6 Horrific Acts of Political Violence in the United States
2020 is not the first time political unrest occurred in the US
Whenever we view videos of current events, it is almost like watching the latest doomsday futuristic movie. To many of us, we wonder if America has ever been this divided. There is no shortage of daily news stories that illuminate the high degree of political disagreement we are experiencing as a nation.
A few news sources are even making feeble attempts to refute these activities and acting as if it is not happening. They are only insulting ordinary citizens — who have seen the violence and looting online with their own eyes.
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Unfortunately, news media from both sides tend to sensationalize their stories to achieve higher ratings and more supporters of their political agenda. No longer are they reporting all the facts, only those that support their narrative.
Shouldn’t we be focusing on the similarities of conservatives and liberals, rather than their differences?
It’s unfortunate whenever politics and violence become bedfellows because it can lead to terrible results. I sincerely believe most of us genuinely feel that violence should always be put down — regardless of political affiliation.
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Amazingly, the apparent Armageddon we see today is not the first time it has happened. There are even worse cases of political violence that have occurred in our history.
Here are six (6) terrible acts of political violence that have previously taken place in US history.
The Election Riot Of 1874
November 3, 1874 — Barbour County, Alabama.
The Republicans had dominated the region after the Civil War ended. This is mostly because of the vote from black voters who had been recently freed, and some alleged voters from out of state.
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The White League, which was a paramilitary group that promoted the Democrats and white men, invaded the town of Eufaula. They aimed to intimidate or prevent Republicans from voting altogether.
A riot ensued, which ended the lives of eight men, and another 80 or more were wounded — most of these victims were black¹. The White League later went to a nearby town called Spring Hill. There they overran the polling location, destroyed their ballot box, and murdered the son of E.M. Keils, who was a Republican judge.
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In the end, Democrats took over control of all vote counting. They refused to acknowledge any votes for Republicans and installed their own leaders. These actions created a legacy of preventing Republican voters from participating in the political process through actual or implied violence for several decades.
The Brooks–Baxter War
1872 gubernatorial election — Arkansas.
The legitimacy of the 1872 gubernatorial election in Arkansas was questioned by many citizens. An event known as the Brooks–Baxter War was a dispute between supporters of these two political candidates: Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter. There were many of the usual election cheating claims like allowing dead people to vote and throwing away ballots.
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While Brooks was initially declared the winner, the decision was later changed, making Baxter the victor. As we all know, the late changes of election winners is pretty much a guarantee of creating unrest.
Angry voters of Brooks raised the issue that the Election Commission at that time was controlled by members of Baxter’s party. And Baxter was later sworn in as the newly elected governor.
Countless legal battles took place, but all of them were unsuccessful in changing the outcome of the election. But a legal judgment was eventually found who ruled in favor of Brooks. In the absence of legal grounds, Judge John Whytock later swore Brooks in as the new governor of Arkansas.
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With around 20 armed men, Brooks organized a march on the Arkansas Capitol building and proceeded to pull Baxter out of office physically². Thousands of citizens joined in the fight. It is estimated that over 200 people died in the melee. President Ulysses S. Grant had to intervene and declared Baxter as the legal governor.
The Hard Hat Riot
May 8, 1970 — New York City.
The Vietnam era was also a very polarized period in the US. There were countless anti-war protests, while some were peaceful, others became quite violent. One of the bloodier of these protests was the Hard Hat Riot that took place in New York City on May 8, 1970³.
A month earlier, President Richard Nixon announced his plan to invade Cambodia. If this wasn’t enraging enough for his political opponents, four students from Kent State University students were shot to death by the National Guard only four days earlier.
So tensions were already high. Thousands of these anti-war protesters swarmed Wall Street. They demanded the immediate release of “all political prisoners in America.”
Suddenly, around 200 construction workers wearing hard hats showed up and began attacking the protesters. These workers sought out men with long hair because of the belief that they were less masculine.
The hard hat workers then rushed City Hall, where the American flag was flying. They were angered that it was at half-mast to honor the dead Kent State students.
The Coushatta Massacre
August 1874 — Coushatta, Lousiana.
Once again, we refer to the work of the White League. In August 1874, they struck in Louisiana to drive Republicans completely out of the state and to kill every black person they could find. They organized a huge militia and marched into the town of Coushatta with the intention of kidnapping six white Republican officials⁴.
The White League made the outrageous claim that they were arresting these officials for organizing a “Negro rebellion.” Of course, such claims were false and unfounded. Frank Edgerton, who the current sheriff of the parish, put together a posse to oppose the White League. Unfortunately, his posse was quickly defeated.
Even though these six officials were promised that their lives would be spared upon their resignation, they were taken outside and murdered — even though they did resign their positions. Four black men also lost their lives during this massacre. National headlines reported that these perpetrators were not held accountable, yet no investigation ever took place on this murderous attack.
The New York City Draft Riots
July 1863 — New York City.
These New York City draft riots erupted when stricter federal draft laws were enacted because of the increasing death count from the United States Civil War⁵. It was on July 11, 1863, when the very first lottery occurred that would determine the men that would be conscripted into the Union Army.
Initially, all was calm, and there was no incident. However, the next day was when all the rioting started. The angry crowd focused their sights on military and government buildings. A big portion of these rioters were working-class men from Ireland. They are angry at the fact that wealthy people could have their names removed from the list for a payment of $300.
However, their rage eventually turned to the city’s black residents, who were commonly used as scapegoats for a variety of problems. Even white people that were supporters of black citizens were attacked. Finally, soldiers and policemen showed up in large numbers to disperse the riot.
The Pineapple Primary
1928 Republican Primary — Chicago, IL.
Probably the most violent United States election in history was the 1928 Republican primary that was held in Chicago⁶. This election has been characterized by the usage of an enormously large amount of explosives. One of the most common explosives used was hand grenades — that were also known as “pineapples.”
During the six months that led up to the election, there were over 60 separate bombings that occurred, resulting in the death of at least two politicians. This violence was a reflection of the outrage of how corrupt politicians had been bought by organized crime. Most notably was the profitable bootlegging that had totally consumed the city.
Much of this violence was instigated by Al Capone, one of the most famous mobsters of all time. His mob was also involved in voter intimidation and ballot-box stuffing. But Capone knew he probably couldn’t get away with these tactics in a national election.
: Blake Wilhelm. (November 6, 2009). Election Riots of 1874. http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2484.
: Old State House Museum. Reconstruction and the Brooks-Baxter War 1865–1874. https://www.oldstatehouse.com/About-Us/History-of-the-Old-State-House/reconstruction-and-the-brooks-baxter-war-1865-1874.
: Joe Flaherty. (May 12, 2020). Hard Hat Riot: Working Class on Wall Street. https://www.villagevoice.com/2020/05/12/hard-hat-riot-working-class-on-wall-street/.
: Ted Tunnell. Coushatta Massacre. https://64parishes.org/entry/coushatta-massacre.
: History.com Editors. (October 27, 2009). New York Draft Riots. https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/draft-riots.
: Frederic Babcock. (April 3, 2009). Al Capone’s Pineapple Politics. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/al-capones-pineapple-politics/.