When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do. Riot!
DEATH COUNT: 30,000
THE FIGHT: The Romans vs. The Roman Common Classes
The Romans were famous for their architecture, the scale of their empire and the politics of their society -- which included a ridiculous amount of rioting.
When in Rome, campaigning for elections wasn't quite like it is now. Instead of being fed with endless advertisements denouncing a candidate's opponent, it was really all about back-room talks and of course, the white toga. So other than the toga thing, not much has changed in modern politics.
But, to gain popular support in order to be elected, a candidate used the fullest extent of his power sometimes to manipulate others.
Since candidates only consisted of members of the very high upper class, bribery and opportune, show-offy gifts were common, along with intimidation, so once again, very few things have changed.
Candidates sometimes used gladiators to rough opposition up because, c'mon, who has that kind of time? Generals sometimes used soldiers to pressure voting in favor of their desired candidates, which makes sense if there was nobody around who watched procedural shows and knew to report you.
And finally riots were a political tool to make polls swing one way.
So it only became natural that the only way the common class felt they were able to have a say, because they couldn't afford military goons and show-offy gifts, was though Election Day riots.
The idea was based on the sheer size of the common class overwhelming the elite, in an almost (practical) Marxist way.
And so, this tradition of human history was born with the first recorded riots dubbed the Roman Election Riots of 121 and 113 BCE. Rioting in the Roman Empire took off from there, culminating with the Nika Riots in Constantinople during 532, where 30,00 died.
So next time people get pissed about a few sandbags hitting some people in the face, remind yourself of that number and how far we've come: 30,000.
The Kenyan Crisis
DEATH COUNT: 1,500 killed, 35 burned alive in a church, over 600,000 displaced.
THE FIGHT: Kikuyi vs. Odinga
Mirroring the Iran protest riots of 2009, the Kenyan crisis of 2007-2008 was launched by the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki on December, 27, 2007 when it was suspected that the election had been manipulated. When this was supported by international observers who had spied on and penetrated both political parties, the entire country broke loose.
What immediately followed was an assault at the country's ethnic groups. Particularly the Kikuyu people of which Kibuki was a member.
Ironically, the area they lived in was called the Rift Valley.
With all the violence going on there, the rest of the country was in a rift of its own as both sides refused to talk. The losing candidate, Odinga organized rallies that were continuously broken up by police (the result always predictable and always bloody) while the President said he would not talk until the country had calmed down. Odinga's response only upped the protests.
Among some of the examples of the deaths and level of violence that occured: 200 Kikuyu people fled to shelter in a church. The church was set on fire by protesters and 35 people burned. Three former international athletes were killed, one with a stray arrow and another from a stray police bullet. And to top it off, a politician was hacked to death by a crowd and an MP (Member of Parliament) was shot to death on his driveway. In the end, 1,500 died and 250,000 were displaced.
Eventually, the UN had to intervene and former Secretary General Kofi Annan tired to set up talks between both parties. This went on for most of the early months of 2008 all the while with more people getting killed and causalities eventually including members of Parliament . When they finally made peace talks, both parties set up a coalition government with Kibuki as president and Odinga as prime minister.
DEATH COUNT: Over 150
THE FIGHT: Police/Iranian Government Election Fraud/Results vs. Angry Political Activists
Being one of the more recent riots to have occurred and one to receive the most media coverage, it is likely that many people will not forget this particular election.
Already reeling from a 2005 election that was accused of supporting voter fraud, the 2009 election in Tehran showed that time doesn't heal all wounds, but sometimes exponentially magnifies them.
The winner of the election, incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, soon found himself facing an audience of millions. Not for an inauguration, however, for a protest, all under the guise that the elections were rigged.
Inevitably, the protest turned ugly and became a battle of wills between police and protesters. Click here to see a series of pictures depicting the riots.
The heartbreaking part about the whole thing was the story of Neda:
In the protests to this sham of an "election", over 150 people died. But the riots were pivotal in exposing the power of social media when a video of Neda Agha-Soltan being shot and killed by local police circulated all over the Internet (video embedded in this item.) It has been widely chronicled as "probably the most widely witnessed death in human history".
The death of Neda then quickly became a rallying point for the reformist opposition to Ahmadinejad's reign.
Election Riots of 1874
DEATH COUNT: At least 7 black Republicans killed, over 70 injured, over 1,000 intimidated away from the polls.
THE FIGHT: White Democrats or the "White League" vs. Black Republicans
Throughout American history, the Republicans and the Democrats have pretty much ignored every other party that exists and have acted like the Autobots and Decepticons of the American political sphere, fighting over everything, solving nothing and damaging the country in their wake.
But there hasn't been a more deadly or shocking manifestation of this rivalry than what transpired in 1874.
This is the worst example of someone "campaigning at the polls."
In Comer, Alabama, a group calling themselves the White League attacked and killed black Republicans (Republicans were much different back then).
Registered as white Democrats, the White League proceeded to, in a scene of violence and chaos, drive over 1,000 Republican votes out of the area with the use of violence before storming to the nearest polling place and killing the sons of white Republican judges.
Then, they declared all Republican votes in Barbour County, Alabama null, even though Democrats were outnumbered two to one. To preserve the coup, all Republicans who rioted against them or who were witnesses were "silenced".
Terrorists Bomb, Rocket-Launch Afghanistan Elections
DEATH COUNT: At least 26 killed on election day: 8 Afghan soldiers, 9 police officers and 9 civilians.
THE FIGHT: Afghan democracy vs. Terrorist opposition (including rocket launchers, gun battles and bomb blasts.)
Both in 2004 and namely in 2009, when they had their second democratic election, polls and even politicans' homes (see the video to the left) were being attacked by rocket launchers.
Polling places were being bombed, gun battles were breaking out around booths them and bomb blasts could be seen/felt everywhere near anyone wanted to vote democratically.
Although these weren't technically riots, they were a huge uprising that happened on election day itself and claimed at least 26 lives, which once again goes to show the lengths people will go to in order to be able to vote in other countries while we here in the U.S. take it for granted and as an excuse to take a slightly longer lunchbreak.
Click here for the full story
1920 Presidental Election Day Massacre
DEATH COUNT: 50 + Stripping the Community of African Americans
THE FIGHT: Racists vs. Common Sense/Black voting
A harrowing reminder of the long social struggles between races here in the United States, this Election Day riot is a forgotten symbol of what this country was like before civil rights.
In Ocoee, Florida during the 1920 Presidential Election, several African-Americans tried to advance the Civil Rights movement and upset segregation by trying to vote.
Their enemies responded mercilessly. Ku Klux Klan gunmen surrounded the polls in other Florida counties to ensure no blacks could vote and in Ocoee, the entire black population of the town was ruthlessly attacked. All the buildings of the black community were leveled. 50 people died and the black population of 500 was reduced to 0. Ocoee became an all-white town for decades since.
The perpetrators decided to never report or talk about the incidents and so the rest of the nation and history never were caught in the grip of this awful massacre until finally, in the 90's, residents of Ocoee admitted the event.
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