The 5 Most Inexplicable Things That Instigated Huge Riots
We humans have a special knack for banding together to accomplish a shared goal ... especially when said goal is wantonly breaking shit. Sometimes we riot for legitimate reasons, like demanding social reform or because sports didn't happen right, but other times the cause of our massive spontaneous violence seems downright silly. Like the time a bunch of people threw a mob hissy fit over ...
The Beatles Missing a Lunch Date
Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos once "requested" the presence of the Beatles at the presidential palace, but the promoter responsible for booking the gig failed to mention it to the band -- which was pretty much the only part of his job. We've all been there: Standing blankly in the parking lot of the IHOP until somebody reminds us the basic premise of our employment is to serve soggy pancakes to pending suicides.
That was literally where they originally found Ringo.
The day of the lunch, the Beatles watched on their hotel room TV as they utterly failed to show up at the presidential luncheon held in their honor. Presumably wondering all the while why the Filipinos were holding a presidential lunch to honor insects. Later, the band stepped outside, and crowds angry about the perceived snub immediately surrounded their limousines, screaming insults and threatening to overturn the cars. Back at their hotel, the staff refused to serve them, and men in fancy suits and dark sunglasses showed up to extort exorbitant "tax payments." The Beatles figured they were one suspicious cab driver away from becoming an unsolved mystery, and decided that it was time to get the hell out of dodge.
"You say, 'hello,' and I say, 'goodbye.'"
At the airport, the staff again refused to help them. Escalators mysteriously malfunctioned as they approached, slowing their progress as angry crowds surrounded them, wielding clubs and guns. As the band pushed through the mob, roadie Mal Evans was kicked in the ribs and limped to the plane with a bloodied leg. Manager Brian Epstein caught a haymaker to the face and a kick to the crotch. The band's chauffeur, Alf Bicknell, suffered a broken rib and a cracked spine, which is no dick-kick, but it ain't exactly a trip to Disney Land, either.
Under NHS terminology, this injury was officially a "hippy hippy shake."
Luckily the plane took off with four intact Beatles aboard, but John Lennon vowed that there was only one way he'd ever fly over the Philippines again: "If we go back, it will be with an H-bomb."
Damn, John. Give peace a chance.
The Great Cow War
In response to growing rates of infection in the early 20th century, many state governments enacted laws requiring veterinarians to test all cows for mycobacterium bovis, a type of tuberculosis, culling those that tested positive and then compensating farmers for their losses. Most farmers supported the program because, let's face it: As sexy as Val Kilmer made it look in Tombstone, one generally does not want to chug a nice warm glass of tuberculosis before bedtime.
"We can't just pasteurize the stuff. That steals the cow teat flavor."
However, Iowa farmers were less than supportive: They didn't see it as the government attempting to eradicate a disease -- they thought testing for tuberculosis not only spread tuberculosis, but turned their cows into the lamest mutants this side of X-Force. The farmers showed their discontent by kicking off what came to be called the Cow War. The conflict reached a crescendo on September 21, 1931, when veterinarian Peter Malcolm showed up with a police escort at the farm of J. W. Lenker. A mob of 400 farmers armed with clubs, rocks, rotten eggs, and pumpkins (widely considered the deadliest gourd) were waiting for him.
The cowapult, while hilarious, went against the whole "guarding the herd" thing.
Malcolm and his escort fled, but Iowa governor Dan Turner declared martial law and sent in the National Guard. After a scuffle, the mob was disbanded and some of its members were captured. By the end of 1931, testing throughout the state had been completed, though entirely under armed escort. Thus ended the nation's first and only cow war, which disappointingly did not involve farmers piloting battle cows around like Dino-Riders.
A Two-Month Riot Over Ticket Prices
Back in Georgian-era England, the theatre (note the backward, freedom-hating spelling; that's how you tell it's fancy) was all the rage. Sometimes literally, as the theaters transformed into raging infernos when their old-timey special effects -- "hey, let's fire this actual cannon on the stage" -- went awry. When London's Covent Garden burned down in 1808, its owners rebuilt the theater with more private boxes for the richer patrons and less gallery space for the play-loving peasants. Not only that, but to help finance all those lavish accommodations, they also jacked up ticket prices. In response, audiences did what you fantasize about every time you fork over half a paycheck for movie tickets: They rioted.
"Let's wait till it's crowded and yell 'Fire!' but actually set it on fire! Again!"
Then they took it way farther than even your bloody Transformers-based revenge dreams could imagine. They kept right on rioting ... for 62 days.
A faction formed called the "Old Pricers" or "OPs." On the day the Covent reopened, the OPs booed, sang, hollered, banged on pots and pans, and generally behaved like Facebook commenters after a minor site change. The management called in magistrates to subdue the crowd, but because the rioters were paying customers, they just shrugged their shoulders and allowed them to carry on.
We have no photos. Patrons had to turn of cell phones before the performance.
And the OPs' plan totally worked. After a full two months of unruliness, the Old Price Riots achieved its one and only goal: slightly cheaper theater tickets. You gotta respect the OP's dedication. We doubt we've done two months of work at our actual work, and some sucker pays us to be there.
Nationwide Riots Over Pantyhose
Once the U.S. entered World War II, many materials became scarce in civilian life because they were needed for the war effort. One of them was nylon -- parachutes, tire cords, ropes, aircraft fuel tanks, and mosquito netting are just a touch more important than a sexy pair of gams. By the time materials once again started to become publicly available after the war, the rations had birthed massive hordes of bare-legged, nylon-starved zombies.
No other generation had chafed so much for the greater good.
The biggest, but not the most violent, was in Pittsburgh, where 40,000 women formed a line over a mile long to try to snatch one of the store's 13,000 pairs.
It remains the most exciting thing to ever happen in Pittsburgh.
The mobs begat more mobs: herds of onlookers (mostly men) who gathered to watch the sultry pantyhose melee from the sidelines. One woman in the mile-long Pittsburgh line said that, "If a man tries to get in this line, we'll kill him." An officer tasked with overseeing the mob later said, "I hope ... I hope I never see another woman."
But then he saw that their legs did indeed look slightly smoother than before, and all was forgiven.
A Smaller-Than-Expected Balloon
Henry Tracey Coxwell was a famous 19th-century aeronaut, which means he piloted gas balloons for a living, and for a hobby, he plowed anything he felt like plowing. With something as sexy as "aeronaut" on your business card, the world's genitals are pretty much at your disposal.
The original mile-high club had fewer vacuum toilets and more applauding geese.
When he appeared before a 50,000-strong crowd in 1864, Coxwell had already made a name as a professional badass, and the spectators were eager to watch him take his new balloon, Britannia, out for a spin. Unfortunately, "hater" is the real oldest profession in the world: Somebody quickly started a rumor that the balloon on display was not, in fact, Coxwell's biggest or newest, and this kicked off a wave of flummoxed harrumphing.
Not to mention the baffled guffawing, and the harcockered flubloomering.
Wealthier citizens who'd paid to take a ride in the balloon were worried that there wouldn't be enough room, so they all piled into the basket at the same time, weighing it down. Coxwell, who used his own giant balls for ballast, stared down the angry crowd and threatened to deflate the whole thing unless everybody loosened their corsets a bit and calmed the hell down. They did not, so he followed through on his threat, and the crowd went crazy. And here is the least intimidating depiction of a riot since the Labrador retrievers won the Puppy Bowl and the terriers trashed St. Louis.
All that explosive hydrogen, and not one fireball. Real missed opportunity there.
The crowd tore the Britannia to shreds, and then set fire to the basket, burning it to ashes. Then they turned on Coxwell. Luckily, two police officers were standing by to dash him to safety, and he got away largely unharmed, presumably in a personal escape balloon shaped like a giant middle finger.
For more ways groups of people went insane, check out The 5 Most Embarrassing Things Angry Mobs Have Rioted Over and 6 Insanely Violent Festivals You Won't Believe Aren't Riots.
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