|Died||May 22, 1901 (aged 31)|
|Conviction(s)||Murder of Umberto I|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
Gaetano Bresci (Italian pronunciation: [ɡaeˈtaːno ˈbreʃʃi]; November 10, 1869 – May 22, 1901) was an Italian anarchist who assassinated King Umberto I of Italy on July 29, 1900. Bresci was the first European regicide offender not to be executed, as capital punishment in Italy had been abolished in 1889.
Bresci was born on November 10, 1869, at Coiano, in Prato, Tuscany, and emigrated from Italy to the United States in his late twenties. In the United States, he made his living as a weaver in Paterson, New Jersey, which had a large Italian-American community. He became involved with and was later a leading member of an Italian political group called "Gruppo diritti all' esistenza". He was one of the founders of La Questione Sociale, the Italian language anarchist paper published in Paterson.
Bresci had thought of killing Italian King Umberto I when he lived in Italy. After emigrating to the United States, he was introduced to anarchist and propaganda of the deed advocate Giuseppe Ciancabilla via the anarchist organizer Errico Malatesta. While Bresci was influenced by Ciancabilla and the continued suppression of popular revolt in Italy, he was particularly affected by the 1898 Bava Beccaris massacre, in which dozens of people were murdered during the Milanese bread riots over the rising price of bread, for which the king awarded a medal to General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris.
Bresci requested the return of a loan to La Questione Sociale and with the money he went to Italy. While the king was visiting Monza, on July 29, 1900, Bresci shot him four times with a five-shot .32 revolver. A monument, the Cappella Espiatoria, was later erected on the spot where the king was murdered.
Trial and death
Bresci was captured and put on trial, where he was defended by the anarchist lawyer Francesco Saverio Merlino. There being no capital punishment in Italy at the time, he was sentenced in Milan on August 29, 1900, to penal servitude for life on Santo Stefano Island near Ventotene, where numerous other anarchists had also been sent over the years. Less than a year later, on May 22, 1901, he was found dead in prison at the age of 31. Biographer Arrigo Petacco described the circumstances of Bresci's death as mysterious. While Bresci was reported to have hanged himself, many believed that he had been murdered.
Anarchists quickly regarded Bresci as a martyr and raised money to support his widow and two daughters. Bresci's regicide inspired anarchist Leon Czolgosz to kill United States President William McKinley later that year. New York City anarchists congregated as the Bresci Circle in his honor. The group, which reached 600 participants in 1914, were involved in numerous examples of propaganda of the deed, including bombing St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and attempting to assassinate John D. Rockefeller, the richest person of the modern era.
In the 1970s through the 1980s, Tuscany anarchists commissioned a monument to Bresci for his hometown but were blocked by the government. It was erected overnight in Carrara's Turigliano cemetery in 1990.
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