On March 14, 1891, 11 Sicilian immigrants who had been falsely accused of murdering the police chief of New Orleans were shot and hung by a mob of thousands in the largest mass lynching in American history.
The 130th anniversary of that dark day was marked in Chicago with a moving commemoration in Arrigo Park hosted by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. The event was emceed by JCCIA President Ron Onesti and attended by an impressive array of ethnic and political leaders.
More than a dozen of those leaders took to the microphone to share a portion of the story of what happened on that fateful day. Among them were Chicago aldermen Nick Sposato, Ariel Robyres, Jason Ervin and Christ Taliaferro; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and County Commissioner Peter Silvestri; State Rep. Anthony DeLuca; Simon Wiesenthal Center Midwest Director Alison Pure-Slovin; and Polish American Congress President Michael Niedzinski.
Speaking for the Chicago-area Italian-American community were Robert Allegrini, Calo Bucaro, Sal Camarda, Frank DiPiero, Anthony Onesto, Theresa Panzica, Lisa Ryan and JoAnn Spata.
Representing New Orleans were Honorary Consul Italian General Frank Maselli and New Orleans writer and producer Charles Marsala. New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantral addressed the crowd via videotape.
“To have all those groups together with us in harmony was truly inspirational and speaks volumes about the power of coming together,” Onesti says.