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PORTELLA DELLA GINESTRA MASSACRE

On May 1, 1947, during Labour Day celebrations in Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily, 11 people were killed and 27 wounded in what is called  the Portella della Ginestra Massacre. Sicilian separatist leader and bandit Salvatore Giuliano and his gang were held responsible although many people believe that they were used as scapegoats by the mafia in cahoots with wealthy landowners and politicians.

On April 20–21 there was a surprise victory by a coalition of the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party in the elections for the Constituent Assembly of Sicily, against the christian democrats, the rightists and the monarchists. Poverty was rampant, the social divide unbearable, so the communist leader in Sicily, Girolamo Li Causi, pledged to redistribute large land holdings, and the landowners were more than just displeased because they would have been allowed to keep 247 acres or less each.

Twelve days later, hundreds of mostly poor peasants gathered at Portella della Ginestra, on the way to San Giuseppe Jato for the traditional international Labour Day parade, when they were surrounded and attacked by machine guns fired from the surrounding hills, as well as by men on horseback. Eleven people were killed, including four children, Serafino Lascari (15), Giovanni Grifò (12), Giuseppe Di Maggio and Vincenzo La Fata, both seven years old. Thirty-three people were wounded, including a little girl who had her jaw shot off.

The massacre created a national scandal. The debate in Parliament ended in a fist fight between 200 deputies from the left and the right.

Salvatore Giuliano, regarded until the massacre as a modern day Robin Hood who fought for the independence of Sicily, went into hiding with his gang but he let the world know that he was hired to just scare the peasants. Somebody else was there and they did the massacre.

Speaking at Portella della Ginestra on the second anniversary of the massacre, Li Causi publicly called on Giuliano to name names. He received a written reply from the bandit leader: "It is only men with no shame who gives out names. Not a man who tends to take justice into his own hands; who aims to keep his reputation in society high, and who values this aim more than his own life."

Li Causi responded by reminding Giuliano that he would almost certainly be betrayed by the politicians/landowners who hired him: "Don’t you understand that Scelba [Christian Democratic Minister of the Interior] will have you killed?"

Giuliano replied: "I know that Scelba wants to have me killed; he wants to have me killed because I keep a nightmare hanging over him. I can make sure he is brought to account for actions that, if revealed, would destroy his political career and end his life."

The trial started in the summer of 1950 and, in the end, the judge concluded that no higher authority had ordered the massacre, and that the Giuliano band had acted autonomously.

Salvatore Giuliano was killed in very suspicious circumstances on July 5, 1950; witnesses of the massacre disappeared; Giuliano's lieutenant, Gaspare Pisciotta, was poisoned while incarcerated four years later. Plenty of space for conspiracy theories.

Salvatore Giuliano, a 1962 Italian film directed by Francesco Rosi, gives a great  neo-realist account of the story, a must-see.

Portella della Ginestra massacre memorial plaque states:

On May 1, 1947, while celebrating the working class festival and the victory of April 20, men, women and children of Piana, S. Cipirello and S. Giuseppe fell under the bullets of the Mafia and the landed barons to crush the struggle of the peasants against feudalism.

 

SOURCE:

Wikipedia