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  • Unusual Riots June 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern , trackback

    A long day ahead of Beachcombing as the family prepare to celebrate Little Miss B’s third birthday with an uneasy coalition of villagers and local think tank wonks and the confusion of their progeny. Think Farmer Pickles talking about the price of wheat, John Balls describes the demographic replacement rate, while master Pickles and master Balls are screaming at their parents’ feet arguing about who gets to be Barbie and who gets to be Ken. Beachcombing will be, meanwhile, looking around assessing which of the tiny toddlers will be trying to sleep with his daughter in a decade-plus time.

    The stuff of nightmares.

    In any case, in recognition of the fact that he can’t write a full piece today Beachcombing thought he would offer up a cookie dough post, an incomplete but hopefully tasty morsel. Interested by the details of the French riots in yesterday’s post he found himself late last night wondering about the most unusual riots in history. He’s ransacked his files and concentrated on motive. The bias for Anglo-Saxon countries is either Beachcombing’s own personal bias or reflects a particularly violent and petty streak among English-speakers. Beachcombing was particularly satisfied, btw, to note that three of the following seven involve the medical profession, no surprises there: loathsome white coats.

    1) Nika Riots (532). From the World Cup to the Stanley Cup sports riots are par for the course, but this one in late antique Constantinople between the Blues and the Greens – two chariot factions – and Justinian’s government left thousands dead: two days later the rioters had done more damage to Constantinople than the Turks and Crusaders combined.

    2) St Scholastica Day Riots (1355). Two students in Oxford complained about drinks in a bar – an interesting parallel to the more famous Paris Student Strikes of 1229. A classic ‘town and gown’ dispute developed. Within three days about ninety had been killed including sixty odd students many of whom had succumbed when the locals shot arrows into the student quarter.

    3) The Boston Wig Riots (1770). By some accounts the event that sparked the struggle for American independence. A British officer beat up a wig maker’s apprentice who had the temerity to demand said officer pay for a wig. Locals and soldiers piled in on both sides.

    4) The Doctor Riots (1788). The best of all New York riots. Boys playing near New York hospital see a cut arm hanging in a hospital window. Word spread and a mob formed believing (almost certainly correctly) that the doctors were resurrection men, ‘borrowing’ recently buried corpses.

    5) Vaccine Riots (1904). The mayor of Rio de Janeiro overreached himself badly at the end of an ambitious series of health reforms. He gave powers to city workers to enter homes and insist on giving smallpox vaccines to all citizens. The city went up in flames for seven days and the international health community naturally gave the mayor a medal.

    6) The Brown Dog Riots (1907). Medical students in London rioted against the statue of a brown dog in Battersea Park. Apart from beating up police men and generally making fools of themselves they also rubbed toy dogs coated in soot in the faces of passers-by.

    7) The Disco Riots (1979). The end of the disco era. A baseball game in Chicago ran a post-match promo by blowing up disco records, inviting fans to bring their own along.  The home team lost and the crowd went wild when the TNT men arrived, those who couldn’t get their records to the explosives depot in time threw them like frisbees. Brilliantly woven into Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco.

    Any more unusual riots: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    Roy writes in with the following ‘The Disco Riot reminded me of the 10 cent beer night riot at Cleveland in 1974.  25,000 fans gathered in attendance to watch the Rangers play the Indians.  Or rather, to drink cheap beer.  As the game progressed, the inebriated crowd grew rowdier and more drunk, escalating from random flashing and streaking to shouting death threats at Rangers players.  Fans began to throw trash on the field at increasing rates.  Finally, in the last inning, a fan tried to steal one of the Ranger player’s hats.  The player slipped, and the manager of the Rangers, Billy Martin, assumed the player was under attack.  Martin grabbed a bat and led the charge of the Rangers players.  A large number of Cleveland fans surged onto the field, wielding knives, bottles, chains, and portions of the seats.  Fans also were hurling steel folding chairs, one of which hit the head of the Cleveland pitcher. Meanwhile, the Indians manager, Ken Aspromonte, feared that some of the Rangers players would be killed.  He ordered his team to grab their bats and try to defend the Rangers.  Soon, the Indians and Rangars players were running for their lives.  The game was forfeited to the Rangers because order could not be established in a timely manner (shortly after a fan threw a knife at the leg of the umpire).  The bases were stolen, quite literally, by the fans.  The umpire crew chief remarked that the fans were ‘uncontrollable beasts’, and that he had never seen such behavior ‘except in the zoo’. The Cleveland police finally arrived on scene to restore order. Additional 10 cent beer nights were changed to limit the amount of alcohol that could be consumed.’ Classics reminds Beach, instead of some interesting prison riots (an untapped genre?): ‘Sandwiches have been responsible for a lot of grief in correctional facilities. In February 2011 inmates in Monroe County (GA) rioted when they were given sandwiches instead of a hot meal. In 2002 a riot in Lincoln Prison, in your own UK, was sparked by rumors that hot meals were to be replaced by sandwiches. Then as an aside the legendary 1929 prison riot at Colorado State Penitentiary Riot saw one of the guard hostages spared because at an earlier date he had given his sandwich to an inmate. As one who has spent a little time inside – sandwiches have a lot to answer for.’ Thanks Roy and Classics!!

    19 June 2011: Shawn writes in with a thought: ‘As I recall, the 1968 Democratic Convention chaos was labelled a ‘police riot‘.’ Thanks Shawn!

    22 Feb 2012: Invisible writes: ‘This from the “Quite Interesting Facts” column in the Telegraph. In the US in the Twenties a strange craze grew up around “Felt Hat Day”, September 15. Anyone who wore a summer straw hat after that date risked being physically attacked. When President Coolidge wore one on September 18 1925, it was front-page news. In 1922, police reserves were called into handle a “straw hat riot” in New York in which scores of straw hats were destroyed by marauding “rowdies”. To prevent these attacks some people destroyed their own hats first.’ Thanks Invisible!

    14 Aug 2014: Janet writes: you’ve missed out the weirdest riot of  them all. The great balloon riot of 1864, thankfully only a balloon died.

    30 Dec 3014:  Tunnel Rat writes in,  ‘This is quite strange in that happened twice. Both the 1984 and 1986 Aggieville Riots occurred in the Manhattan district of Kansas in the United States where Kansas State University is stationed. After winning against their in-state rival Kansas at their annual college gridiron football game, K-State students decided to go on the celebratory rampage in their own town characterized by smashing windows, overturning cars and uprooting signs. The same thing happened in 1986 after Kansas State won against Kansas a second time. Students were wearing “Riotville” and “Riot II” t-shirts that day and the property damage was even greater than in 1984. The disturbances then came to an end the following year when both teams, after coming off exceptionally poor seasons, drew 17-17 in a game titled the “Toilet Bowl” because of its lackluster setting and with little for either side to celebrate for.’ Thanks Tunnel Rat!

    15/ Feb 2015: Hello, Dr. Beach Combing. Tunnel Rat here has another submission of a strange protest/riot that occurred quite recently. Considerably in La Paz, Bolivia, thousands of youths went out to the streets to protest the moving of The Simpson‘s timeslot. The protest nevertheless succeeded in its goal in not only restoring the show to its original timeslot but also increasing the airtime of the show from forty-five minutes to a to two full hours daily. Effective 9th of March 2015 in Bolivia, these measures will take place for The Simpsons. We’ll call it the 2015 Bolivian Simpsons protests. Here is the source: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/thousands_of_bolivians_take_to_the_streets_in_protest_demanding_the_simpson

    15 Feb 2015: Beach himself is proud to link now to the whole question of 19 cent ghost riots!!!!