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The sad case of Marino Rossi

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  • The sad case of Marino Rossi

    The ever changing history of the Bill of Rights.















    Written by: Andy Carney


    Who?


    That's what I said initially. You probably did too. We'll get to Mr. Rossi in just a moment. But first, let's set the scene. It's 1911 in New York, one of the biggest and most rapidly growing cities in America.

    One of the busiest places in the city, as you can imagine, is Ellis Island. The hub of American immigration. Thousands and thousands of people sailing past a now 24 year old Statue of Liberty, arriving as huddled masses of mostly uneducated individuals looking to make a new life in a new world. America just saw immigration peak 3 years prior when over 1.2 million immigrants entered the country in a single year. At this time, there were over 13.5 million immigrants, in America. Way more than the 4.7 million people living in New York City at the time. There was very little in the way of legislation restricting immigration besides the Page Act, which prohibited Asian males or Asian female prostitutes from entering the country.

    As you might imagine, there was plenty of resentment among the current inhabitants of the country whose families entered the country in previous waves. One of the larger ethnic groups entering the country at that time were the Italians. Poorly educated but (mostly) hard working. Of course, like any other group of individuals, the had a few bad apples in the bunch. In the case of the Italians, it was organized crime.

    The organized crime syndicates were notorious for their tactics like murder, extortion and anything else they could use to intimidate or fund themselves in their quest for control of the streets of New York. One of their more notorious tactics was the "Black Hand" - a process of extortion and murder aimed at more successful immigrants used to get the funds the help run the crime syndicates.

    At the same time, Tammany Hall, the New York City affiliate of the Democratic Party, ruled politics in New York with an iron fist. Every mayor elected in New York from 1854 to 1932 was a member of Tammany. Tammany Hall was a bastion of corruption and racism - symbolic of the "rotten to the core" reputation that was the big apple.

    The Tammany's saw the Italians as a threat - ruthless, decently organized and hungry for power. To combat this, the political machine went to work crafting legislation that made it harder for certain groups of new immigrants to gain a foothold in the city.

    One of the laws you're probably familiar with is the Sullivan Act of 1911. Legislation sponsored by "Big" Tim Sullivan, a high ranking and notoriously corrupt Tammany operative. The legislation, and here's where it might seem a little bit too familiar to modern events, was crafted and passed on the heels of a very prominent daytime murder-suicide in Gramercy Park. The law prohibited the possession or carrying of certain weapons, including brass knuckles, daggers, blackjacks and bombs. It also required a permit to carry a handgun, putting the local police (controlled by the corrupt Tammany organization in New York) in charge of issuing permits. Bat Masterson, the famous "Wild West" lawman had moved to New York to pursue a career as a writer. He became a personal friend of Tim Sullivan. Masterson himself called the Act "obnoxious" and questioned Sullivan's mental stability.

    Let me now introduce you to Mr. Marino Rossi. He was a poor Italian immigrant from Newark and on September 8, 1911, (just 9 days after the Act was passed) Rossi was on his way to a job interview in Manhattan. Cautioned by friends about "Black Hand" attacks, he armed himself with an unregistered .38 caliber revolver. He was stopped by the police and found to be carrying. Subsequently, he went to trial and was convicted of violating the Sullivan Act. Officially, he was the first person to be convicted of violating the new law.

    At his sentencing, the obviously prejudiced Judge Foster commented, "...it was the custom of yourself as well as your countrymen to carry guns. It is unfortunate that this is the custom with you and your kind, and that fact, combined with your irascible nature, furnishes much of the criminal business in this country." Mr. Rossi, after his tongue lashing from the judge had the book thrown at him and was sentenced to a year in Sing Sing.

    So you know the story of Mr. Marino Rossi. A poor Italian immigrant who came to America looking for the American Dream, and wound up getting a bit more than he bargained for.

    • 24Pink14Stink
      #1
      24Pink14Stink commented
      Editing a comment
      What??? Gun laws, racisim, parallel to heir kwomo... and not a word is spoken?
    Posting comments is disabled.

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