Yesterday was a big day for anarchists. During May Day protests they smashed windows in Seattle, got arrested in Cleveland for trying to blow up a bridge and arrested in New York for running around the Lower East Side. But that's just a normal Red Sox post-game celebration. Who does chaos best: Protesters or sports fans? Let's investigate.
There were minuscule amounts of violence and vandalism during yesterday's big Occupy Wall street May Day protests, hardly enough to qualify as a riot despite the Right's fear-mongering. But it dominated the headlines where it occurred—mostly in Seattle, where "black bloc" anarchists smashed up an American Apparel and a Niketown. And in Oakland, where crowds were dispersed with teargas fired by cops in full riot gear. The last time America saw such chaos in the streets was, well, when the University of Kentucky won the NCAA basketball championship last month.
It certainly says something about America that our most notable instances of crowd violence occur at 1) political protests and 2) professional sporting events. But we're not interested in that. What we're looking at here is the raw damage-causing ability of pissed-off protesters versus rampaging sports fans.
The most awesome way to measure this would be a gladiator-style battle, obviously. Throw a phalanx of hooded anarchists armed with smoke bombs and hammers, and a few van-loads of trashed Eagles fans armed with exceptionally thick skulls into a small space. Whoever survives is declared America's Most Dangerous Rioter and given a trophy depicting an overturned Kia. Unfortunately, until Spike TV green-lights Deadliest Warrior: Dumbass Edition, we're going to have to speculate.
First, let's compare the damage caused by most notable recent sports riots, and political protests that turned violent in the U.S. and Canada:
- Kentucky Students Riot over NCAA win.
15,000 people rioted after Kentucky state won the NCAA basketball championship. 40 fires were set, and one person was injured by a guy who shot a gun. Dozens of arrests.
- Penn State Riots
Students toppled a news van and downed lamp posts after Joe Paterno was fired over the Sandusky child abuse scandal. 23 students arrested; Damages: $200,000.
- Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot
140 injured (four stabbed); 101 arrested; damages estimated at $4.2 million.
- Boston Celtics Riot
23 arrested; destroyed property.
- Montreal Canadiens Riot
16 arrests; burned police cars, vandalized stores;
Damages: $500,000 to cars alone.
- Philadelphia World Series Riots
Damages: No statistics, but according to Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, who was there, "there were fires. And tipped vehicles."
- Occupy Oakland
The Oakland branch of the Occupy movement has been more chaotic than its New York counterpart, anarchists have vandalized targets and protesters broke into City Hall.
Damages: $2 million since October, 2011.
- G20 Toronto Riots
Over 1000 arrests; over 40 stores and businesses vandalized.
Damages: $750,000 in damage.
Judging solely by numbers, sports fans have been more frequent, but slightly less destructive rioters.
In addition to quantity of destruction, the qualities of the average "fuck shit up" protestor and the rioting sports fan must also be taken into account. When it comes to dedication, both are driven to rage-fueled idiocy by a deep conviction. But nobody has ever blown themselves up in the name of the Knicks. So, political rioters are going to be more dedicated. On the other hand, sports fans are on average much drunker. So it's probably a wash.
But the anarchists who are usually behind the chaos at protests are at least marginally strategic about their destruction: Starbucks, Nike shops, symbols of corporate oppression. Anarchists read entire zines about this stuff. If you're not one of the bad guys, you're probably in the clear.
Sports rioters, on the other hand, let rip a collective fart of violence, oblivious to who or what is enveloped in the resulting stink cloud. Destructive protesters often have a good reason for their dumb actions, but sports fans always have dumb reasons for their dumb actions, which makes them far more dangerous to the average person. Think about the Penn State students who ran wild over the firing of an incompetent octogenarian who helped cover up his employee's serial child molestation. Or Canucks fans who, just as inexcusably, rioted over losing a hockey game. To riot over sports is to prove you are dumb enough to riot over anything.
Forget inept anarcho-terrorists. These people are terrifying. These are the people who probably have saved in their Gmail "drafts" folder an email with instructions on where to meet to form a roving cannibalistic tribe, to be sent to their eight closest insane sports fan friends the second society collapses.
All told, if I were the mayor of Oakland I would roll out the fancy armored tank not for the scruffy anarchists who are obnoxious at protests sometimes, but the Giants fans, who are dumb enough to break stuff because of sports, but still sophisticated enough check into their riots on FourSquare. Unfortunately, you probably wouldn't get Homeland Security money for that. But maybe you should.