Worst Riots of the 20th Century

Riots are almost always accompanied with mass-scale destruction of property and loss of lives.
Riots are almost always accompanied with mass-scale destruction of property and loss of lives.

Riots are characterized by the presence of a large gathering of people. Riots can be as a result of sporting activities, political activities, poor working conditions, government oppression, harsh living conditions, and conflict between religious or racial groups. Riots, whether in the urban or rural areas, are characterized by destruction of properties, injuries, arrests of civilians, and even deaths. Riots are frequently accompanied by violent activities, street marches, and mass action. The 20th century was characterized by several riots which left trails of destruction and death.

Some Of The Major 20th Century Riots

1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were characterized by violence aimed at the Sikhs in India by the anti-Sikhs. The uprising and massacre were as a result of the killing of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard who was a Sikh on October 31, 1984, as a reaction to the prime minister’s authorization for the military operation in the Golden Temple. The government of India reported the deaths to 2,800 including 2,100 deaths in Delhi where over 20,000 people also fled from the city. However, other independent sources placed the death toll closer to 8,000. The investigation agencies in India believe that the riot was organized with the help of the Delhi police and other prominent people in the government. The Indian Government is yet to prosecute people who they believe masterminded the killings.

1987 Mecca Incident

The 1987 Mecca incident was a mass clash between Saudi Arabian Forces and the Shia pilgrims who were demonstrating during the Hajj Pilgrimage. The riot occurred in Mecca on July 31, 1987, leading to the death of over 400 people including 315 pilgrims and 85 police officers. Thousands were also injured, many seriously. The incident arose from the tension that had grown between the Shia Iran and the Sunni Saudi Arabia. The Iranian had held demonstrations against the US and Israel since 1981, but in 1987 the Saudi Arabian police cordoned off parts of the demonstration routes. The action by the police led to the confrontation between them and the Pilgrims escalating to violent clashes and deadly stampedes. Both the police and the pilgrims continue to lay blame on each other to this date on the events of the violence.

1992 Los Angeles Riots

The 1992 Los Angeles riots was characterized by violence, looting, and destruction of property and took place in the Los Angeles County in 1992. The unrest began on April 29, 1992, in South Central Los Angeles after four officers of the police department in the county who had used excessive force in arresting Rodney King were acquitted. Thousands of people rioted for six days from the day of the announcement of the verdict with widespread violence, killings, stealing, and arson. The order was restored by the California Army National Guard and the 1st Marine Division with over 2,000 people injured and more than 10,000 arrested.

1967 Detroit Riot

The 1967 Detroit riot or 12th Street Riot began on the morning of July 23, 1967, with the police raid of an unlicensed bar which was known as the Blind Pig which was located north of the corner of the 12th Street. The confrontation between the police and the patrol attracted the attention of the observers evolving into one of the most destructive riots in the history of the US. The riot which ended after five days and left 43 people dead, 1,190 injured, and over 7,000 arrested. Thousands of buildings and properties were destroyed in the riot that was featured prominently in the media.

Riots With The Least Casualties

Almost all the riots in the 20th century have led to the loss of life, injuries, and arrests. Some of the riots with the lowest number of casualties include Hock Lee bus riot which took place in Singapore, Minneapolis General Strike of 1934, Ford Hunger March of Dearborn, Baltimore Riot of 1968, and Harlem Riot of 1943. Although these riots involved a large number of protesters, less than ten casualties were recorded. The low casualty was as a result of the less resistance experienced by officers who handled the riot and the time it took to end the riot.

Largest Riots of the 20th Century

RankRiot NameLocationYearDeath Toll (Est.)
11984 anti-Sikh RiotsIndia19848,000
2Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989Beijing, China19893,000
3CaracazoCaracas, Venezuela19892,000
458 RiotsCeylon (Sri Lanka)19581,500
5Romanian RevolutionRomania19891,104
6May 1998 Riots of IndonesiaIndonesia19981,000
7Bombay RiotsMumbai, India1992-1993900
8Soweto UprisingSouth Africa1976700
91987 Mecca incident Mecca. Saudi Arabia1987400
10Tulsa Race RiotsTulsa, United States1921300
111979 Anti-Tamil ProgramSri Lanka1977300
12Elaine Race Riot (Elaine massacre)Elaine (AR), United States1919242
131993 Russian Constitutional CrissMoscow, Russia1993187
141956 Ceylonese RiotsSri Lanka1956150
15Durban RiotsDurban, South Africa1949142
16Tunisian Bread RiotsTunisia1983-1984140
171986 Egyptian conscripts RiotEgypt1986107
18Hamburg UprisingHamburg, Germany1923100
19Bloody SundaySt. Petersburg, Russia190596
201977 Egyptian Bread RiotsEgypt197779
21Hong Kong 1956 RiotsHong Kong195659
221992 Los Angeles RiotsLos Angeles, United States199255
23Léopoldville RiotsRepublic of the Congo195949
24East St. Louis RiotsSt. Louis, United States191748
25Chicago race riot of 1919Chicago, United States191938
261964 Race Riots in SingaporeSingapore196436
27Detroit race riotDetroit, United States194334
28Watts RiotsWatts, Los Angeles, United States196534
29New Mexico State Penitentiary RiotSante Fe, United States198033
30Istanbul PorgromIstanbul195530
311967 Newark RiotsNewark, United States196728
32Cairo FireCairo, Egypt195226
33Novocherkassk MassacreSoviet Union196226
34Athens Polytechnic UprisingAthens, Greece197324
351967 Detroit RiotDetroit, United States196723
36Gazi Quarter RiotsIstanbul, Turkey199523
371927 Nagpur RiotsNagpur, India192722
381933 Palestine RiotsPalestine193320
39199 Sukhumi RiotsSukhumi, Georgia198920
40Maria Hertogh RiotsSingapore195018
411980 Miami RiotsMiami, United States198018
42Iranian Student Protests of July 1999Iran199917
43Hibiya incendiary incidentTokyo, Japan190517
44Bloody SundayDerry, Northern Ireland197214
451989 Riots in ArgentinaArgentina198914
46Chinese middle school riotsSinapore195613
471968 Chicago RiotsChicago, United States196811
48Memorial Day massacre of 1937Chicago, United States193710
491920 Nebi Musa RiotsJerusalem19209
50Rosewood massacreRosewood (FL), United States19238
51Harlem Riot of 1943Harlem (NY), United States19436
52Baltimore Riot of 1968Baltimore, United States19686
53Ford Hunger MarchDearborn (MI), United States19325
54Minneapolis General Strike of 1934Minneapolis, United States19344
55Hock Lee bus riotsSingapore19554

More in World Facts