By Brad Dison
On Friday evening, October 1, 1970, thousands of people gathered at the Palazzo Dello Sportin (Sport Palace) in Milan, Italy. People peacefully entered the event center until suddenly, 30 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, security personnel closed and locked the doors. The crowd outside, which numbered around 2,000, was unsure why the doors were locked. Security personnel tried to explain that the building was filled to capacity. Within a short time, the peaceful crowd’s mood began to change. They began yelling at security to open the doors. Then, someone threw a rock and broke one of the event center’s many windows. Another person joined in. Then another. Before long, rocks seemed to fly from everywhere and shattered several of the event center’s large windows.
Police officers tried to restore order, but the crowd shifted their aim away from the event center and onto the policemen. As rocks rained down on the policemen, they called for backup. As the number of policemen at the event center increased, so did the number of rioters. Reporters at the time estimated that another 2,000 more people joined in the riot against the policemen. Finally, police reinforcements arrived. With no other non-lethal option available to them, the officers fired tear gas into the crowd. The rioters held out as long as they could but were ultimately forced to withdraw.
When the riot was over, seven policemen and an unknown number of rioters were injured. Policemen arrested 63 rioters. Although the Palazzo Dello Sportin suffered several smashed windows during the riot, most of the people inside were too occupied by the event to be aware of it. The battle between the angry mob and policemen had a soundtrack which may have fueled the rioters. Ironically, one of the songs the rioters and policemen heard was “Street Fighting Man”. On that Friday night in 1970 in Milan, Italy, an otherwise peaceful crowd became violent when they were turned away from a concert by…the Rolling Stones.
1. Evening Standard (London, England), October 2, 1970, p.18.