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Written by: Ward v. Rock Against Racism - Bartolomeo Vanzetti & Nicola Sacco
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Government controlled rock music?

Rock Against Racism sponsored an annual concert in Central Park. After the concert produced complaints about noise, and after several other attempts to control the sound failed, New York established a regulation requiring all groups using the Bandshell to use sound equipment and technicians provided by the City. RAR sued, asking for the regulation to be declared unconstitutional. The district court found the regulation constitutional, but the appellate court reversed this decision.

Further facts and some interesting arguments can be found in the Court's decision and the oral argument in Ward v. RAR,
Oyez Oyez Oyez: Ward v. Rock Against Racism - Abstract

Ward v. Rock Against Racism

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Facts of the Case
New York City, responding to complaints of high-decibel concerts adjoiningresidential neighborhoods, mandated the use of city-provided sound systemsand technicians for concerts in Central Park. Members of rock groupclaimed that the inability to use their own sound equipment andtechnicians in a concert in a public forum interfered with their FirstAmendment rights of expression.Question PresentedDoes the New York ordinance substituting a city-employed technician andmixing board for a performer's mixer and equipment violate the FirstAmendment?

No. The Court upheld the ordinance, giving broad deference to thegovernment's interest in maintaining order. As long as "the means chosenare not substantially broader than necessary to achieve the government'sinterest," a regulation will not be invalidated because a court concludesthat the government's interest "could be adequately served by some less-speech-restrictive alternative."


Bartolomeo Vanzetti & Nicola Sacco

On April 15 year 1920, a guard and a paymaster were killed during a payroll hold-up outside a shoe factory near Boston, the bandits escaped, but three weeks later two Italian immigrants were arrested on firearms charges and subsequently charged with the payroll murder. One was a shoemaker named Nicola Sacco, the other a fish peddler named Bartolomeo Vanzetti -and their names were to echo through the decades to the shame of American Justice.

The events occurred during one of America's 'Red scares' Sacco and held anarchist view, and their trial in May 1921 proved a grotesque travesty. The facts that the accused were immigrants and held anarchist views were enough to convict them. And their fates were sealed when the prosecution tried to prove by dubious means that Sacco's, 32 Colt was the murder weapon. The judicial atmosphere of the court was barely credible. The accused was referred to as 'wops', 'dagos', and sons of bitches. And judge Webster Thayer disclosed an open detestation of foreigners. (Did you see what I did to those anarchist bastards?) He asked after the proceeding.
The accused was found guilty of first-degree murder. But the courtroom charade had not passed unnoticed among American liberals. The immigrant case became a cause celebre and through the next 6 years a campaign for retrial gathered ground on both sides of Atlantic. Worldwide protests and mass fund raising meetings contributed to various appeals, to couple it the entire whole affair became complicated in by 1925 when a convicted gangster named Celestino Madeiros confessed to the payroll robbery and stated that the two men were innocent. Since Madeiros was awaiting execution, however, his testimony was of limited value.

In July 1927 a three men committee was appointed to re-examine the evidence. Authoritative testimony came for the prosecution from Major Calvin Goddard, a pioneer of forensic ballistics. Using the recent invention of the comparison microscope, he showed conclusively that the fatal bullets had allegedly been fired by Sacco's gun (but had the bullets been planted on him? So much was at stake by now in the case that both defence and prosecutions were fighting dirty).

On 3 August 1927, the state Governor refused a retrial. Sacco and Vanzetti must die, and following the final denial of clemency, riot squads were called out in several US cities, while bombs went off in New York and Philadelphia and there were strikes and riots in Europe and South America. It was all to no avail. Sacco and Vanzetti went to the electric chair in Boston's Charlestown Prison on 23 August 1927. Both men mentioned their innocence in the end and their death inspired a wealth of poems, novels, and plays. If historians still raise some question marks over their innocence, it is certain that they should never have been convicted on the evidence: in 1977, a special proclamation by the Governor of Massachusetts officially cleared their names.

The most moving tribute on their memory, through, was penned by Vanzetti himself. In a statement written before his death he willingly accepted his martyrdom. He wrote of his pride that the pair of them -- a shoemaker and a poor fish peddler-- should have contributed by chance to such an upheaval in the public conscience. : 'Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of men as now we do with accident The last moment belongs to us -- that agony is our triumph.'

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