Strike Leaders Arrested

Strike Leaders Arrested

The authorities charged Joseph Ettor, Arturo Giovannitti, and Joseph Caruso as accomplices in the death of striker Anna LoPizzo, likely shot by the police. Ettor and Giovannitti were three miles away, speaking to workers at the time. They and a third defendant were held in jail for the duration of the strike and stood trial in the fall of 1912 in Salem, MA. When their trial began in September 1912 in Salem, Massachusetts before Judge Joseph F. Quinn, the three defendants were kept in metal cages in the courtroom. Witnesses testified without contradiction that Ettor and Giovannitti were miles away while Caruso, the third defendant, was at home eating supper at the time of the killing.

Big Bill Haywood threatened a general strike to demand their freedom, with the cry “Open the jail gates or we will close the mill gates.” But the men remained in prison. The IWW raised $60,000 for their defense and held demonstrations and mass meetings throughout the country in their support. At one point Boston law enforcement arrested all of the members of the Ettor-Giovannitti Defense Committee.

Fifteen thousand Lawrence workers went on a one-day strike on September 30, 1912, to demand that Caruso, Ettor, and Giovannitti be released. Swedish and French workers proposed a boycott of woolen goods from the United States and a refusal to load ships going to the U.S.; Italian supporters of Giovannitti rallied in front of the U.S. consulate in Rome.

Ettor and Giovannitti delivered closing statements at the end of the two-month trial. Joe Ettor stated in part: “Does the District Attorney believe . . . that the gallows or guillotine ever settled an idea? If an idea can live, it lives because history adjudges it right. I ask only for justice. . . . The scaffold has never yet and never will destroy an idea or a movement . . . An idea consisting of a social crime in one age becomes the very religion of humanity in the next. . . Whatever my social views are, they are what they are. They cannot be tried in this courtroom.”

All three defendants were acquitted on November 26, 1912.