While looking for an interesting topic to write about, I searched for birthdays and events that occurred this day, October 7th. In my search I found something that made me laugh. On October 7, 1714, there was a riot because of a beer tax in Alkmaar, Netherlands.
I wondered, are there other riots related to beer? The answer: yes.
In 1844, during the early days of May, the people of Bavaria rioted against a beer tax levied upon them by King Ludwig I. Order was only restored after the King lowered the price of beer by 10%. This wasn't the first time a government official had to concede defeat.
In 1855, the mayor, Levi Boone, decided to renew enforcement of an old law and mandated that taverns be closed on Sundays. He didn't stop there, he also raised the price of a liquor license from $50 to $300 a year. Clearly, he was insane. The relative worth of $50 in 1855 would be over $1000 today! So a liquor license of $300 would be worth about $8,000! Which is absurd because a liquor license for a tavern in contemporary Chicago is only $4,400, or approximately $160 in 1855.
His greedy decision (probably one borne out of "Know-Nothing" ideas) caused the Lager Beer Riot. One Sunday, some tavern owners, largely German immigrants, were caught selling beer and were arrested. This spun into a spar between the police and protesters. At one point the mayor ordered the swing bridges to be opened in order to prevent more protesters from crossing the river. This left some people trapped on the Clark Street Bridge, where police opened fire over the Chicago river.
After 1 death, 60 arrests and 1 year later, Levi Boone was turned out of office and the prohibition was repealed.
Beer has been the basis for more than just riots, it was also the setting for an attempted coup d'etat by Hitler. (Not to mention the fact it also happened in Bavaria and this is the third time I mentioned Germans and beer riots.) Known as the Beer Hall Putsch (putsch means coup) or Munich Putsch. In November of 1923, Hitler and his loyal followers marched to a beer hall in Munich. They were attempting to overthrow the government by trapping an important figure, Gustav Ritter von Kahr, who was addressing a crowd of 3000 people. Hitler and the 600 members of the Nazi party surrounded the beer hall. Interestingly, despite being able to rile the crowd in his favour, Hitler was unsuccessful. He was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison, however he was released after only 9 months.
Then there's the very well known Prohibition that took place from 1920-1933 in the United States. The reactionary measures of a few morally conscious people caused the birth of bootlegging and speakeasies. That period in the U.S. was rife with criminal behaviour. From the swinging '20s to the dirty '30s. Although I can't help but notice how after the market crashed in 1929 and the great depression occurred, it didn't take too long for them to repeal that decision. It seems that people just needed a good, stiff drink.
The last one I discovered, was the funniest. June 4, 1974, Cleveland stadium enticed fans to attend a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers by offering 10 cent beer. That is CHEAP, no matter what year! Over 25,000 people showed up to the game! However, during the 9th inning, a fan attempted to steal a hat from the Texas outfielder, Jeff Burroughs. Burroughs tripped and this instantly sparked the Texas manager to order his team on to the field with bats swinging. Inevitably, this caused the inebriated crowd to start attacking as well. Who knew cheap beer and lots of people was a bad idea?
In short - beer has been a reason to start riots, attempt coups, and grandstand political, moral or economical ideals. Not to mention just behaving badly. BEER! Hey, I still love it. It's delicious.
November 13, 1887 saw one of the most notable demonstrations in history. Britain had created a difficult social situation due to a severe rise in unemployment and suspension of many civil rights, mainly affecting the Irish working class. After years of unrest it had finally reached a breaking point. Around 10 000 protesters marched on to Trafalgar Square, a symbolic meeting point of the working class and upper class. In response 2000 police and 400 troops were called in to halt the demonstration. As in every political demonstration where the working class rises to defend itself against the tyranny of government and the upper class, the police relentlessly beat down the innocent protesters. Using their fists and truncheons they beat not only men but women and children. Most were injured with at least 200 being treated at a hospital and 3 suffering from fatal wounds and dying.
I wish I could say this behaviour was abnormal. I wish I could say that this type of thing remains in the past but unfortunately it doesn't. Unfortunately it's not unusual for the government to silence its people. The working class were merely trying to bring attention to their cause. They were practicing the art of free speech and bringing to light the atrocities the government refused to acknowledge. What was their reaction? To beat down everyone who attended. It didn't matter the age or sex, they were quickly and viciously shut up.
You wish to hear examples of present day demonstrations where protesters are mistreated? They are countless but here are just a few:
- Battle in Seattle
- Quebec Student Protests
- FEMEN Protests
- Bolivia Revolt
- Occupy Wallstreet
You'll notice one thing when reading about protests, past or present, they blame the protesters. They claim that they're violent and dangerous. Sometimes the media even paints them to be anarchists. What a ridiculous notion! Just because you disagree with the government or corporation or IMF/WTO/World Bank or whatever it is doesn't make you to be an irrational anarchist. It seems like "anarchists" are the next "terrorist", the next bogeyman the government and media warns you about. Well guess what, those protesters are defending you and me. They're defending their rights. They're simply trying to bring to light an atrocity. The Bolivia Revolt is a perfect example. An American corporation attempted to privatize water in Bolivia, meaning that everyday people would have to pay for a necessity, how absurd! They were punished severely for speaking out but that didn't stop them.
Another great example is the Battle in Seattle. The WTO (World Trade Organization) was meeting to decide the fate of the world as we know it. So peaceful demonstrations took place to try and stop their globalization agenda. Yet the media reported violent protesters, which wasn't the case. Yet it made everyone assume that the protesters were evil and the WTO were innocent victims. If you knew what the WTO were doing, you wouldn't believe it.
I could go on and on about this but I think it's important that everyone does their own research. Make your own decisions. It would be your choice to decide whether or not the media evaluated situations correctly. Yet I would urge you not to believe everything you see and hear on television. Think about who controls the media, it's not the people. It's corporate entities, bending and shaping it to their will as they see fit. Makes you think, doesn't it?
If you're really interested, there are some excellent documentaries. There's one entitled "Battle in Seattle" about the 1999 protest I mentioned. More importantly there's one documentary you must watch called, "The Corporation". It's on Netflix right now (if you have an account). I highly recommend watching it.
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