Posts Tagged ‘Famous Riots’

A deadly riot rocks Eighth Avenue in 1871

July 9, 2012

The first round of violence happened on July 12, 1870.

That’s when Irish Protestants called the Orangemen paraded up Eighth Avenue from their headquarters on 29th Street to 92nd Street.

They were celebrating the anniversary of the of the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690, when Protestants regained control of the country.

Not everyone in the city’s huge Irish immigrant community felt like celebrating. At the park, hundreds of Irish Catholics heckled and attacked the marchers, killing eight men.

Tensions simmered all year long, and when the Orangemen got the go ahead to hold their parade one year later, they were protected by a thousand cops plus several National Guard regiments.

On July 12, 1871, they marched—south this time—from Eighth Avenue and 29th Street.

A hostile crowd of Irish Catholics lined the sidewalks, and at 25th Street (above), a shot was fired from a tenement.

“A scene of mad confusion ensued, during which the soldiers of the escort, deploying around the paraders whom they were protecting, lifted their rifles and poured a volley into the crowds,” recalls a 1921 New York Times article.

“On the instant Eighth Avenue was strewn with dead and dying and wounded persons, while hundreds of others dashed into door ways or down side streets in an attempt to escape the bullets flying in all directions.”

The parade made it to 23rd Street, where it reached Fifth Avenue and a friendlier reception. It continued to Cooper Union, were another hostile crowd made it impossible to move forward.

Sixty people were killed, mostly Irish Catholic laborers. Thanks to what became known as the Orange Riot, the parade was never held again.

Astor Place: rocked by a deadly riot

September 14, 2009

A riot sparked by dueling performances of Macbeth? Hard to believe, but it happened 160 years ago in Astor Place. Today, skate rats are the most menacing crowd you’ll find there.

EdwinforrestphotoBut in 1849, things were different. Top U.K. actor William Charles Macready, a favorite of New York City’s upper crust, was booked to perform Macbeth at the refined Astor Place Opera House on May 10. 

That same night, American-born Edwin Forrest (at left, a daguerreotype by Mathew Brady), who started his career in theaters on the nearby Bowery for working-class crowds, was also scheduled to play Macbeth a few blocks away. Once friendly, the actors were now rivals.

On May 7, Forrest’s fans—whipped up by newspaper stories and anti-English sentiment—arrived at Macready’s opening performance and proceeded to bombard the stage with eggs and shoes. 

Macready wanted to go back to Britain, but prominent New Yorkers, like Herman Melville and Washington Irving, persuaded him to stay.


Before the May 10 performance, Forrest’s fans went into riot mode. About 20,000 men amassed outside the opera house, tossing rocks through windows and attempting to set it on fire. While police tried to quell the crowd outside, Macready finished the show and took off.

The rioters did not. National Guardsmen were called in to restore order. They fired on rioters as well as innocent bystanders. After it was finally brought under control, the riot had claimed 22 lives.