By William Stilwell
Walking through Boston’s North End, it’s hard to ignore the beautiful brick tenement buildings that line the crowded streets. Built during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these buildings housed many of Boston’s Jewish, Portuguese, and Italian immigrants. They are not famous landmarks like the Old North Church or the Paul Revere House, but thousands of people have called the North End home over the years and these buildings stand today as living reminders of that rich history. One such building is 7 Hull Street, visible from the front doors of Old North, and home in 1912 to Fernando Carabeli. Carabeli, a 27-year-old Italian immigrant, was arrested for inciting a riot inside Faneuil Hall where police and protestors were injured and a gun was fired inside the Great Hall.
The mass meeting held at Faneuil Hall on July 7th, 1912, had been uneventful. A thousand Italian-American men, women, and children gathered in the Great Hall to protest the January arrests of Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The two men had organized a massive labor strike among the immigrant factory workers of Lawrence. On January 29th, 1912, striking workers marched through the streets of Lawrence and were met by the state militia, dispatched to contain the crowd on behalf of the mill owners and the state. As the militia, guns drawn, pushed into the crowd, a striking worker named Anna LoPrizzo was shot and killed. The police claimed she was shot by one of the strikers, while numerous witnesses identified the shooter as Officer Oscar Benoit. In the aftermath, Ettor and Giovannitti were arrested for murder, the state arguing that by organizing the march they were accessory to murder. This was a naked attempt by the state to end the strike, as both men were miles away at a separate meeting during the march.
Instead of ending the strike, the arrests of Ettor and Giovannitti only invigorated the protests. The two men remained jailed well into the summer as they awaited trial, but in the meantime protests and mass meetings continued. One such mass meeting was held on July 7th, at Faneuil Hall. The speeches that day were fiery, the crowd lively, and the Great Hall as balmy as the weather outside. After the speeches, the crowd began to disperse. Heading for the exit, Fernando Carabeli lit up a cigar. Boston police officer Dennis Buckley, pushed Carabeli toward the doors, ordering him out or to put out his cigar. Carabeli responded, saying he was “no dog.” Buckley responded by hitting Carabeli with his club. For ten minutes, chaos erupted. Members of the crowd rushed to Carabeli’s aid as three more officers joined in with their clubs. Chairs were thrown at the officers as the crowd hurled punches at the officers. Then, a member of the crowd drew his revolver and fired a shot – which missed – but the shock of the sound ended the scuffle. Carabeli’s head was “badly cut up,” Officer Buckley had his “teeth loosened,” and another police officer, Sergeant Horton, claimed that “the bullet…grazed his chest and almost knocked him over.” The four officers in the hall drew their weapons and held back the crowd as they awaited back up. As more officers arrived at the Hall they were showered with boos from the remains of the crowd. Eventually the police extracted Carabeli and charged him with inciting a riot.
The following day, three men from the meeting went to the courthouse to support Carabeli. Luigi Cloburro of Everett, Gustiano Brausone of Lynn, and Carabeli’s North End neighbor Valentine Campanella of 150 Salem Street (another tenement building that still stands today) all showed up at the courthouse to attend the trial and support their friend. Unfortunately, Sergeant Horton and Officer Buckley recognized the men from the Faneuil Hall scuffle and all three were promptly arrested. Cloburro and Brausone were charged with inciting a riot, while Campanella was charged with assault and attempting to rescue a prisoner. The four men plead not guilty, but the following day all four were found guilty and sentenced. Carabeli received a year in prison, while the other three were sentenced to six months each. Justice Bennett, in sentencing the men, stated that “he did not approve of Faneuil Hall being let for meetings of such a character” and went on to argue that the intensity of the meeting led to the ensuing riot. Counsel for Carabeli and the others argued that the speeches had been peaceful, and it was the police that escalated the situation and started the violence. Members of the press sided with Justice Bennett, as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote on July 13 that the meeting “might have been orderly and proper. It might have been no disgrace to Faneuil Hall. But the Italians are not in the habit of holding such orderly meetings.” In September the City of Boston denied use of the Hall for another meeting on Ettor and Giovannitti’s behalf, deferring to the police who felt a second meeting would lead to a second riot.
Ettor and Giovannitti were finally acquitted in November of 1912. Unfortunately, what became of Carabeli after his jail term is unknown. His story is one of many poor, immigrant stories mostly untold. The building he once lived in still stands today, anonymous and unassuming, but with rich and important history just below the surface.
William Stilwell is a seasonal Park Ranger for the National Parks of Boston, a historic site educator at King’s Chapel, and a Fenway Park Tour Guide. He also served as an educator at Old North for several years, including a promotion to Lead Educator.