Politics, Class & Shakespeare: The Astor Place Riots of 1849


– Aight, so good afternoon y’all. Thank you all for being here. My name is Dustin Fridkin. I’m a professor of political science here at Santa Fe College and I’m here today to talk
about the Astor Place Riot. Which was the sort of historical event that empowers a political scientist to come before a group of people
and talk about Shakespeare. So just by way of introduction, on the evening of the 10th of May, 1849, there was a riot outside of the Astor Opera
House in New York City. It left more than 20 people dead. The immediate cause of the riot centered around a disagreement
among theater goers over the proper way to
perform Shakespeare. Some preferred the bombastic style of the American-born Edwin Forrest, perhaps America’s first and most famous performer at the time. And others prefer the more sedate style, some might say dignified, of the English actor, William Macready. What I wanna talk about today
is how and why exactly it is that 20-odd people managed to die over the question of how
Shakespeare ought to be performed. So to set the stage here, I wanna begin by reading a little bit from an account that was written
by a guy named H.M. Ranney who wrote up the incident
for the United States District Court of the
Southern District of New York. Right, so this is like the
official government account here. It says on the night, and I quote, On the night of the 10th of May, 1849, the Empire City, the great
metropolis of the Union, was the scene of one of those
horrors of civilization, which for a time make the great heart of humanity stop its beatings. In the darkness of night,
thousands of citizens were gathered in a central square of that most aristocratic
quarter of New York, gathered around one of
its most conspicuous and magnificent edifices,
the Astor Place Opera House. This opera house was built expressly for the performance of Italian opera, but has been used at intervals
for the legitimate drama for vaudevilles, and
for balls and concerts. It’s fitted and decorated up
with taste and magnificence, and in the opera seasons has been attended by the wealthy and fashionable people who have made extravagant
displays of luxurious adornment. While the private boxes
were taken by the season, by those who wished to enjoy the music and liked the display and
could afford the expenditure, the other seats were let
at a dollar admission, and the upper tier or amphitheater was reserved for people
of more modest pretensions at 25 cents a ticket. So this sets a scene, I think. This is what theater looked
like in the United States back during the first
half of the 19th century. Some theaters like the Astor
Place Opera House were fancy, and others like the Bowery
Theatre a few blocks away, also in New York, in a less
aristocratic neighborhood, also offered the same basic
list of seatings, right? We have box seats for those
who could afford them, while reserving more space for what we might call the general admission crowd. People of various socio-economic standing saw the same plays in different theaters, but not from the same vantage point. During the first half of the 19th century, theaters in the United
States usually followed what is called a tripartite
seating arrangement. With the boxes, the pit, and the gallery. The wealthy and respectable
people sat in the boxes, people of middling sorts sat in the pit, and those of the lower orders
watched from the gallery. Walt Whitman, who was a newspaper man at the time of the Astor Riot, he remembered his experience
of theater going in New York as providing the opportunity to look up into the first row of boxes
and see the leading authors in the city while rubbing
elbows in the cheap seats with omnibus drivers, cobblers,
shipwrights, and carpenters. In these theaters, as was mentioned, vaudeville, blackface minstrelsy, and Shakespeare were all
part of the offerings, often on the same ticket. Shakespeare was a
central part of a vibrant and diverse pop culture
in the United States. To put this more emphatically, during the first half of the 19th century, Shakespeare’s works were not
presented to mass audiences in hopes of elevating those audience. They were presented to mass audiences because mass audiences wanted Shakespeare. As Noah Berlatsky put it in a 2014 article for the Pacific Standard, Folks in the mid-1800’s didn’t read young adult fiction or deface their brains with The Avengers or Fifty Shades of Gray. Instead they read, wrote,
and even memorized the bard. This is a time when
Shakespeare is pop culture. So I wanna return now briefly to Ranney to talk about the riot. So, around the edifice of
the Astor Place Opera House, a vast crowd gathered. On the stage the
Edinburgh actor, Macready, was trying to act out the part of Macbeth, in which he was interrupted
by hissing and hooting, and encouraged by the
cheers of an audience who’d crowded the house to sustain him. Now this was actually pretty standard operating procedure in
the American theater. When people liked what
they heard, they cheered. And when the didn’t, they booed and hissed and hoped to boo and hiss loud enough to cause the performer to leave the stage. On the outside, there was a mob gathering, trying to force entrance into the house and throwing volleys of stone
at the barricaded windows, while inside the house,
police were arresting those who were making the disturbance. In the midst of the scene
of clamor and outrage, was heard a clatter of
troop approaching the scene. “The military, the military are coming!” was the exclamation of the crowd. So, in order to try to break up this riot, the militia is called in because the police force can’t do it. At last the awful word was given to fire, there was a gleam of sulfurous
light, a sharp, quick rattle, and here and there in the crowd
a man sank upon the pavement with a deep groan or death rattle. So here we are, chaos inside the theater, chaos outside the theater. The militia firing on protestors and at least 20 people dead
in the streets of New York, shot and killed by militia from
the state’s seventh regimen. At least 30 more were maimed. So why? At a basic level, the conflict
here was over aesthetics. How ought Shakespeare be performed? And the answer to this question fell along class lines in the state of New York. That is to say, along the
lines of socio-economic class. The middling sort of
people who sat in the pit as well as the working class
sort who sat in the gallery preferred the bombastic style
of the American Edwin Forrest, while the well heeled folks in the boxes preferred the more dignified
Englishman, William Macready. Now there’d been a conflict simmering between these two performers for years. Forrest blamed Macready for
spoiling his reception in London when he went over to England to perform. Macready deeply resented Forrest for having booed and hissed at him during a performance of Hamlet. Forrest for his part explained
his behavior by insisting that Macready had introduced
an effete little dance to a soliloquy in such
a way as to undermine the integrity of the role he was playing. The two had held competing performances in cities all over the United States and so it was neither
surprising nor out of character for Forrest to be performing
Macbeth at the Bowery Theater at around the same time that Macready was performing over at the Astor. What was surprising was the way in which the conflict between them came to such a violent boil that night. So part of what was going on here is just good old fashion
American jingoism. The folks who rioted outside
of the Astor Opera House were essentially protesting the fact that Macready was performing
there rather than Forrest. Performing there in the English style rather than the American style. Forrest, after all, was the first famous Shakespearean actor the United
States had ever produced and Macready was just
another fussy old Englishman. But there was more than
national pride here on the line. And here’s where we get political, right? You need to keep in mind that 1849 was a difficult time
politically in New York. Many in the city and the
state had recently backed what was called the Free Soil Party and that party’s result
from the Democratic Party over the issue of slavery
in the United States. Many spent the year of 1848 eagerly watching news out of Europe, out of places like France and Ireland, hoping that what they
saw happening over there was part of a transnational movement towards Democratic-Republicanism, towards liberty and freedom. By 1849 of course, the Free Soil Party had been crushed in the November election. The revolutions of 1848 had been crushed and, of course, the aristocratic-leaning Whig Party had won control over both the presidency of the United States and the mayorship of the city of New York. It was a tough time for
working people in New York. They had the lovely memory of
the bowl of feelings of 1848, of which to quote Whitman again. Whitman wrote at that time, God, ’twas delicious, that brief, tight glorious grip upon
the throat of kings. And that glorious feeling
and the memory of it made the bitterness of
1849 all that much worse. The strongly pro-democracy
forces within New York City, which were particularly potent in and among the working people of the city, were frustrated and worried that they were on the
road to permanent defeat. That they, like the revolutionaries of France and Ireland and elsewhere, were to be yolked under the
despotic rule of the rich. And we can see this if we take a look at the people who participated in the riot. If the 86 men there who were
arrested were at all typical, the crowd had been composed of
working working men coopers, printers, carpenters,
servants, sales makers, machinists, clerks,
masons, bakers, plumbers. Laborers, that is to say, whose feelings were probably
reflected in a speech that was given at a rally the next day. And I quote, “Fellow citizens, for what, “for whom was this murder committed? “To please the aristocracy of the city “at the expense of the lives
of unoffending citizens. “To revenge the aristocrats of this city “against the working classes.” Although such observers
as the New York Tribune saw the riot as absurd and incredible, the result of a petty quarrel, the role of class was not ignored. A home journal viewed the riot as a protest against the aristocrocising, aristocrosising. Yes, the aristocrocising of the pit which had previously been the place where middling sorts of people
went to watch the theater in such new and exclusive theaters as the Astor Place Opera House. And they warned that in the future the republic’s rich
would have to be mindful where its luxuries offend. The New York Harold asserted that the riot had introduced a new aspect
in the minds of the many nothing short of controversy and collusion between those that had
been styled the exclusives, or the upper 10, on the one hand, and the great popular masses on the other. The New York correspondent for the Philadelphia Public Ledger lamented a few days after the riot, “That leads behind a feeling “to which this community had
hither to been a stranger. “An opposition of classes,
the rich and the poor. “A feeling that there
is now in our country “and in New York City
what every good patriot “has hitherto considered
it his duty to deny. “A high and a low class.” This realization that there
was a developing distinction between high class and
low class New Yorkers, between high and low class Americans, was a primary cause of the riot. And the hardening of this distinction was the primary consequence of the riot. Well, the primary consequence of the riot unless you count those people
who were killed or maimed. The primary consequence here was, as historian Lawrence Levine puts it, “The emergence of cultural
hierarchy in the United States.” As Ranney, again, the one who was writing
for the court put it, The question became not only
a national, but a social one. It was a question of the
rich against the poor, the aristocracy against the people, and this hatred of wealth and privilege, which is increasing all over the world and ready to burst out whenever there’s a slightest of occasion. The rich and well bred are too apt to despise the poor and the ignorant, and they must not think it’s strange if they are hated in return. So after the riot, the Astor Opera House lived along for a couple
of years before it closed, unable to perfume over the smell of blood that clung to the place. But that wasn’t the end of elite aristocratic theaters in
New York, far from it. What they did was instead of rebuilding a new opera house downtown
where the Astor had been, they moved uptown to get
further away from the rabble. Further away from the
people who would have sat in the pits and the galleries. They opened up what was called the New York Academy of Music. Way uptown. They opened it without the cheap seats. And it’s from this growing separation between wealthy theatergoers
and poorer theatergoers that we get the emergence
of highbrow culture on the one hand as the culture that is consumed by the
wealthy at the fancy theaters and lowbrow culture as the
stuff that is consumed by, you know, poor shmucks like you and me at the cheap theaters. And with that, I would like to see if you all have any questions for me. – [Male Student] So where
exactly was the Astor? – The Astor, so it’s literally
at Astor Place, right? So downtown New York on
the east side of Manhattan. Yeah, towards the lower east side. Oh, thank you. So the theater building was still there until the early 1900’s
when it was torn down and replaced by I believe an
11 story tall office building. Yes. Yes? – So, since neither was
in a gallery or a pit, did the price go up when
they build the new theater? – Yeah, so when they… – The prices went up as well? – Yeah, so… Previously, so the Bowery Theatre and the Astor Place Theater were both very near to each other. Downtown New York City. When they moved uptown,
Bowery Theatre stayed put. It stayed where it was and
kept the same structure that it had always had, right? Boxes, gallery, pit. The Academy of Music did
not have gallery seats. There was no place to, you know, no seat the you could buy for a quarter. All of the seats that
they had were expensive. And they essentially operated with boxes and a pit but no gallery. Again, with the express… I think I skipped over a little bit of what the riot within the
theater actually looked like because the folks in the gallery in the Astor Place Theater
began booing and hissing at William Macready as he performed. When boos and hisses were insufficient to get him off the stage, they began throwing
things like rotten eggs and bags of garbage and things. And when that failed, they
started throwing the seats off of the gallery and down
towards the boxes and the pit. Which is a sort of thing
that the well heeled folks decided they wanted to
avoid in the future. Yes? – [Female Student] So,
when you were researching and getting as much knowledge as possible about Astor Place and the riot, what did you find the most interesting, the thing that shocked you the most? – The thing that really
surprised me the most was what a commonplace thing it was for audiences and performers to interact over the course of a performance. It was really very much expected that there was a sort
of two way communication between performers and audience. And that audiences were not expected to just sort of calmly and politely wait until the end to either applaud or not. It was just a matter of course. It was expected that if the audience stopped liking what they were seeing, that they would boo and hiss
and maybe even throw things. And it was this kind of interaction that was thought to, you know, thought to work both ways in
sort of establishing a sort of democratic control over
what was performed. Does that make sense? And I think that that was
the most interesting thing and maybe the most
interesting consequence also of the separation, the
physical separation, of high culture and low culture. Because that separation effectively ended what had been previously a conversation. Yes? – [Male Student] So,
is this stratification that happens in these artistic
or entertainment worlds, does that repeat in history at all? – Yeah, so that’s a good question too. I mean, I think that there
are probably people here in this room who are better qualified than I am to answer
that question, but yes. I think that the stratification, cultural stratification and
political stratification, have tended to go hand in hand. Economic stratification,
political stratification, cultural stratification, right? All of these things. It’s not necessarily a
one-to-one relationship, but they do tend to go together. Right? I mean, you know, one place where you can
see this kind of thing, and this might be a
sort of a silly example, but everybody, y’all
aware of the year 1066? Why the year 1066 is a big deal for people who speak English? It’s when the Normans
invaded England from France. And what happened when the
Normans invaded England from France is that
French became the language of the nobility, and the royalty, whereas Old English became
the language of the peasants. And the peasants would
be the ones, for example, who would be taking care of the farms. And the nobility and the aristocracy would be the ones eating the results of what was created in the farms. So, the peasants raised
things like pigs and cows. Pigs and cows and sheep, whereas the elites ate
pork and beef and mutton. Pork, beef, and mutton are all words that are derived from the Norman French, whereas cow, pig, sheep, those all come from the Old English. And you’ll notice that when
you go to a nice restaurant even today the chances are good that what it’s gonna offer you
is not cow or pig, right? It’s gonna offer you beef or pork. Or, you know, if it happens to be a particularly fancy place, they might have venison on the menu. They’ll call it venison
rather than dead deer. And so I think that this is an example of the way cultural stratification happens and the way it tracks along political and economic lines as well. And so I would think that yes, this is the sort of thing that repeats itself through history. Yes? – [Male Student] Did the
members of militia decide on their own to fire or were
they given an order to fire? – They were given orders to fire. So, the militia had been kept on hand because essentially everybody knew that the situation that was brewing in and around the Astor Opera House was something of a powder keg, just waiting for a spark. And there had been ongoing antagonism between Forrest and his
backers on the one hand, Macready and his backers on the other. And the police had already announced to the people who ran the Opera House that they were not confident in their ability to control the crowd. So that’s why the militia was on hand. – [Male Student] And is the
militia like the National Guard? – The militia has morphed
into the National Guard, yes. But at the time they
were still just militia. – [Male Student] Do you know the name of the person who gave the order to fire? – I do not know the name of the person who gave the order to fire, but I do know that it was
the New York seventh militia. – [Male Student] On a similar note somebody outside wants to know, is this the same as the riots depicted in Gangs of New York? – No, it’s not the same as riots depicted in Gangs of New York, though it is around the
same basic time period. Though the Gangs of New York
riots are about 11 years later. 11, 12, some-odd years
later during the civil war. The big riot at the end of
Gangs of New York is, I believe, the draft riot, the New York draft riot that ended up being put down
by the United States military. But the riot, most of the gang
fighting that they show there is between folks that
considered themselves nativists. Native Americans, that is to say. When I say Native American in this context what I mean is people who came from good old solid Anglo-Saxon
Protestant stock. Who might be descended to the people who founded Massachusetts or founded New York or what have you. They held themselves in distinction from more recent immigrants
from places like Ireland. So, you know, rioting, the culture of rioting in the streets was definitely a part of life
in New York at this time. Yes? – So, nowadays was, like where was, like how
gentrified is that area now? – Ha, that’s a great question. Quite. – [Male Student] ‘Cause
there’s a Starbucks there. I looked on Google Maps just now. – Oh really? (audience laughs)
Yeah, for sure. Of course there’s a Starbucks there. Yeah, I mean if I’m remembering exactly, if I’m remembering my geography correctly, the Astor Place is down towards the east village slash lower east side, a part of New York which
is quite, quite gentrified. Used to be kind of a down in
the heels sort of neighborhood. Nowadays I believe it is
inhabited primarily by tech bros. – [Male Student] This
will be somewhat related. What is the importance of Astor Place? And I’m assuming they’re
asking about Astor. – Oh, Astor the millionaire. The Astor family. The Astor family is a
wealthy family from New York. Their wealth comes mainly
from furs if I recall correct. Yeah, so that is the
significance of Astor. – [Male Student] And this
is where it takes place, on that… – Right, there at Astor Place. – In that circle or square?
– Yes, in that circle. That’s right, yeah. Yeah, right, in that circle or square. I should have looked up
the geography, but I didn’t because I’m a political
scientist, not a geographer. (audience chuckles) – [Male Student] Somebody else has another question from outside. The interaction between
actors and audience resembles the Globe Theatre. The recreation of the Globe includes places for groundlings now. So, the American 19th century audience offers similar options? I’m guessing. – (chuckles) That sounds right. I guess I don’t know all that much about audience-performer interactions during Shakespeare’s day. – [Male Student] Throw it in.
They did do it very similar. Groundlings would, however, be in what you’re saying is the pit, so they would be right up there in front whereas the royalty would
be more in the gallery area. Which means they wouldn’t have had access to chairs to throw. I find that interesting that
they are above and able to. – Yeah, right, it is. It sounds like kind of
a design flaw, right? It’s a… Put the rowdy people up top
where you can’t see them and they can rain things
down upon your head. Maybe not the best idea. Probably better to keep them in the pit. – [Male Student] I have
another question from Paul. By the way, Caroline says that. Would you attribute
the rise of Shakespeare from pop culture to hollow
culture to this riot? And… Or were there contributing factors? – Yeah, so I think it’s clear that the riot is not the sole cause here. I think it’s more symptomatic of… The riot I think happened when it did because of people’s growing awareness of what was already a growing divide. In places like the Astor Place Opera House were symbolic of this growing divide. ‘Cause it’s a much fancier theater than the ones that came before it, though not as fancy as the
ones that came after it. So no, I think that this
is just a mild marker along what is a longer road. Though in many people this came to, well all this sound and
fury came to signify this broadening gap between
elite culture and mass culture. – [Male Student] Nice integration Macbeth. – Yes, thank you. You’re welcome, you’re quite welcome. (chuckles) I don’t know if I gave it quite an adequate stentorian tone to it, but I give it my best. – [Male Student] Could you,
from a political point of view, see a similarity with current culture and stratification and pop culture and politics? – Sure. You know, I… We live in the golden age
of the superhero movie. Y’all have probably noticed that. I wonder why. I think there is some politics to it. And I think that the politics
to the people’s enthusiasm for the superhero movie
comes from an impression that a lot of people seem to have that there’s something going wrong with the world that we inhabit currently. And I think that we really are hopeful that somewhere out there
there’s some team of heroes that’s gonna come and rescue us. So I think that there
is something indicative of our cultural moment,
of our political moment, that is expressed in our culture. Where that fits in with highbrow, lowbrow. Well, I don’t know. One way it fits in with highbrow, lowbrow is that I’m a professor
of political science and I don’t watch those movies. You know, which means
that I’ve essentially removed myself from the
broader cultural conversation. As I think tends to
happen with those of us who are excessively educated. Right? I don’t know, does that
answer your question? – [Male Student] It gets at it. – [Dustin] It gets at it, yeah. – [Male Student] Would it be reflected in our politics then as well? – Would it be reflected in our politics? – [Male Student] Do you see
there’s a cultural divide in the politics that
matches the class divide and a cultural divide? – Well, you know, I think a lot of people
woke up on Wednesday morning after the election in 2016
and were awfully surprised that President Trump had become president. Or had won the presidency. Yes, and people recall that as having been a surprising moment? Or many of us, at least. Yeah, so I think that one of
the reasons for that is that members of our elite culture, particularly members of
our media elite culture, live in a world where
there’s just no way at all for Donald Trump to be
an acceptable person or an acceptable candidate for president. And they were just blown away. Blown away, astounded that he had won. Whereas if you were
actually paying attention to what people seemed to be
saying when they got to go vote, you would know that
they’re a lot of people that like Donald Trump. In spite or even because
elites find him unacceptable. So I do think, yes, there
are definitely some ways in which this is
reflected in our politics. I think another… To go back to the superhero metaphor, I think that for a lot of the people, a lot of the people who had not come to grips with the fact that President Trump has strong support from a significant percentage
of our nation’s population. People who can’t come to grips with that have spent the last two years breathlessly watching the Mueller Report. Breathlessly watching
the Mueller investigation because they were certain, certain that at the conclusion of the report Robert Mueller would
ride in on a white steed and remove Donald Trump
from the White House and restore us to national sanity. Because they still haven’t come to grips with the divide between
their perception of reality and the perception of many
millions of their countrymen. And so, yes. I mean, I think this is a… The way culture divides us
I think is still important. And I think that the fact that
we consume different cultures depending on our own sense of our identity or our own level of
education or level of wealth. I think that those things actually are politically problematic. Yes? – [Female Student] So we know at the time that this was considered a riot, but do you think this would be considered one of the first acts of terrorism? ‘Cause they didn’t really
have the technology that we have today and
the acts of terrorism have advanced because of our technology. – Right, now I think
that this is much more classically what we would consider a riot. Just an outpouring of anger that gains expression on the street. It was not so much, I mean, you know the dying part, the part where people died, that happened in response to the riot. So the riot wasn’t out there trying to kill people to make a political point. It’s just that the police all of a sudden responded to the riot with deadly force. Or police, militia, excuse me. It’s a fair question though. Yes? – So everybody that died in the riot, that was due to the militia? – Yes, everybody killed in the riot was killed by the militia. To the best of my knowledge. – [Female Student] And
so did it simply start by somebody saying we
don’t like this actor, but we’re still gonna go and
watch it and stir up trouble? Or was it, they went in and realized who was acting and then they… – Yeah, so people who were
supporters of Edwin Forrest bought up tickets in the
gallery and in the pit in order to get Forrest guys
in there to boo and hiss. And hopefully to boo and hiss louder than the people in the boxes clapped because here we are having a contest. Which was a totally, a
fairly normal contest until the chairs started raining down. Yes? – [Male Student] I’m surprised by the fact about the segmented seating. So this is really what
we’re seeing, right? I mean, the Bowery could
be the sort of drift down and it becomes much like the environs of the globe on the
wrong side of the river until by the, I don’t know, by the 50’s, the Bowery is just a byword of the bottom. – Yeah, that’s right, yeah. – [Male Student] And then we move uptown to build the New York Academy, which is where the rich people are moved. They moved uptown too, so it’s almost like the sort
that we see taking place really all over the world these days. – It’s very much like that, absolutely. Yes, it is very much like that. This cultural isolation from each other is also expressed as a geographical isolation from each other, absolutely. And of course political
isolation from one another. Which is, by the way, that kind of isolation from
each other is really perfect, a perfect set of ingredients for building a democratic political process, right? Maybe not. What else? Yes? – Considering the fact that
20 people died in this riot, what do you think if it like today, if this happened today, what do you think the… The aftermath would be? – Well, gosh. You know, I mean if we
were talking in terms of proportionality, I’m not sure
exactly what the population of New York City was in 1849. The numbers from the newspaper
room reports at the time have the writers in the
vicinity of 10,000 people. I suspect that the city
has at least increased in population by at least a factor of 10. So then the numbers of
writers would be 100,000 and the number of dead
would be at least 200. Or maybe 2,000 that would be. Anyway… So, yeah. I think it would be, there’s a technical term
that we use in the business. Bad. (audience chuckles) I think it would be bad. Or another word, interesting. It would be interesting. It’s a good question. What else? Yes? – Do you know which side had more deaths? – Which side had more deaths? – And was there like a more
of a backlash ’cause of it? – So the people who died, the people who died were almost all of them working class people who were there at the protest. To the best of my knowledge, 100% of the people who died
were working class protestors. Mostly men, a couple of women. So the other side, the other
side’s death count was zero. Yes?
– Do you know anything about the play that night? Like at what part they at, what scene or– – I don’t know. I don’t know what scene they were at. I suspect that this all
began relatively early, so I presume somewhere in act one. (audience chuckles) When is Macbeth’s first soliloquy? I would suspect that’s when it started. – [Male Student] Well,
it would have probably been in act two really where
he fully would come out. – Yeah, so that would be my best guess. Yes? – [Female Student] Were there any people who blamed this riot on the
quote unquote curse of Macbeth? – Yeah, that’s a great question. Again, that is not something
that I encountered, though I also suspect that it didn’t hurt the notion of a curse. (audience chuckles) Right, yeah. Yeah, the newspaper accounts
mostly blamed the protestors, mostly blamed the writers. Although some of them
took note of the fact that performers getting booed off the stage was a normal thing that
happened at the theater. And so it was sort of abnormal for this performer to be backed by the guns of the police and the militia. So some people also blamed in addition to blaming the writers, some folks blamed the theater’s owners, some folks blamed the performers, and some folks blamed the
police and the militia. And some folks just blamed everybody. Because why not? – [Male Student] The
police would have been a fairly new organization. – Police were a fairly new
organization, that’s right. – [Male Student] Maybe
it does mirror something. – Something like that, yeah. Yeah, they were fairly new and they were fairly
sympathetic to the writers. – [Male Student] To the writers, yeah. That’s what they would have been. They would have been those guys. – Yeah, drawn from the ranks of the working class, absolutely. Indeed. – [Male Student] The militia played the role of the mounted gold miner. – (chuckles) Yeah, essentially. And they actually did at
first march in on horseback. They were turned back by a hail of stones and so dismounted and came in as infantry wielding bayonets. And they didn’t start
firing until those bayonets started being wrenched out of their hands. By the mob. Anyhow… – [Male Student] That’s a good riot, man. – It is a good riot, right? It’s nice to know about these
things from time to time. And it’s also important to note that we are not the first people to live through acrimonious
and difficult political times. Would it be interesting if
people started throwing rocks at the screen when you
go to the movie theater? – [Male Student] Or your professors? – What’s that? Or your professors, yeah. My goodness. Yeah, I’m very glad that the tradition of booing and hissing
the performer is gone because I think it would
make my days very difficult. Yes.
– I’ve actually seen an opening act at a concert
been booed off stage before. – Really? That is interesting. The opening act of a
concert booed off stage. Yeah, I’ve never seen that. Which concert was it? – It was at a Fall Out Boy concert. I don’t remember who the opening act was, but it was bad.
– Yeah, well whoever it was, they were disappointing. (chuckles) Who else? Questions or comments. Deers in headlights. Well, thanks. (audience applause) Thank you all for having me. Thanks to the media center
for setting this all up. Thanks to those of you in the gallery out there in the hallway.

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