The Madness of Crowds

Woodstock '99 was a little less about love, a little more about sexual assault

My favorite riot, funny until it turned fatal, occurred at New York City's Astor Place Theater in May 1849, when factions supporting two rival Shakespearean actors--William Macready, the mincing traditionalist from England, and Edwin Forrest, the obstreperous, furniture-chewing American--became so violent at Macready's performance of Macbeth that the militia was summoned. The militia opened fire, and 22 boisterous theater lovers died.

There are reasons, good or bad, to have a riot: to protest police brutality; to celebrate winning the World Series. Harvard students once rioted because the university started issuing diplomas in English instead of Latin.

But a riot needs no...

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