The History of Unrest: Ferguson Edison
Being that I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo and the majority of my youth I grew up in the city immediate to Ferguson, I had to do this entry. When the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri began, I was in complete and utter shock. I did not know what was going on in my hometown. I was living in California at the time and I had my television glued to CNN and MSNBC. On the outside looking in, it’s like “wow, I can’t believe that happened.” “Why did they have to burn down QuikTrip though?” “Why are they looting?” “These n***** done went crazy!” I was hell bent against the looting and rioting, until I reached some perspective. In the history of this country, in the history of the world, riots are nothing new. Riots usually occur when people have reached a boiling point in what they feel is oppression or whatever they deem as unfair treatment or practices done by an authoritative entity.
Since the unrest in Ferguson began, I have heard so many different views about what is happening. From all walks of life: Some are saying that the people involved are savages and animals, some say it solves nothing and some are saying it must be done, enough is enough! I went through a seemingly never ending list of riots in the history of this country to show people that yes, sometimes civil unrest does works. I also wanted to kind of put some “in your face” history to those calling the current protestors animals because if people who are marching for justice are animals, then what does that make the people who kicked off riots that resulted in multiple murders in the history of this country? I have included references so that you can fact check and you may also click here for a complete list of US riots. I choose to outline the ones below because they gave many different perspectives for the riots. Please enjoy this read.
The Boston Tea Party – 1773
Led by Samuel Adams, he and the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three ships in the Boston Harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773. Colonists despised this act because it violated their rights as Englishmen to the famous phrase, “No Taxation without Representation.” They felt they should only be taxed by their own elected officials and not the British Parliament. Protestors successfully stopped the taxed tea from being imported to the other colonies but not Boston. This event was the key event that escalated the American Revolution.
Fries’ Rebellion – 1799
In the mist of the Quasi War with France, in order to pay for it, the United States Congress decided to impose a tax on houses, land and slaves. Tensions increased when they would find assessors riding around and counting windows, in turn, resident would not pay it. Led by John Fries, meetings began to figure out what to do about the tax in which the topic of resistance began. Because assessors could not complete their assessments due to intimidation, a meeting was called by government representatives to explain the tax. At the meeting they were met by an angry mob of people who turned the meeting into a protest rally. After that, pretty much anywhere an assessor tried to go, they were met and arrested by protestors who would detain them and then release them so that can send a message back to the government of what happened to them. Fast forward to the end, the tax was never unwarranted and there was never a war with France. However, no monies were ever returned to residents.
The Philadelphia Nativist Riots – 1844
These riots were the result of an anti-Catholic movement due to a growing population of Irish Catholic immigrants. A nativist group (which were Protestants and part of the American Republican Party) had a meeting in a predominantly Irish part of town but the Irish were not keen on this meeting happening so they crashed the party and attacked the platform right were the nativist were speaking. So the nativist began spreading rumors that Catholics were trying to remove the Bible from public schools. A rally ensued which resulted in violence on May 6, 1844. The deadly riots destroyed two Catholic Churches and other buildings. In July of the same year, riots broke out again but this time the nativist were met by an armed St. Phillip Neri’s Catholic Church. Fighting broke out between the two groups, the nativists and the army sent to protect the church, resulted in several deaths and injuries. Though deadly, the riots made light of the nativist movement and caused various reforms to the police departments.
The Know Nothing Riots 1854-1858
The “Know Nothings” were a political party from a sect of the American Party who were anti-immigration. The first riot broke out in 1854, in St. Louis, Missouri when the Know Nothings brought a judge to a voting polls to expel Irishmen who could not prove their citizenship. The next riot broke out in Baltimore, Maryland in 1856 again during voting and turned out to be the worst of the riots. By then, street gangs had joined the party and at the mayoral election, the on duty mayor was pressed to have a generals militia man the polls as violence was expected, declining the request, opposing mobs ended up at polls which left many citizens killed and wounded. The Know Nothing riots continued in Washington DC in 1857 and New Orleans in 1858. Eventually the Know Nothings were disbanded and those who were anti-slavery joined the Republican Party and those who were pro slavery joined the Democratic Party.
The Bellingham Riots – 1907
A mob of approximately 500 angry white men, mostly members of the Asiatic Excursion League, had intentions to exclude East Indian (Sikhs) immigrants from the workforce of local lumber mills. The mobs attacked their homes, threw East Indian workers into the streets, beat them, and stole their valuables. Unfortunately, authorities co-operated with the mobs and threw the East Indians into jails but said it was for their protection. About six Indians were hospitalized and none of the participants in the mob were prosecuted. The next day, about 125 Indian Immigrants flee to British Columbia. Some of them went to Vancouver, Everett and California, were they received similar treatment. In 2007, the Mayor of Bellingham declared Sept 4 to be a “Day of Healing and Reconciliation” to acknowledge the regrettable events.
The East St. Louis Riots – 1917
Noted as the bloodiest riot in the 20th Century, the riots began when 470 African American workers were hired to replace white workers who had went on strike against the Aluminum Ore Company. The violence began shortly after a city council meeting where angry white workers were complaining to the mayor about the black migrations to East St. Louis. At the end of the meeting, a rumor ensued of a robbery a black man committed against a white man. As a result, white mobs formed and rampaged through downtown, beating every African American who were found. They stopped trolleys and street cars, pulling black passengers off to beat them in the streets. The Governor called the National Guard in and the mobs eventually dispersed. However, because little was done to protect white job security or grant union recognition, the hostility towards African Americans grew. On July 2, 1917, the violence commenced and hundreds of men, women and children were beaten and shot to death. Their homes were burned to the ground and you either stayed in the burning house or run out and be met with gunfire. In parts of the city, African Americans were lynched against the backdrop of burning buildings. In response to the rioting, the NAACP investigated the incident and organized a protest march along with the UNIA, headed by Marcus Garvey, in later instances. A year after the riots, a special committee was formed through the House of Representatives who ended up indicting several members of the police force and the forcing the mayor to step down.
The Heartbeat of Democracy