10 Bizarre Riots from Throughout History

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Throughout so-called civilization, people have expressed their discontent in a number of ways. Whether spurred by the delusions of a mentally ill sociopath or merely reacting to the outcome of a sporting event, men and women of all stripes and hues continually prove that our species is doomed for extinction. 

Here’s proof…

10. The Cup Runneth Over

Games played between Glasgow-based soccer clubs Rangers and Celtic have a long, violent history, underscoring the intense rivalry between these two Scottish behemoths. Although riots have occurred with an alarming frequency since their first meeting in 1888, the 1909 Scottish Cup final stands out as one of the oddest.  

Deep political division, religious sectarianism, and barbaric tribal loyalty lie at the heart of “Old Firm” games. Historically, Rangers supporters are Protestant and Celtic backers are Roman Catholic — but none of that mattered when the two teams squared off at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on April 17, 1909.

Following a 2-2 draw the previous Saturday, the replay also ended in a deadlocked score, creating confusion among the 60,000 fans in attendance who expected the match to be played until a winner emerged. But when the referees signaled that the game was over, thus forcing another scheduled replay, thousands of enraged Scots spilled onto the pitch like a scene out of Braveheart.

Unruly mobs began destroying the stadium and lighting bonfires while clashing with the police and fire brigade. The rampage lasted for an astonishing two hours —an unprecedented act of hooliganism — even by British soccer standards. 

An eye-witness account later estimated 130 people were injured in the melee. Scottish officials declared the tournament over, marking the first time no trophy was handed out. 

9. Black Eye Friday

The annual pre-Christmas shopping extravaganza — better known as Black Friday — is that magical time of year when shoppers are rewarded with rock bottom low-prices while retailers aim to see their profits turn from “red” to “black.” This win-win scenario also foments unbridled chaos in which people risk life and limb in pursuit of cheap consumer goods.

Such was the case in 2011 at a Walmart in Little Rock, Arkansas, where bargain hunters went bat-guano crazy trying to nab a $2 waffle iron. Yes, you read that correctly: a waffle iron. While some things in life are worth dying for (love, justice, freedom, etc.), a gadget to make breakfast isn’t one of them. 

A viral video emerged showing dozens of people fighting and shrieking like hyenas over a limited supply of the two-portion maker. Walmart also sells a 4-waffle version with a substantially higher price tag, hence the mass hysteria surrounding the less expensive model. Sure, two bucks is a helluva deal for most appliances, but low-quality products are often made from inferior materials, resulting in breakage faster than you can ‘leggo of my eggo‘.

8. Boozeball

Baseball and beer go hand in hand. Not only have several brewery barons owned major league teams, but enjoying a cold one on a hot day at the ballpark is about as routine as the 4-6-3 double play. However, the lethal combination of suds and bad blood would lead to disastrous results at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. 

As crazy as it sounds now, “Ten Cent Beer Night used to be a fairly common promotion at live sporting events across America. Lousy teams were especially desperate to get people to the stadium by any means necessary, and beers for a dime usually did the trick. 

On June 4, 1974, the Cleveland Indians hosted the Texas Rangers, drawing a crowd of around 25,000 people. The liquored-up hometown crowd were especially rowdy because of a bench-clearing brawl that occurred a week earlier in Texas between the same two teams. The eagerly-awaited rematch would feature far more violence — and nudity. 

Early in the game, a woman ran out to the Indians’ on-deck circle and flashed her breasts, followed by a streaker dashing through the infield. Later, a father-and-son team ran onto the outfield and mooned the crowd. Several fans also targeted Rangers’ players, tossing projectiles, including bottles, firecrackers, and even broken pieces of the vintage wooden seats. 

Despite a late rally by the Indians in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 5-5, drunken revelers stormed the field hellbent on destruction. Players from both teams armed themselves with baseball bats to defend themselves before the umpires finally called the game, awarding Texas the win in a forfeit. Afterward, Rangers’ manager (and notorious brawler) Billy Martin told reporters, “That was the closest you’re ever going to be to seeing someone get killed in this game of baseball.”

7. Nylon Madness

The popularity of nylon stockings soared in the early 1940s as customers clamored for the lightweight, stretchy fashion accessory. But the popular trend came to an abrupt halt when several materials were rationed during WWII. Companies like Dupont, the inventor of nylon, transitioned to making items such as parachutes, glider tow ropes, mosquito netting, and hammocks. 

Meanwhile, women on the home front suffered. Some even resorted to using gravy browning, special lotions, and eyeliner in place of actual stockings. When the war finally ended, the production of nylons resumed as stores attempted to keep up with the frenzied demand. On June 12, 1946, a particularly nasty ruckus unfolded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, making the Battle of Gettysburg look like a Sunday church picnic.  

A crowd of 40,000 women braved torrential rain and long lines stretching 16 blocks to buy a pair of the coveted hosiery from a small specialty shop. But when the retailer quickly sold out of all its inventory, all Hell broke loose.  

The following day, a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the action: “A good old fashioned hair-pulling, face-scratching fight broke out in the line shortly before midnight. Police had to swarm in and restore order…Some of the language used would have shocked a Boston fish-peddler.” 

6. Witchy Ways

Professional athletes are notoriously superstitious. So are their supporters. Time-honored traditions and rituals abound, such as crossing oneself, pointing to the heavens, or refusing to shave during a winning streak — all in hopes of gaining a winning edge. In 2008, a Congolese soccer player was accused of invoking witchcraft during a game, triggering a deadly riot in which 13 unlucky people were killed. 

The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) hold a deeply rooted belief in occult forces, co-existing with Christianity and Islam faiths regardless of education, religion, and social class. In a match between rival clubs Nyuki System and Socozaki, players began brawling when the Nyuki goalkeeper allegedly attempted to cast a spell to sway the outcome. 

Supporters from both teams quickly joined the fray, prompting law enforcement to use tear gas. As spectators fled to escape, an ensuing stampede turned deadly. Adding to the misery, most of the victims were children between the age of 11 and 16. 


5. Did Nazi That Coming

On December 23, 1943, German POWs threw themselves a raucous party at Camp Papago, located just south of Phoenix, Arizona. An accordion loudly blared “Deutschland Uber Alles” as prisoners became increasingly drunk on homemade schnapps. Fearing a full-scale riot, the Camp Commander gave the order to “raise the club” and put down the rebellion. Unbeknownst to the guards, however, their response was exactly what the inmates had hoped for. 

The celebration served as part of an elaborate ruse to distract their American captors. Later that night, 25 prisoners, including several decorated Nazi naval officers, escaped through a secret tunnel and into the vast southwest desert. The breakout would trigger the largest manhunt in state history, involving the US Army, FBI, bounty hunters, and Native American scouts. 

The men had spent months digging underneath the barbed wire compound, working in shifts round-the-clock. The prisoners also stitched together civilian clothes and forged identification papers. Some of the more optimistic sailors even built a collapsible boat to use in case they reached a nearby river leading to the ocean. A geography lesson would have been more useful. 

The Germans would be caught or surrendered in only a few days, with the notable exception of Kapitan Jürgen Wattenberg, the highest-ranking officer at the camp. The former U-Boat commander managed to stay on the lam for 35 days before finally being nabbed by a local cop. 

4. White Riot

It’s hard not to love Chicago. The city’s colorful history, famous landmarks, and cultural diversity are all part of its unique charm. But the “Windy City” can also be a dangerous place, where the ghost of Al Capone still lingers, and simply ordering a hot dog can be a terrifying experience. In the late 1970s, some Chicagoans even rioted because of music.

Disco Demolition Night (also known as “Disco Sucks Night”) took place at Comiskey Park during a scheduled twi-night doubleheader between the hometown White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The promotional event was conceived by Mike Veeck (the son of Sox owner, Bill Veeck), hoping to invigorate the recent lackluster attendance. The plan ultimately worked — only to backfire with severe consequences. 

Veeck hired a local radio DJ named Steve Dahl to serve as the master of ceremonies. The schlubby, proto shock jock had been leading an on-air campaign against disco music, a wildly popular genre at the time largely associated with Black, Latino, and gay culture. Fans were admitted to the game for only 98 cents (the station’s frequency was 97.9) if they brought a disco album, which would be blown up “reeeeeal goooood” between games.

An estimated crowd of over 50,000 people showed up (mostly young white males), many of whom began launching discs like frisbees from the stands. Although the Tigers won the first game 4-1, the majority of attendees couldn’t have cared less. They wanted bedlam — and that’s just what they got. 

Shortly after Dahl detonated a bin full of records, hundreds of people invaded the field, easily overwhelming the meager stadium security. The playing surface became so badly damaged that the second game had to be forfeited to Detroit. The police were eventually able to subdue the rioters, but the repercussions would have a far-reaching impact. 

Political journalist Mark W. Anderson, who attended the event, later wrote“The chance to yell ‘disco sucks’ meant more than simply a musical style choice…it was a chance for a whole lot of people to say they didn’t like the way the world was changing around them, or who they saw as the potential victors in a cultural and demographic war.” 

3. Say Cheese

The annual Goose Fair in Nottingham, England, is one of the oldest (and biggest) festivals in Europe. Rooted in the Feast of St. Matthew and dating back more than 1,000 years, “Goosey” is typically held in the Fall except for periods involving bubonic plague, two World Wars, and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The fair became a popular marketplace for geese and other livestock and also enjoyed a reputation for its high-quality cheese. In 1764 an increase in prices led to anarchy as irate customers ransacked vendor stalls and rolled large wheels of cheese down sloped roads in the town center.

While attempting to intervene, the mayor of Nottingham was bowled over by runaway cheese much to the agitated crowd’s delight. Finally, the magistrates had to call out the Dragoons (mounted soldiers) stationed nearby to quell the disturbance.

2. Motown Meltdown

By the late 1980s, the Detroit Pistons had emerged as the most dominant team in the NBA. Dubbed “Bad Boys” for their aggressive style of play, the team featured standouts such as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars , Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, and Rick Mahorn. The Pistons also mirrored the city’s tough, blue-collar reputation and high violent crime rate.

After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers to win the championship in 1990, Detroit successfully defended their title the following season. Spontaneous street parties quickly degenerated into a night of looting, fighting, destruction, and death. Four people (including three children) were killed when a crazed motorist plowed into a crowd celebrating on the city’s east side, and two other pedestrians later died in a separate hit-and-run incident.

Elsewhere, a man plummeted to his death after falling from the roof of an apartment building, and a teenager was killed by gunfire in a parking lot. Among the carnage, emergency vehicles were overturned, and cops were assaulted with bottles and rocks. 

Detroit fans would also make headlines in 2004 when another ugly brawl erupted — this time inside the arena. Spectators and players on the Pistons and Indiana Pacers took part in one of the largest fan-player incidents in American sports history in what became known as “Malice in The Palace.”

1. Lima Stadium Disaster

Bad calls in sports are a part of the game. Referees, after all, are only human. Whether by flag or whistle, divisive rulings usually balance out in the end as conveyed in the adage ‘you win some, you lose some.” Tragically, however, a disallowed goal in a game between Peru and Argentina resulted in the deadliest soccer riot in history.

Held at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru in front of 53,000 spectators, the match served as a qualifier for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Argentina held a 1-0 lead in the final minutes before Puru’s Kilo Lobaton appeared to have equalized for the home side. But when the goal was waved off because of a foul, two Peruvian supporters ran onto the pitch to confront the Uruguayan referee. Law enforcement officials quickly rushed in and began harshly beating the men. 

Infuriated fans launched bricks and other debris at the police, who counter-attacked with gunfire and a barrage of tear gas canisters into the crowd. A panicked stampede ensued as hundreds of spectators were crushed to death or died from asphyxiation while attempting to flee through the stadium’s locked gates. The bloodbath eventually claimed the lives of 328 people and injured another 500. 

Outside the stadium, at least 100 cars were stolen by thieves who took advantage of the deadly uproar. Additionally, 21 prisoners, some described as dangerous, escaped from a Lima prison. According to Jorge Salazar, a journalist, and professor who has written a book about the disaster, the tragedy reflected the societal divide and political turbulence at the time.  

“In Peru, people were talking for the first time about social justice. There were a lot of demonstrations, worker movements, and communist parties. The left was quite powerful, and there was a permanent clash between the police and the people.”


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