicate that Generoso Pope, Jr., used no-interest loans from Costello to purchase the New York Enquirer tabloid and build it into the National Enquirer. The May 1957 assassination attempt against Costello occurred when he was returning home from a dinner with Generoso Pope, Jr., and other friends.)

Sources:

  • "Carlo Tresca slain on 5th Ave.," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 1.
  • "Carlo Tresca shot dead," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 2.
  • "Carmine Galante," FBI report, file no. 92-3025-8, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Costello is shot entering home; gunman escapes," New York Times, May 3, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Enemies of Tresca sought by police," New York Times, Jan. 15, 1943.
  • "Ex-convict seized in Tresca murder; chance gives clue," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 1.
  • "FBI fears reprisals over Tresca slaying," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 3.
  • "Tresca biography," Anarchy Archives, dwardmac.pitzer.edu, accessed Jan. 10, 2019.
  • "VIII, Costello's influence in politics," Third Interim Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Report no. 307, Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1951.
  • Cummings, Judith, "Galante to give up to U.S. authorities," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1977.
  • FBI Director, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel to SAC New York, file no 92-6054-2176, NARA no. 124-10289-10184, Nov. 16, 1967.
  • Feather, Bill, "Bonanno Family membership chart 1930-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, mafiamembershipcharts.blogspot.com.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1959, p. 67.
  • Gallagher, Dorothy, All the Right Enemies - The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.
  • Horgan, Richard, "The dubious beginnings of The National Enquirer," Adweek, adweek.com, June 13, 2013.
  • Martin, John, and James Tierney, "Grill hoodlum, linked to Tresca murder car," New York Daily News, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 2.
  • New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 1306, Jan. 11, 1943.
  • SAC New York, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel, file no. 92-6054-2194, NARA no. 124-10289-10202, Nov. 20, 1967, p. 3.

29 August 2018

Trial of king's killer takes just one day

On this date in 1900...

Bresci
Gaetano Bresci, accused assassin of Italy's King Umberto I, stood trial August 29, 1900, in Milan's Palace of Justice. The trial was concluded in a single day. A jury unanimously found him guilty. Bresci was sentenced to life in prison (the greatest punishment then allowed under Italian law), with the first seven years to be spent in solitary confinement and the rest to be spent in penal servitude.

King Umberto was shot to death in front of numerous witnesses at Monza on July 29. As the monarch concluded an appearance at an athletic awards presentation, three bullets were fired from point-blank range into his neck and chest.

Bresci, with a smoking revolver still in his hand, was attacked by the crowd. A force of carabinieri police rushed in to take custody of Bresci, likely saving him from a beating death at the hands of the angry mob.

The authorities identified their prisoner and learned that he was born in Prato, near Florence, on November 10, 1869. Though raised in a family with no known Leftist leanings, Bresci reportedly was influenced by the teachings of Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta and became a radical opponent of the political and religious establishments of his day. Records showed that he was imprisoned for about two weeks in 1892 after disregarding police instructions during an Italian labor strike.

Further radicalized in U.S.

La Questione Sociale HQ
He subsequently sailed for America, settling in the Paterson, New Jersey, area, then the center of the United States textile industry as well as of a growing anarchist-communist movement. Paterson was the home of the Gruppo Diritto all'Esistenza (Right to Existence Group) anarchist organization. The organization's newspaper, La Questione Sociale (The Social Issue), had an international readership.

Bresci worked in New Jersey silk mills, married mill worker Sophie Knieland and started a family during the few years he was in America. He spent much of his free time with the Gruppo Diritto all'Esistenza.

His political thinking in the period moved further Left, leaving behind the teachings of Malatesta. He aligned himself with the political philosophy of recently deceased Carlo Cafiero and La Questione Sociale editor Giuseppe Ciancabilla. That philosophy called for individual acts of violence against the establishment - referred to as "propaganda by the deed" - in an effort to trigger a worldwide worker revolution.

With little advance notice or explanation, Bresci said goodbye to his wife and young daughter in May 1900 and set sail back across the Atlantic to his native Italy. He was determined to energize the anarchist cause through a bloody deed of propaganda.

At trial in Milan

Umberto I
Bresci's defense counsel at his August 29 trial was the influential radical Francesco Saverio Merlino. As the trial began, Merlino stated that his defense strategy would be to show why Leftists like Bresci considered the assassination of the king to be essential to curing social, economic and political ills in Italy. The attorney planned to recount the crimes of Umberto against his people and to portray Bresci's action as justifiable retaliation.

The court refused to allow Merlino to make any such arguments.

Bresci went to the witness stand in the afternoon. His testimony only aided the prosecution. He admitted to returning to Italy for the purpose of murdering the king. In the time between his return and the assassination, he practiced his marksmanship and prepared special bullets by carving notches into their tips and filling them with dirt, which he believed would make their wounds more deadly.

He readily admitted firing three shots into King Umberto "to avenge the misery of the people and my own." Bresci insisted that he planned and carried out the assassination "without advice or accomplices."

When the jury returned its guilty verdict, Bresci stated, "Sentence me. I am indifferent. I await the next revolution."

After sentencing, Bresci was taken from Milan to an old Bourbon prison on the island of Santo Stefano in the Tyrrhenan Sea. He was to serve his sentence there.

Martyr to anarchism

Bresci's "life" prison term lasted less than nine months. On May 21, 1901, he was found dead in his prison cell. Officials attributed his death to suicide. It was reported that he used a towel to hang himself. Guards discovered the word, "Vengeance," scratched into his cell wall.

Sophie Bresci
Despite the official report, Leftists around the globe believed that the Italian authorities were responsible for Bresci's death.

Back in New Jersey, Sophie Knieland Bresci had recently given birth to a second child and, with the support of local radical organizations, had opened a boarding house in Cliffside Park. The young widow refused to accept the suicide account. She told the press that her husband had recently written to her and told her that prison guards were trying to talk him into killing himself. She said he was too strong to succumb.

(Shortly after Bresci's death, Sicilian Mafia leader Vito Cascio Ferro traveled to the United States. A political radical in his homeland, Cascio Ferro reportedly met with Sophie Knieland Bresci in New Jersey.)

Two strong anarchist groups in the region, Gruppo Diritto all-Esistenza and Gruppo L'Era Nuova (New Age Group) echoed Sophie's position. La Questione Sociale openly accused the Italian government of deliberate murder.

Bresci became a martyr to the anarchist cause. The philosophy of initiating revolution through individual violent action won many converts. A young anarchist group based in East Harlem, New York, expressed its high regard for him by naming itself the Gaetano Bresci Circle. A short time later, that group waged war on the United States government and on prominent capitalists through a wave of terror bombings.

Read more:



Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution" by Thomas Hunt

Visit:
Wrongly Executed? website.