October 14, 1920: Nationalist bombings in Trieste, Italy

Nationalists tossed bombs and engaged in firefights with police in Trieste, northeastern Italy on October 14, 1920.

Nationalists tossed bombs and engaged in firefights with police in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste on October 14, 1920.

TRIESTE, ITALY – Killing those with whom you disagree is a tried and true practice.

Have you ever written an angry letter to the editor? Has a news article or an op-ed piece ever gotten you so hot under the collar that you elected to share your disagreement? I suppose nowadays one would post something on a social media platform or blast out an angry tweet, but the sentiment is the same.

Those of us who live in the West are used to a free press. We allow all kinds of views to be stated, even ones we really don’t like. Many nations have enshrined the right to say or write whatever you want, within certain limits (e.g. exhorting hate) of course. The US First Amendment is a good example: “Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

On occasion, however, there are those that do not accept differences of opinion. We are seeing this now unfold in Paris with the trial of accomplices of terrorists who attacked the offices of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo over the publication of images of the Prophet Muhammad some saw as insulting.

These fairly recent attacks are not the only ones, however. On this day in 1920 Italian nationalists threw bombs into the offices of the socialist newspaper Lavoratore. They went on to destroy the print shop and shot a correspondent of a Milan nationalist newspaper in the head. The US Consul General and a correspondent for the New York World were also on the premises at the time.

In an ensuing gun battle eight civilians and two policemen were injured. Building fronts across the street were shattered by the bombs.

The linotype machines were broken up with hammers, and the furniture was thrown out of the window into the street and burned by the demonstrators. A big safe, however, was recovered intact.

NY Times, October 16, 1920

It is one thing to disagree with someone. It is quite another to kill over it. As Voltaire once said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. If only the terrorists would accept that.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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