Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Top Five

Plenty of bloggers publish lists of miscellany, usually tedious rundowns of favoured music or films.

Well, here at Between The Hammer And The Anvil, I try to serve up the unexpected. Since my last post seems to have gone over rather well, here's my Top Five Amusing Riots.

5 - The G8 Riot, Edinburgh, 2005

Baton Cavalry Prepare To Take on the Flower-Defacing Hippies

Surely the most pathetic riot in history, and the only one on this list I've personally witnessed.

150 schoolkids and dreadlocked hippies armed with clods of earth and bad language clashed with 2,000 coppers armed with batons, horses, riot shields, helicopters and tear gas, backed up by thousands more police from all over Britain.

At one point, the hippies vandalised some flower beds and threw a park bench at a policeman. The nation was outraged by this flagrant disregard for law and order.

This horrendous incident shut down central Edinburgh for an entire day.

The overtime costs alone for this enormous police presence - possibly the largest assembly of state power in the UK since 1944 - must have paid for at least five thousand conservatories in the home counties.

Truly, this is the stupidest overreaction to a non-existent threat since, well, since the government sent tanks to Heathrow Airport.

4 - Sydney Riot of 1879, Australia

Sparked by a dodgy umpiring decision in an New South Wales v England cricket match, the crowd invaded the pitch after Aussie batsman Billy Murdoch was given out (You're outta there!, in American) and attacked the England team.

The incident scandalised the Empire, the Sydney Morning Herald describing the incident as "A national humiliation". They further implied that an English player should share the blame, as he had "made use of a grossly insulting remark to the crowd about their being nothing but "sons of convicts".

Why this remark was considered offensive remains unclear.

3 - Stonewall Riots, New York City, 1969

The most aesthetically pleasing riot in history

In which an attempt by the New York Police Department to bust the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, went horribly wrong for the forces of law enforcement. Coming after years of police and official harrassment of the city's growing gay and transgendered community, the cops got more than they bargained for and sent in the Tactical Patrol Force, formed to break the heads of anti-war protesters.

Not that it did them any good - they were driven back by a barrage of rocks and bottles, and disturbances continued for much of the week. The riots marked a watershed in the acceptance of the gay community in New York.

Amusing only for the mental image of macho NYPD cops, used to roughing up homosexuals and men in drag with impunity, retreating in terror in the face of their combined fury.

2 - The Astor Place Riot, New York City, 1849

Technically caused by the furious anti-British sentiment that was common in the US at the time, the excuse for this spectacular brawl was, believe it or not, competing productions of MacBeth.

One production starred an American actor, the other a Brit, a sure sign of the malign intentions of the British Empire to reimpose its will upon its former colony and collect almost eighty years in backdated taxes.

Twenty two people were killed as the inhabitants of the Five Points rampaged in support of the torchbearer of American thespianism. The national guard was called in and fired upon the crowd, but to this day it's common knowledge that Britain produces the best actors.

Surely the nastiest outbreak of civil disorder ever provoked by a couple of luvvies throwing a hissy-fit.

1 - The Nika Riots, Constantinople, Eastern Roman Empire, 532

Constantinople Riots - Like this, But 1500 years ago, and on fire

30,000 killed, half of the Eastern Empire's capital destroyed, these riots almost brought down Emperor Justinian I. And the cause?

Chariot races.

Ironically for Glaswegians, the riots were kicked off as tempers simmered in the long running feud between fans of the Greens and the Blues, rival chariot teams.

As the races continued, however, both sets of fans discovered a common interest and took up the chant "Nika", or "Victory", and laid seige to the Imperial Palace for five days. Supported by rival senators, the rioters looted and burned in a orgy of violence that would make eighties football fans look like big jessies.

Now that is what I call a pointless riot - from nothing to a city in flames in the space of an hour.

Go Greens!

(Of course, in researching this post, it turns out that there's nothing new under the sun.

If you disagree with my choices, click here for a full list of recorded riots posted by a man with immaculate taste.)

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