Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural
Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural

Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural

Khalid Elhassan - June 18, 2020

Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural
Freedomites. Shrine of Dreams

2. Naked Fanatics

Authorities were flabbergasted about what to do with the radical Russian religious migrants. Mass nude parades would probably raise eyebrows even today. Back in the early twentieth century, the Doukhobor splinter – who eventually named themselves The Freedomites – shocked sensibilities when they took to protesting in the buff. In one nudist epidemic, police sprinkled itching powder on the protesters. When another march in the buff scandalized British Columbia in 1932, over 600 men and women were banished to serve prison terms in Piers Island, BC.

In a way, the naked protesters’ passive resistance exasperated Canadian authorities like Gandhi’s passive resistance was exasperating the British in India. More worrying was when the Freedomites went from passive protest to actively persecuting other Doukhobors for being too worldly. Time after time, Freedomites turned to violent crime and raided the villages of other Doukhobors, to burn their homes and dynamite their factories as punishment for straying from the simple life.

Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural
A Doukhobor watching a building set on fire. Pintrest

1. The Freedomite Crime Spree

The Freedomites waged a virtual guerrilla war in British Columbia against the modern world for decades, especially against other Doukhobors whom they viewed as backsliders. From 1923 to 1962, the Freedomites’ crime spree included over 1100 bombings and arsons. The authorities fought back with sentences of up to three years imprisonment for nude protesters, and seizing the sect’s children to send to state institutions.

Crime Waves and Savage Fads From History That Were Just Unnatural
A Doukhobor child sitting by his burning home in 1962. Matador Network

The violence continued however, culminating in a series of 259 bombings in 1962 in just one region of British Columbia. Targets included ferries, railways, power lines and stations, hotels, courthouses, and the destruction of entire villages. The authorities finally decapitated the sect in March of 1962 by arresting sixty of its leaders, and charging them with conspiracy to intimidate the Canadian Parliament and the Legislature of British Columbia. With their leaders behind bars, the remaining Doukhbors rapidly assimilated into Canadian society. Relative peace has reigned since, while Canadian Doukhobor numbers dwindled from a peak of 40,000 to about 2,200 in 2011.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Chicago Tribune, October 7th, 2001 – King of the Hills

Churchill, David, History and Societies, 18(1) 131-152 – Rethinking the State Monopolisation Thesis: the Historiography of Policing and Criminal Justice in Nineteenth Century England

Churchill, David, Social History, 392:2, 248-266 – ‘I Am Just the Man For Upsetting You Bloody Bobbies’: Popular Animosity Towards the Police in Late Nineteenth Century Leeds

Clement, Dominique – Canada’s Rights Revolution: Social Movement and Social Change, 1937-82 (2008)

Cracked – 6 Real Crime Waves From History That Were Hilariously Insane

Davis, Susan G., American Quarterly, Volume 34.2 (Summer 1982) – Making the Night Hideous: Christmas Revelry and Public Order in Nineteenth Century Philadelphia

Encyclopedia Britannica – Sumptuary Law

Gizmodo – In the 18th Century, Wig-Stealing Bandits Roamed England’s Countryside

Los Angeles Times, June 4th, 2018 – Zoot Suit Riots: After 75 Years, LA Looks Back on a Violent Summer

New York Times, September 16th, 1922 – City Has Wild Night of Straw Hat Riots

New York Tribune, September 16th, 1922 – Straw Hat Smashing Orgy Bares Heads From Battery to Bronx

Slate – The 1922 Straw Hat Riot Was One of the Weirdest Crime Sprees in American History

Taylor, Troy – True Crime Illinois: The State’s Most Notorious Criminal Cases (2009)

Wikipedia – History of the Metropolitan Police

Wikipedia – Straw Hat Riot

Wikipedia – Zoot Suit Riots

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