Throughout history, riots have been a way for groups to express themselves loudly when all other attempts to be heard seem inadequate. 

While riots escalate quickly, they can result in gaining public attention on important issues.

Riots are often strategic attempts for groups who feel their cries are being neglected to attain recognition from the authorities.

There have been countless riots over the course of history and on Oct. 18, 2014 instead of the media focusing on Keene Pumpkin Fest, family-friendly autumn fun, it was on a chaotic and dangerous riot in parts of Keene full of college-age rioters.

In the 18th century there were the Boston Bread Riot of 1713.

Poor citizens of Boston fought back against the richest merchants in town who charged high prices on the limited grain and other foodstuffs.

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

According to, those of the 200 people who gathered on Boston Common to protest the ongoing scarcity and high prices of grain went after one particularly rich merchant, damaging one of his ships.

The small riot resulted in changed policies on grain that made it more affordable and accessible to poor citizens. Their efforts were successful.

In the 19th century there was the Tompkins Square Riot of 1874. According to, thousands of unemployed citizens of New York City gathered in the neighborhood now called the East Village.

The riot erupted as a reaction to the full-fledged economic depression that began in 1873. People’s World said, “The demonstrators planned to insist that then-Mayor William Havemeyer establish a public works program by giving $100,000 to a Labor Relief Bureau to be established by the Committee for Public Safety itself.”

The riot resulted in New York City police beating rioters with clubs to disperse them, but at least the riot was fueled by passion and a desire for change.

Then came the 20th century Kent State Riots. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia by the United States. He told the country that 150,000 more soldiers would need to be drafted for the expansion of the Vietnam War effort.

According to, “this provoked massive protests on campuses throughout the country.”

“At Kent State University in Ohio, protesters launched a demonstration that included setting fire to the ROTC building, prompting the governor of Ohio to dispatch 900 National Guardsmen to the campus,” the website stated.

This riot led to police opening fire and killing four students who were standing up against the violence in Vietnam. The event gained major attention and following the Kent State shootings stated, “Almost five hundred colleges were shut down or disrupted by protests.”

These students were concerned about social issues driven by their moral beliefs.

Now, in the 21st century, riots still occur but in a different form it seems. They feature elements like those present in the riots recognized prior, lighting fires, destroying property, massive gatherings of people, but I am concerned the basis of modern riots may be lacking the intent to change.

On October 18, 2014 the Keene Pumpkin Fest drew in thousands of people, many visiting Keene State College students as guests. What ensued that night is hard to describe due to my lack of understanding of such senseless and inappropriate behavior.

Thousands gathered at parties where the “fun” consisted of throwing bottles, cans, tires and whatever else they could get their inebriated hands on.

The level of destruction that took place was shocking to so many of us. The entire night was absurd. Lines of police in protective gear blockaded areas that were getting out of hand.

Rightfully so, the children seemed to have lost their minds. Whether they were drunk or not, the behavior was absolutely disgraceful. I think of the previously mentioned causes for riot. The true life struggles that provoked humans to revolt at least constituted the need to act, Pumpkin Fest weekend however, is supposed to be a family-friendly time to go to the Main Street event in Keene. This year it became a contest to see who could be the most destructive.

We, meaning people around the age of 20, are the most recent “future” and are at a position in our lives to contribute and make a difference.

Yet, instead what I witnessed this weekend [Oct. 18-19] is that we are behaving as animals and destroying the many things we are privileged to have.  I am absolutely shocked and disgusted by the behavior exhibited at this year’s Pumpkin Fest, though I realize KSC students are not solely to blame. There were many students from other schools who were also involved

Hopefully our generation will come together with the same energy present at the Pumpkin Fest in order to positively benefit something in the near future.

If each of those who attended the Pumpkin Fest riots were to step forward and donate some time, money, or work towards a good cause, then perhaps we could begin repairing the damage this event has done.

It has damaged  the reputation of Keene State College students, their college-aged guests, and the generation of kids currently in their late teens or early twenties as a whole.


Arline Votruba can be contacted at

Share and Enjoy !