The Cliftonville Riot

Follansbee Review
August 25, 1922

Italian Gov't Interested In Trial Of Miners

Italians To Have Native Counsel at Cliftonville Riot Trial in October

Italian Consular Agent Takes Up Case Of Countrymen

Interview Miners

(Wheeling Register)

The mine battle which occurred several weeks ago at Cliftonville will become an international battle if Attorney B. Merendino, of Clarksburg, royal Italian consular agent for West Virginia, succeeds in getting at least some of the Italians arrested in conjunction with the case out on bond.

Attorney Merednino [sic] has been in Wheeling for a couple of days, and while here has interviewed all the miners in custody and being held in the Ohio county jail. He will go to Wellsburg today where several more are being held. As soon as his investigation is complete, he will take what action he deems expedient, and intimates that he will recommend to the Italian embassy at Washington that steps be taken to bring before the secretary of state the matter of releasing some of the men being held on the ground that they are not implicated in any way with the battle in which seven lost [t]heir lives, including Sheriff Hardin H. Duval of Brooke county.

"From information secured from some of the Italians in custody here" Attorney Merendino told a Register reporter last night, "I am satisfied that they were arrested and indicted for murder by wholesale regardless of whether they participated in the battle.

"Illegal means were undoubtedly used to take the miners prisoners. Had this not been the case the officials of West Virginia would never have been able to get so many Pennsylvania men in custody. I have been informed by some of the men in jail here that deputy sheriffs and state police from West Virginia actually went into Pennsylvania and arrested the foreigners, who, ignorant of their right to take advantage of the law which requires extradition papers and also fearing rougher treatment, gave themselves up and permitted the West Virginia officers to bring them to Brooke county, where they were indicted for murder by the wholesale.

"Further, some of the men claim, and it is common knowledge, that the state constabulary of Pennsylvania pushed the miners from Pennsylvania to the West Virginia line, where West Virginia state policemen and deputy sheriffs awaited them and lodged them in the jails of the state. That is a violation of the laws, and is unfair to the men who aare [sic] now facing murder charges.

"In another instance, I have been informed, officers went to a house where a man was wanted, and insisted that an eight-year-old girl tell where her brother was hiding. The girl had been under the care of a physician for a week, and even though she was ill, the officers put her through a third degree, and her condition since has been very critical. It developed also, I have been informed, that the little girl actually knew nothing of her brother's whereabouts.

"One Italian was arrested at Cliftonville, who had driven to the town from Cedar Grove in a Ford machine. This man had nothing to do with the battle, but, because he was there he was arrested and the fact that he was indicted along with a couple of hundred others for murder is proof conclusive that snap judgment was taken by the officials in their haste to secure convictionse [sic] of the men responsible for the battle and subsequent murders.

"Someone undoubtedly is guilty. They should be brought to justice. However, the law does not desire that the innocent shall suffer with the guilty. Less haste would have made stronger cases for the state. If my further investigation discloses such discrepancies in constituted authority, I am going to ask all of the Italians whom I am representing be released on bond. If the officials fail to comply with my request then there is still the avenue of international intercession. I know the national government will not tolerate law violations by officers. If they have arrested without warrants; if they have in custody men who did not participate in the armed march; if they have grilled children in their hasty desire to lay their hands on men whom they believed to be implicated; if they have perpetrater [sic] such acts as these, then I know the state department at Washington will acknowledge the requests of the Italian government, and I also feel confident the request will be made."


West Virginia Archives and History