Architecture: a backdrop to public opposition



Public expanses such as cities and monuments are built to satisfy the public community. Violent events occurred throughout history, not only from almost all throughout the 20th century, but also from as early as year 1500 to year 1900.   Protests have disrupted the architecture of buildings, various cites, roads, and streets. The meaning of public spaces radically changes when they are used against their original design and are used a backdrop to political opposition and dissent. Evil May Day and the Gordon Riots are a few exemplars of destructive protests. Both of these are in a different time period, all moving toward the government in order to get the publics judgments across. In the March on Washington, over 200,000 people funneled through the streets of Washington DC, breaking numbers in protest history. The protests in London, included the Gordon Riots, and Evil May Day where the whole town was covered with people for over 6 hours, rampaged through, destroying things and looted homes. Architecture has a whole new meaning to these places when it is used against it.

Evil May Day can be thought upon many different opinions, but it all goes back to the riots in London in the 16th century. The protests in London also included the Gordon Riots, which took place in 1750, was over 200 years later than Evil May Day. The earliest of the expanded time period was Evil May Day, which took place in 1517. It was during the reign of King Henry, so the natives despised the foreigners.  On Easter Tuesday, a man, Dr. Bell, stood at St Paul’s Cross and made a speech.  And a part of this speech he said, “”Englishmen to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal(th)” [HistoryToday] . Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, where this speech was said, is a church. With its grand elaborate pulpit and its preaching cross, there are rows and rows of seats for people to practice religion. This same building was also where Richard Walker pleaded guilty but freed. UnknownThe architecture of this building was designed for the good, not to start the evil in the world. Old St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by several people but was in honor of St. Paul. The construction began all the way back in year 1087, but due to a fire it did not open until the 14th century. Old St. Paul’s Cathedral is known for its donated stone by King William I, and the stone was from the destroyed Palatine Tower.  The connotation of this place is not a place where one would think a riot would arise. The speech did cause a riot in fact, and was made at a church on Easter. The Newgate prison was the building that the riot first marched to, a few days after this speech, releasing all of the inmates. These prisoners were recently incarcerated for assaulting and attacking foreigners almost right after the speech. After the prisoners were set free from the jail, contradicting the reason for a jail, proceeded to the foreigners’ homes again. Jails in the 16th century were to hold the guilty men, and most likely weren’t meant for a thousand men to break through the locks and the bars barricading the single prisoners. It wasn’t difficult to get the trapped convicts unrestricted. The foreigners deemed the group of rioters after their arrival, so then they advanced to launch rocks, hot water and whatever they could find at them. This obviously angered the young men, so then they looted the foreigners’ homes. This event lasted as long as six hours long until the police enforcement got peace restored again.evil may day

Another event that was very similar and lasted a week long, happened in the same series of unfortunate events, the Protests in London, in 1780. This was the Gordon Riot. In 1780, the government tried to boost the size of the army to defend themselves against England for irrelevant reasons. An act was placed, to draft Catholics on into the army, which angered many men. This caused a 60,000 people strong revolt to the House of Commons to petition this act. The House of Commons is a lower house of the government: the place of parliament. This place was relatively old; construction began after 1512, which was when a large fire occurred. This building is known for its gothic like style, which was designed by Charles Barry. After 1780, the government had to expand several times. After WWII was the time for expansion. But before that, it only sat about 480 people. If 60,000 people went into a building meant to hold only 500 of strictly government officials (no visitors allowed), it strains the structure of the building. 120 times the amount of people that should be in that one place, were. In the photo there isn’t many people in that room. Much of the money that was spent for the after math repairs of riot was spent on this building. For a week straight they had complete control of London. The households of the Marquis of Rockingham, the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Mansfield and Sir George Savile were attacked; those of Mansfield and Savile were burnt down and the others had to be defended by the armed force. Homes of Catholics and Catholic churches were burnt down. This mob also defied the jails purposes; they invaded them, and freed prisoners. The ending result of this riot included 100 different buildings burned, and or looted. £100,000 was paid just for repairs of the architecture of homes and public spaces.
The-Gordon-Riots-1780-007The sizes of the revolts seem to increase as the years pass. The latest event that occurred was in the 20th century, and had over 250,000 citizens that all gathered into one space, to show one opinion. The architecture wasn’t designed however for the gathering of these people, even though it didn’t rebel against them. This event was the largest event in history for one group of people in Washington DC. The entire length of the march was from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. stood was finished in May 1922. Although this march was more of a peaceful march, and there was unnecessary amount of attack dogs and police enforcement. The impact from the march was greater than any destructive riot or mutiny.  The places that the march occurred at, was at the Lincoln monument, which made the monument very famous. At first the monument was just known for Lincoln, but now it is recognized as the place of the famous speech of “I Have a Dream.” The large marble statue sat behind Martin Luther King Jr. beaming over the audience.  Not that this monument had a bad denotation to it, but now it had a better sound and a better thought that comes to mind when thought about.

Whether it may be a bad or good thing, the architecture of a history-book-making event really does matter. In these series of events, the after math probably isn’t good-unless it’s a rare occurrence, like the March on Washington. The architecture of buildings has certain specifics, and when the population works to destroy it, it has a radical turn about point.






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“Those Who Will Not Be Drowned: Evil May Day: Hostility to Immigrants in London, 1517.” Those Who Will Not Be Drowned: Evil May Day: Hostility to Immigrants in London, 1517. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <>


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“The Gordon Riots of 1780: London in Flames, a Nation in Ruins – Professor Ian Haywood.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.



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