ANARCHISM ON TRIALby Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman
Oppression has dragged revolt before the tribunal of the Grand Inquisition. Dead words of the Law lay ready as instruments of torture. The District Attorney acted as accuser for the offended divinity. In the box sat the jurors, men with set faces, steadfast worshippers of the dogma. Soldiers and
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An excerpt from the beginning of the second chapter:
Oppression has dragged revolt before the tribunal of the Grand Inquisition. Dead words of the Law lay ready as instruments of torture. The District Attorney acted as accuser for the offended divinity. In the box sat the jurors, men with set faces, steadfast worshippers of the dogma. Soldiers and detectives formed nine-tenths of the audience; only a few friends of the accused had been fortunate enough to gain admission to the court.
On his elevation beneath the purple canopy—stretched by another generation—in his solemn high-backed chair behind the huge table laden with law books sat the Judge, the almighty of the hour.
It was the afternoon of the seventh of July, in the Federal court-room situated on the fourth floor of the old Post-office Building in New York.
City Hall Square below was crowded with thousands of people who had assembled to witness the spectacle of the City fathers welcoming the Russian Commission on the steps of the City Hall, just across the square. The Russian tricolor in close embrace with the Stars and Stripes flew from buildings and flagpoles. It was a sunshiny, jubilant, afternoon, the Friday which the people of New York had chosen to show their love for the new Russian democracy and to try Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman for conspiracy.
From the windows of the court-room we could see the festive procession, the waving of flags, the enthusiastic faces that hailed the dawn of a new era, we could hear the music of the band playing that grandest of all songs of liberty, "The Marseillaise," and the cheering of the crowds, who, in the bottom of their hearts, believe in freedom. But the people of New York could not look into the court-room on the fourth floor of the Post-office Building and could not hear the cry of strangled Liberty, nor the strains of the dreadful litany that tells of prison and punishment and death.
The air was heavy, the audience quiet and subdued, the soldiers in their uniforms among the spectators watchful and defiant. The court attendants in their blue uniforms and shining badges used both gestures and looks to intimidate the awed spectators. Officers were posted at the doors to refuse admission to the people of New York who tried to get in.
I sat there at the press table amidst the representatives of our daily papers. Some were older men who followed the proceedings with the mellow superiority of experience. Young reporters were busy making notes, which would never be
And there, opposite me, sat Alexander Berkman. A strong, fighting face; decision and action written all over him. Around his mouth plays the tired smile of the fighter who knows what it means to meet stupidity face to face. His hands are clenched, he is armed against attacks and lies, against rudeness and against injustice. He has come to fight. He does not know how to compromise. He does not know how to bow politely to the court, how to invoke in flowery language the attention of the District Attorney or how to arouse the sympathetic interest of his peers—the jurymen. The principles for which he is fighting, which brought about his indictment, are now his only weapons and his only shield. He is a non-conformist who believes in liberty and in freedom uncurtailed in any way.
My memory goes back a few years. I see the very same man surrounded by little children, laughing and merry-making with them. I see him amidst the pupils of the Ferrer School, telling them fairy-tales and admonishing them always to remain brothers and sisters after they have left school and grown up to be adults.
There is Emma Goldman, sitting behind him. I don't see hatred in her eyes but determination; to do to the last minute what she thinks so important for the happiness of future generations. She is reading some report introduced as evidence by the District Attorney. There is a grave seriousness on her features and that wonderful, final resolve that has ever—since time began—caused men to be crucified, to be burned alive, hung, drawn and quartered; the resolve and purpose which have brought to humanity all the good things it possesses.
There is the jury! Twelve men representing the people of New York; the peers of the defendants! I look at their faces: some are old men, some are middle-aged, some are bald-headed and some have gray, black or blonde hair. Some have mustaches and others have not. Some have pepper-and-salt colored suits, others wear suits of brown, black or light-gray. Sometimes they look at the defendants. When they do, it is not for long. It is the casual look at something repulsive, at something that one might be curious enough to look at though one knows that it is bad because it is so different from what newspapers print and politicians praise....
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