The 5 Most Embarrassing Things Angry Mobs Have Rioted Over
When you need to show your displeasure with the local government or with your favorite sports team when it loses ... or wins ... or ties the big game, there's no clearer way to do it than by destroying your immediate surroundings.
What we're trying to say is that humans don't need much of an excuse to start rioting. And in fact, as these stories prove, we really don't need any excuse at all ...
A Lame Spring Break
In 1969, Chuck Stroup, a student at North Dakota State University, had a problem: He couldn't afford to go to Florida for spring break. So he cooked up a scheme to get his classmates to stay in the area, and promoted a local town named Zap as the hip place for everyone to go. Stroup took out an ad in the school paper for his party, which he dubbed "The Zip to Zap Grand Festival of Love." An article in the same paper later proclaimed that "a full program of orgies, brawls, freakouts and arrests is being planned." And, just like that, it was on.
You haven't lived until you've had a quiet country orgy.
Stroup was successful beyond his wildest dreams. The Associated Press picked up the story, and Zap actually did become the go-to destination for students in the Midwest. The local businesses, naturally, wagged their tails and started stockpiling on beer and burgers.
Bust has never seemed like such an option.
But Stroup hadn't really thought his venue through. Zap was a mining town of 250 residents, in the middle of goddamn nowhere, with temperatures routinely falling below freezing during spring. It also sported a grand total of two taverns.
Now, insert several thousands of thirsty, horny students in the equation and see if you can spot the problem. The hordes of students drained all beer and food within the first day and were soon stuck camping outside, in freezing temperatures.
It's like Woodstock, only less Hendrix and more peeling your lips away from beer bottles.
Reasonably, they wanted to keep warm. Less reasonably, they did so by tearing down a building and using it to light a giant bonfire in the middle of Main Street. They then proceeded to use the entire town as a makeshift toilet, urinating and vomiting wherever they damn well pleased.
The Summer of Love, now with riot police!
The townspeople and the mayor, who had welcomed the students earlier that very day, politely asked them to leave. The majority politely complied. A significant minority decided to destroy the town instead. The mob first took out their ire on the bars that failed to meet their partying needs. Then, they turned to other business establishments. They left no stone unturned -- or thrown -- and many buildings were hit so bad that they later had to be demolished.
The local police force, presumably consisting entirely of Frances McDormand and armed with polite suggestions, was powerless against the rioters.
"Well, gee, we could really use some gosh darn help here, don'cha know?"
Zap would probably have been completely annihilated if the state militia hadn't been called in. No one ever went to a party planned by Chuck Stroup ever again.
"Great turnout this year, guys."
Occasionally, someone will link you to some YouTube video and say, "You have to check out this insane Indian action movie!" and it's usually a clip of some laugh-out-loud implausible fight choreography, where each punch sends six bad guys flying.
His slipstream is deadly.
If so, you probably just saw Indian film star Rajinikanth (Rajini) in action. He has built quite a career through four decades of work. The man is beloved throughout Asia, to the point that every movie he appears in credits him as Superstar Rajini.
Joining the ranks of celebs with honorary titles, like Prince or Lady Gaga.
He got there by showing the world the most ridiculous action scenes every put to film:
If you didn't watch that, let's just summarize it by saying Rajini beats dozens of men in ways that, apparently, not even the special effects team felt was possible. Anyone knowingly going to see a film with this man in it is pre-wired to punch logic and everything else in the gonads. It would probably not be a good idea to piss these people off when they're in full Rajini mode.
In 2007, Malaysian movie theaters didn't receive enough film prints for the big premiere of Rajini's new film, The Boss. This delayed the opening, which would have been pretty bad itself. Fate, however, went and turned this misfortune into a giant multi-hit combo of catastrophe, as the printless theaters decided to try and show the movie anyway -- using screen digital versions they were 100 percent unfamiliar with. They ran into technical problems that forced them to turn off the movie halfway through.
We understand if this caused confusion. We watched the entire film and are still utterly perplexed.
Usually, this would probably have caused the usual "disappointed fandom" reaction, i.e. lots of pent-up nerd rage and, possibly, a short-lived Facebook boycott campaign. This time, though, there was a nationwide riot. We're not talking about some limp-wristed slapfest, either. Entire audiences, denied their dose of Rajini madness, Hulked up and started smashin'. Because that's what Rajini would do.
Things that Rajini would also do: throw people into electricity pylons.
In one theater in Rawang, people threw bottles at the screen, destroyed showcases and physically attacked anyone who tried to restore order. In another, the patrons refused to accept refunds and actually started extorting the theater for three times the cost of tickets, plus travel expenses. A theater in the province of Kang took it the worst. People utterly trashed the place, smashing furniture and equipment, and tearing through screens and curtains like angry wolverines. They even tried to set the joint on fire. The damage to that theater alone was more than $25,000.
Here, Rajini conjures up $25,000 by smashing up a rooftop with an iron bar. This actually happens.
To add to the mayhem, fistfights were reported throughout Malaysian movie houses, and in at least one theater, the crowd kicked the crap out of a cinema manager. During this nationwide amok, not one soul paused to consider waiting for even one day for the theaters to just fix their damn equipment.
A Fashion Faux Pas
There are plenty of weird, archaic fashion rules that seem to serve no purpose besides "because we damn well say so." Back in the day, one of these rules considered it bad form to wear straw hats past September 15. Those who did not abide would get more than just venomous glances, though -- the hats were knocked right off their heads, and promptly stomped on.
"That thing has to Gogh."
In New York City, 1922, the straw hat thing was taken seriously -- and to a ridiculous extreme. Before September 15 even actually arrived, a group of teenagers got it in their heads to knock the straw hats from the heads of a bunch of dock workers, who in a typical NYC reaction, flipped the fuck out and tried to beat the snot out of the would-be hat stompers. And that's where it should have ended.
If it was up to this New York baseball team, it would have ended.
Instead, the brawl got so bad it stopped traffic on the Manhattan Bridge. The police were able to stop it, but the hat gang regrouped, gathered their friends and went on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Lunacy took its course, and soon, groups of teens several hundred strong roamed the streets, solely to cause panic among the hat-wearing citizenry.
Secured with ribbons? What devilry is this?
The hordes would run amok, armed with freaking sticks with nails or barbed wire on them, and knock off the offending hats. According to the New York Times, teens would hide in doorways by the dozen and jump out when they saw a suspicious hat approaching. Whoever did not give up their headgear would meet the fists of the Fashion Gestapo, too -- several men were hospitalized fighting for their hats.
"I say, that was a trilby you dashed off my head!" "Oh, dreadfully sorry, carry on."
The "Straw Hat Riot" raged on for a full three days. Every time police responded to one disturbance, another one would spring up elsewhere. The youths attacked open streetcars if they saw a single hat-wearing passenger, and even off-duty policemen who engaged in the fashion no-no.
The police eventually got the riot under control, but seeing as most of the offenders were under 18, pretty much all they could do to punish them for their many, many beatdowns was with fines and other slaps on the wrist. Presumably while holding their hats on with the other hand.
Today, the loss of life would be dire.
In the eyes of the average person, ballet is little more than a surefire cure for insomnia, despite consisting largely of flexible girls in revealing clothing. Composer Igor Stravinsky knew this, and wanted to set some space between himself and his boring-ass brethren. So, when he composed his 1913 Rite of Spring ballet, he figured he'd give the audience something different. Supervillain different.
We assume he put on an extravagant costume and wildly exaggerated all his movements.
First, he made it all about pagan rituals and sacrifice. And instead of the laid-back simplicity that was the trend at the time, he decked out the stage in eerie, primitive-looking set pieces. As for the dance itself, he and his choreographer opted for jerking, violent movements instead of the smooth, distilled boredom you normally associate the art form with.
"My inspiration? The feeling of constant queasiness that comes from an inner ear imbalance."
Then he just unleashed the whole thing unto the unsuspecting ballet crowd, possibly cackling maniacally behind a metal mask throughout.
The Paris premiere for Stravinsky's ballet didn't go as smoothly as planned.
After just a couple of minutes of discordant music and spastic dancing, the crowd began to boo and make catcalls. The orchestra got pissed at this, so they started screaming back at the boo birds (which, in our opinion, would have made the price of the ticket more than worth it). Soon, people were throwing stuff in the orchestra pit and at the dancers.
All that jerking around was perfect for dodging missiles.
As pocket watches and fancy waistcoats were launched at their targets, the people in the audience who were actually enjoying the ballet got annoyed. So they started punching the people who were throwing stuff at other people. You can probably see where this is heading.
Choreographed fight sequence!
Insults, spitting and fisticuffs ensued among these sophisticated patrons of the ballet. Men grabbed their opera canes and started walloping everyone over the head. Police arrived, but were unable to do anything much to stop the fighting. Gentlemen with waxed mustaches nobly exchanged duel cards so they could nobly shoot each other in the face later.
And through all of this, the show went on. The orchestra kept playing (sadly, they did not switch to Yakety Sax). The dancers kept on dancing, while their choreographer shouted directions in the sidelines, completely ignoring the fact that fists were flying and blood was spewing.
By intermission, the whole thing had turned into a full-scale riot. Rite of Spring, by the way, lasts about half an hour. This means it took a whole 15 minutes for the Paris audience to start mauling each another into hamburger over a ballet.
Nowadays, you can turn the whole thing into a sex parable without anyone batting an eyelid.
Subsequent performances of the piece went mostly without incident, and earned Stravinsky quite a bit of acclaim. Eventually, Walt Disney included The Rite of Spring in his film Fantasia, thus cementing the piece's place in history and making it totally violence-free and family-friendly once and for all.
Oh, wait ... shit.
A Shakespeare Play
In the 1840s, the United States managed to punch its main antagonist at the time, Britain, where it hurt the most: in their Shakespeare. Namely, America produced its first Shakespearean actor actually worth a damn: Edwin Forrest. He soon developed a rivalry with the biggest British thespian of the day, William Charles Macready. The two engaged in a bitter contest about which one could produce a more confused Hamlet, or a more star-crossed Romeo.
Or a more extravagant ascot.
Forrest proved to be the more dickish of the two, following Macready around and dissing him after his performances. It is worth noting that said performances took place in Britain, speaking ocean-sized volumes of Forrest's determination to undermine his foe.
The American's transatlantic stalking-and-trash-talk game got so heated that Macready was actually kind of afraid to visit New York, where he was due to perform in 1849. He decided to go anyway, because hey, it's just theater. What's the worst that could happen?
Falling chandeliers and a whole bunch of murders, if we know our theater.
The actors' feud was far from a two-man rivalry. Each had a rabid fanbase, and when you take into account the post-war enmity between the citizens of the two nations, the situation was a freaking powder keg.
Macready gave his all in NY, despite being pelted with rotten eggs and potatoes by Forrest's fans whenever he performed. The Brit persevered, and calmly headed for his Grand Finale: He would perform Macbeth in his venue, Astor Place, the very same night Forrest was doing the same elsewhere.
Talk about unlucky, hey? Hey? Macbeth?
Forrest's supporters bought hundreds of tickets to Macready's performance. Most were denied entrance -- presumably because the theater's attendants smelled their cache of potatoes and rotten eggs -- but stayed anyway, loitering outside the theater. The crowd of Macready bashers outside swelled to over 10,000. Soon enough, they started throwing rocks at the theater and getting into fights with policemen, who were trying to tell them to keep calm because it's only freaking Shakespeare.
At which point the few Forrest supporters that managed to get inside the theater tried to set the place on fire.
"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and OH CHRIST I'M ON FIRE."
Despite pyromaniacs inside and a rabid mob screaming for his blood outside, Macready and his company finished the play. They acted until the noises of fighting and bricks through windows got too loud. After that, they mimed the rest before taking a bow, dropping the curtain and sneaking away in disguise.
No word if they dressed as trees.
The riot didn't stop with the play, though. Long after Macready snuck away, New Yorkers were still trying to destroy the theater and going at it with the cops and each other, at that point just because. For the second time in this article, the state militia had to be called in to stop the madness. For the first time, though, they were actually given a run for their money.
When the dust of what history would know as the Astor Place Riot cleared, more than 20 people had found themselves taking a one-way trip to the morgue, and over 200 policemen and soldiers were injured.
All because two guys tried to out-Shakespeare one another.
For more situations that got out of hand, check out 7 Bullshit Rumors That Caused Real World Catastrophes and The 25 Most Nonsensical Protest Signs.