Legislative violence broadly refers to any violent clashes between members of a legislature, often physically, inside the legislature and triggered by divisive issues and tight votes. Such clashes have occurred in many countries across time, and notable incidents still regularly occur.
Although the sight of brawling politicians is incongruous with a legislature's stately image, its occupants, like in any other workplace, are still prone to stress and anger. The confrontational nature of politics, regardless of their location, and the high stakes involved often add to the simmering tensions.
Crowd some hundreds of men together on a hot afternoon or night; fill them with the fire of partisan ardor; perplex them with doubt as to the personal gain or loss that may follow their vote on the question at issue, and instill them with envy of, and ill-will toward, their fellows, and you have abundant material for a row. All that is needed is an excuse, and that is too often found.
5 July 2011
Nazifa Zaki and Hamida Ahmadzai fought over rocket attacks into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
30 November 2015
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Roman general and dictator Julius Caesar was famously assassinated by a group of senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC during a meeting of the Roman Senate. The senators, led by Cassius and Brutus and calling themselves Liberatores, had conspired in secret to kill Caesar and considered various ways to do so. Ultimately, they decided to kill him during a meeting of the senate, since only senators would be allowed in the meeting and Caesar would be alone. The senators drafted a fake petition requesting that Caesar hand over power to senate; Caesar called a meeting of the senate to read it. When Caesar met the senators at the Theatre of Pompey, they stabbed him repeatedly with daggers concealed under their togas, killing him. Caesar's assassination led to a civil war for control of the republic, ending ultimately with the rise of Caesar Augustus and the founding of the Roman Empire.
During the era of the Dual Monarchy, the House of Deputies (German: Abgeordnetenhaus) of the Imperial Council (German: Reichsrat) of the Cisleithanian (i.e. Austrian) half of the Empire endured frequent outbursts of violence. Mark Twain, writing in Harper's in 1898, observed:
One night, while the customary pandemonium was crashing and thundering along at its best, a fight broke out. It was a surging, struggling, shoulder-to-shoulder scramble. A great many blows were struck. Twice Schönerer lifted one of the heavy ministerial fauteuils – some say with one hand – and threatened members of the Majority with it, but it was wrenched away from him; a member hammered Wolf over the head with the President's bell, and another member choked him; a professor was flung down and belabored with fists and choked; he held up an open penknife as a defense against the blows; it was snatched from him and flung to a distance; it hit a peaceful Christian Socialist who wasn't doing anything, and brought blood from his hand.
13 February 2019
27 October 2007
In 2007 a fight broke out in the lower chamber of the national legislature of Bolivia, the Chamber of Deputies. The fight erupted during a debate over whether or not to try four judges on corruption charges.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
31 July 2019
Following an intense debate in the Council of the Bosnian-Podrinje Canton in city of Goražde, councilor Daliborka Milović, who was also the president of the Liberal Party, had thrown a plastic water bottle, hitting Edita Velić, a member of Democratic Front in the process, who was at the time, the Chairman of the council, after a disagreement on drafting a new law. Following the event, Milović was promptly escorted out of the building by the local municipal police.
23 December 2019
Draško Stanivuković, a prominent member of the PDP, was initially scolded by the Milorad Dodik's right-wing SNSD-dominated club for various provocations aimed at the current government of the Republika Srpska. As an MP, Stanivuković became famous for flamboyant presentations of his ideas, which many at the time deemed provocative. Two days before Christmas, Stanivuković was physically assaulted by Dragan Lukač of SNSD, the current Minister of Interior of the Republic of Srpska since (holding the position since 2014). Moments before the confrontation, Lukač warned Stanivuković to cease his provocations aimed at the government, warning him that he's going to "end up on the floor, just like those little flags he brought along." Following his statement, Lukač had asked Stanivuković, who had by now been walking around the National Assembly hall carrying hand-held NATO flags and distributing them to those present, to approach him, calling him an "ape" in the process. Stanivuković did so, and following a brief exchange words, Lukač proceeded to hit him om the head with his right fist. The event was broadcast live on the Radio Television of the Republic of Srpska. This happened in the wake of events where the Bosnian three-men presidency had unanimously agreed to sign the Reform Program, which is widely speculated to be the undisclosed SMO agreement, which would allow Bosnia and Herzegovina to pursue full membership in NATO. Following the event, Lukač would go on to apologize to the mass public, but not to Stanivuković in particular. The case is currently under an investigation.
4 December 1963
The father of the former president Fernando Collor and senator for the State of Alagoas, Arnon de Melo, fired three shots with a 38 caliber revolver against Silvestre Péricles, Senator for the state of Alagoas and Melo's political opponent, who had been threatening him with death. Pericles escaped from the shots, but two bullets hit the senator for the State of Acre, José Kairala, hitting his abdomen. Kairala was quickly rescued and taken to a hospital in Brasília, but he did not resist his injuries and died. Arnon remained in prison until July 1964, when he was acquitted by the Brasília Jury Tribunal, on the grounds that he acted in self-defense.
5 December 2012
New Democratic Party House Leader Nathan Cullen attempted to delay the passing of a Conservative budget bill, leading to a threatening confrontation between Conservative Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and NDP leader Tom Mulcair, described in the media as a "near-brawl".
18 May 2016
Before a vote in the House of Commons Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "manhandled" Conservative Party Opposition Whip Gord Brown and inadvertently elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau. The incident went on to be known as "Elbowgate" and officially known in the House of Commons as "the matter of the physical molestation of the Member from Berthier—Maskinongé".
21 January 2021
Member of parliament Lubomír Volný, leader of the far-right Unified – Alternative for Patriots, attacked deputy speaker Tomáš Hanzel during the debate on the extension of the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being reprimanded by Hanzel for not speaking to the topic, Volný started to insult him, and when his microphone was turned off, he approached and confronted the deputy speaker trying to use his microphone instead. Other deputies came to help Hanzel; Volný was eventually taken away by the security guard.
28 February 2016
14 June 2017
5 February 1929
During a session of the Riigikogu, the Farmers' Assemblies accused Minister of Education and Welfare Leopold Johanson of Socialist Workers' Party of accepting bribes. Artur Tupits of the Farmers' Assemblies then slapped Johanson in the face twice, until the two were separated. Disturbances continued on the next day. Tupits was then arrested for two months. His name inspired a new expression for a brawl in Estonian (tupitsat tegema, similar to the earlier expression tuupi tegema).
In 1988 when Pope John Paul II addressed the European Parliament, hardline Ulster loyalist Ian Paisley, then an MEP, denounced him as the Antichrist and was subjected to booing by fellow MEPs who also threw objects at him; Otto von Habsburg was among those who helped physically eject Paisley from the room.
26 December 2014
A brawl broke out when an argument over the composition of Georgian delegations in international institutions turned violent.
10 March 1950
After having been expelled from the Bundestag for an antisemitic speech, calling the resistance against the Nazi Germany traitors and general unruly behavior Wolfgang Hedler did not leave the building. Herbert Wehner, Rudolf-Ernst Heiland and some other Members of the SPD found him in a break room giving interviews and repeating what he was banned for. They attacked him. While fleeing Hedler fell through a glas door and down the stairs and got a laceration on the head as a result. Hedler was member of the German Party (1947), in Nazi-Germany he was Member of the NSDAP. Wehner, Heiland and the other SPD Members were expelled from the Bundestag for ten days as a punishment.
16 May 2017
In January 1988, there was a riot in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly over a vote of majority for Janaki Ramachandran, who was serving as Chief Minister following the death in December 1987 of her husband MGR. The ADMK party had split, with most MLAs supporting her and some supporting Jayalalithaa's bid to become Chief Minister instead. The Congress party with its 60 MLAs was able to play "kingmaker". While the Congress-led Central Government in New Delhi ordered them to vote against Janaki, some Congress MLAs chose to resign instead, allowing the Janaki government to survive the majority vote. A riot ensued in the legislature, with members clubbing each other with microphone stands and footwear, which was finally ended by riot police who stormed the legislature and beat up everybody with their batons. The Janaki faction was however dismissed by the Central Government under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, having survived just 24 days in office. The state was placed under President's rule for a year, until the next scheduled state assembly elections in January 1989.
On 25 March 1989, a riot broke out in the state legislative assembly in Tamil Nadu between members of the ruling DMK party and the now-unified opposition ADMK party over the reading of the state budget. In the melee, Durai Murugan tried to disrobe J. Jayalalithaa, Muthuvel Karunanidhi had his sunglasses broken, and the budget was torn up by angry rioters.
On 22 October 1997, a riot broke out in the Uttar Pradesh state legislative assembly with MLAs picking up microphones, chairs, and other items to throw at each other. Security pulled off the tops of desks as a shield for the Speaker.
A member of the legislative assembly was assaulted on 10 November 2009 in the state assembly. One of the members, who could not speak Marathi, took the oath in Hindi instead. This was objected to by a right wing party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which wanted Marathi to be the official language in the state. Four members of MNS were suspended for four years for disrupting the proceedings of the legislature.
Legislative violence has happened in Israel.
- In 1992, in the aftermath of the First Intifada, Jewish and Arab Knesset members fought over child support payment.
- In 2012 Yisrael Beiteinu politician Anastassia Michaeli threw water at HaAvoda politician Raleb Majadele.
- A fight broke out after Balad politician Haneen Zoabi had called IDF soldiers "murderers" and far-right legislators began shouting for her to be deported to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
- Two fights broke out in the Givatayim City Hall.
- Ksenia Svetlova was caught writing in lipstick on Leah Fadida's window.
- Michal Biran and Haneen Zoabi called Oren Hazan "a pimp".
- Oren Hazan and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin had a shouting match in the Knesset parking lot.
A brawl broke out in 2010 over an issue of funding for new youth social centres.
17 September 2015
A brawl broke out in the National Diet on 17 September after the House of Councillors approved legislation for the controversial security bills that would allow the country to send troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Members of the opposition tried to grab the microphone and stop Masahisa Sato, acting chairman of the upper house special committee, from carrying out the vote in parliament.
There has been violence during Parliament of Jordan sessions, including one instance where a member was removed from the building after he fired an AK-47 from the hall at a fellow member of parliament.
Kenya's lawmakers come to blows in parliament chamber over proposed security bill – meanwhile police arrest protesters outside the building.
11 March 2016
16 June 2016
A shoe fight started after Hamdan El-Azmi expressed his opposition to the government presenting an amendment to the distribution of electoral constituencies in the new municipal law.
5 October 2015
1 December 2006
Hours before the scheduled Oath of Office ceremony for Felipe Calderón in the Legislative Palace, the Mexican Congress erupted in a brawl. It was the latest installment of the string of fistfights that rattled the Mexican legislature. The incident was broadcast on live television. In spite of such events the ceremony took place. Calderón entered the Congress chamber through a back door directly onto the podium, and in a quick ceremony took the Oath of Office amid jeers. Then, after singing the national anthem which silenced the opposition for a while, he took a quick exit rather than deliver his inaugural address to Congress (the traditional follow-up to the oath taking).[dead link] 
11 October 2014
22 June 2010
18 September 2013
26 January 2017
The National Assembly of Pakistan witnessed pandemonium when members of the ruling party PML-N and the opposition party PTI came to blows with one another over the Panama Papers case.
Amid scuffle and heated argument, the members slapped, kicked and pushed each other in a rare clash in the house.
6 November 2018
Elected members of the ruling hall were caught on camera pushing, manhandling and even dealing blows at each other.
The focus of the fight was Asia Bibi, a woman saved from the hangman by a ruling of the country's Supreme Court, which ordered her release after she spent eight years on death row.
4 February 2021
The Pakistani Parliament descended into on February 4, 2021, with both the Opposition and treasury benches brawling with each other. Later, show cause notices were issued to 3 members regarding their involvement in the "unpleasant incident" that took place during parliamentary proceedings.
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The Congress of the Republic of Peru has seen many violent acts through the years.
28 June 1988
When Peru had a bicameral legislature, member of congress Rómulo León (APRA) tried to grab and punch his colleague Fernando Olivera (FIM) because Olivera was accusing him of having secret bank accounts in a Swiss bank. He was suspended for 120 days from Congress.
27 August 1998
After Alberto Fujimori dissolved Congress and approved a unicameral legislature, Congressman Javier Diez Canseco decided to finish a heated discussion with a Fujimorist congressman with a punch in the jaw. He was suspended for 120 days from the legislature for the violent act.
26 July 2000
On the oath day, Congressmen threw coins to their colleague Roger Cáceres because they were accusing him of being a turncoat for moving to the government party Peru 2000. His son Roger Cáceres Pérez (also a Congressman) insulted the coin throwers.
Congresswomen Nancy Obregón and Elsa Malpartida did not approve the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. For that reason, they tried to escape punching and kicking the Congress security. They were suspended for 120 days from the legislature for the violent acts.
19 May 2011
Congressman Víctor Andrés García Belaúnde accused his colleague Luis Wilson of having members of his family working for a national hospital with high salaries. Luis Wilson started to defy García Belaúnde's accusations, then went to his desk and started insulting and tried to fight with him, but his colleagues prevented it.
In the Philippines, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former military officer who led 2 infamous coup attempts (Oakwood Mutiny and Manila Peninsula siege) during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidential administration, seen on national television as he turned off the microphone of his fellow Senator (former Partymate) Alan Peter Cayetano during the Senate hearing on the Philippine war on drugs in September 2016, and in January 2017 to Sen. Migz Zubiri in near fistfighting, after the Kilusang Pagbabago Coalition Members rejected the Trillanes resolution for investigation for the Bureau of Immigration Bribery scandal.
17 May 2016
5 April 2019
Before the 2019 general election, members of the EEF and BFLF parties began hitting each other and throwing chairs.
Republic of Korea (South Korea)
2 March 1998
During a vote to approve Kim Jong-pil as Prime Minister, Grand National Party legislators submitted blank ballots to demonstrate their disapproval. A fight broke out after supporters of the Democratic ruling coalition of Kim Dae-jung demanded that the vote be declared void.
12 March 2004
During a National Assembly vote on the motion to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun, supporters of the President openly clashed with opposition MPs for 20 minutes in an effort to stop the vote (which was in favor of impeachment) from being finalized.
22 July 2009
A brawl broke out as the National Assembly passed three bills that is set to reform the media industry. Opposition MPs blocked the Speaker Kim Hyong-o from entering the room to pass the bills while both sides clashed. The bills were eventually passed by the Deputy Speaker.
8 December 2010
22 November 2011
A brawl broke out as the National Assembly ratified the country's Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The Opposition lawmakers used tear gas in the parliament. The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) managed to force it through without the kind of brawl that many were expecting.
On 23 February 1981 Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero led 200 armed Civil Guard officers into the Congress of Deputies during the vote to elect a Prime Minister. The officers held the parliamentarians and ministers hostage for 18 hours, during which time King Juan Carlos I denounced the coup in a televised address, calling for rule of law and the democratic government to continue. Though shots were fired, the hostage-takers surrendered the next morning without killing anyone.
13 December 2007
The then-chairman of the National Assembly Paul Somohardjo (PL) and representatives Ronnie Brunswijk (ABOP) and Rashid Doekhie (NDP) were involved in a fistfight on the assembly floor, after the latter accused Somohardjo of involvement with alleged corruption at the ministry of Spatial Planning.
Republic of China (Taiwan)
The Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is probably the most notable modern example of legislative violence. In the history of the Legislative Yuan, numerous violent acts have occurred during parliamentary sessions. It is popularly referred to locally as "Legislator Brawling" (Taiwanese Mandarin: 立委群毆). In 1995, the Legislative Yuan was presented with the Ig Nobel Prize Peace Award, for "demonstrating that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and gouging each other than by waging war against other nations". Listed below are the most current brawlings in the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan.
28 March 2001
23 March 2004
A serious scuffle broke out between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Kuomintang members after an argument over vote recounts from the presidential election, when opposition leader Lien Chan accused President Chen Shui-bian of rigging the vote.
7 May 2004
Legislators Chu Hsing-yu and William Lai got into a brawl over legislative procedures. TV stations showed Zhu grabbing Lai and trying to wrestle him onto a desk. He then tried to headbutt his colleague before jabbing him in the stomach. The brawl resulted in having a traffic policeman called into the chamber to test Zhu's alcohol level, after he was accused of being drunk. The tests showed no sign of alcohol influence.
26 October 2004
30 May 2006
Amid a proposal about creating direct transport links with People's Republic of China, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal and shoved it into her mouth. Opposition members failed to get her to cough it up by pulling her hair. She later spat the proposal out and tore it up. This was the third time that the DPP's actions had stopped a vote over the issue.
8 May 2007
Two dozen members overwhelmed the Speaker's podium, which became a free-for-all between the ruling (DPP) and opposition (KMT) parties with punches and sprayed water, requiring at least one hospitalization. The fight was over an alleged delay of the annual budget.
25 June 2013
13 to 14 July 2017
Legislators in parliament brawled on two consecutive days over a controversial $420 billion infrastructure spending plan, which the opposition (headed by the KMT) claims to benefit cities and counties faithful to the current President's ruling party, the DPP. They also claim that the plan has been devised to secure support for the party ahead of next year's regional elections.
On 13 July 2017, the Premier of the Republic of China, Lin Chuan was prevented from delivering his report on the budget after a water balloon was thrown towards him. This resulted in him leaving the chamber and causing the session to come to a halt. On the following day, opposition lawmakers occupied the chamber and raised large padded office chairs above their heads, surrounded the podium and tussled with rival legislators to prevent Mr Lin from presenting the report once more as water balloons were thrown. This resulted in the early suspension of the parliamentary session.
27 November 2020
30 May 2012
16 January 2019
7 December 2020
Members of the far-right Al Karama Coalition assaulted lawmakers from the Democratic Bloc. One MP had a bleeding face, another appeared unconscious. Reason for the fight reportedly was a misogynistic statement by Karama's deputy Mohammed Affes from the week before.
There has been legislative violence during Grand National Assembly sessions, including:
- A politician dropped dead during a fistfight.
- Politicians fought over cram schooling.
- Five politicians, including Mahmut Tanal and Ertuğrul Kürkçü, were injured during a fight over police power.
- Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet was filming a debate using her mobile phone when Mustafa Elitaş strangled her.
- Politicians fought during Constitutional Commission.
- Politicians fought over constitutional amendments.
- Aylin Nazlıaka, Gökcen Özdoğan Enç, Şafak Pavey, Burcu Çelik Özkan, Pervin Buldan and Melike Basmacı were injured during the first female fight in the Turkish Parliament.
- Müslüm Doğan and Mahmut Toğrul had to seek medical attention after a parliamentary row over the country's ongoing cross-border offensive on Afrin took a violent turn.
- A fist-fight erupted in Turkey's parliament after lawmakers approved changes to the country's electoral rules that critics say are aimed at helping President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan consolidate power.
- Lawmakers fought over HDP lawmaker Ahmet Şık's speech.
- AKP lawmaker Salih Cora punched HDP lawmaker Tuma Çelik during a brawl.
- Garo Paylan, a member of the HDP, was attacked by AKP members as the parliament's Constitutional Commission was debating whether to strip pro-Kurdish deputies of their immunity.
- Mansur Yavaş met in Ankara with the metropolitan municipality. Mansur Yavaş, who abandoned the lectern by interrupting his speech, tried to prevent a confrontation between the AKP, CHP, MHP and İyi Party councilors.
- Parliament members fought over the military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.
- A fight broke out between Turkish politicians in parliament during a debate on government control over the appointment of judicial officials.
26 September 2017
Lawmakers of Parliament of Uganda were brawling during a plenary session after the parliament speaker allowed the constitutional amendment to be presented to MPs. The amendment about the age-limit issue on the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni who is 73 years old and the limit for re-election is capped at 75. A member stood on a table and threw a chair at the flag of the president and was pulled down and punched up. Metal sticks and chairs were used as weapons. Museveni was allowed to campaign in the 2021 Ugandan general election.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is famous for its common and violent fights, and Verkhovna Rada meetings are often called a "government boxing match". Brawls are very common in the Ukrainian Parliament due to the high number of insults and extreme actions in the chamber.
27 April 2010
A debate on extending Russia's lease of the Sevastopol Naval Base in the Black Sea in exchange for a €30 billion discount on Russian natural gas descended into a mass brawl, involving smoke bombs, eggs and general fighting among members. The Speaker had to be escorted from the chamber, covered by umbrellas.
24 May 2012
14 August 2014
Two parliament members, Oleh Lyashko and Oleksandr Shevchenko, got into an argument on the floor. Shevchenko accused Lyashko, who had built an image as a combative opponent of pro-Russian separatists, of never having visited the separatist eastern region. The argument eventually led to Shevchenko punching Lyashko in the face.
14 November 2016
20 December 2018
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In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, the government and the opposition are separated by red lines drawn on the carpet. The red lines in front of the two sets of benches are two sword-lengths apart (or a little more than two sword-lengths apart); a Member is traditionally not allowed to cross the line during debates, supposedly because the Member might then be able to attack an individual on the opposite side. These procedures were made because the Members were allowed to carry weapons into the House in its founding days.
4 April 1938
During a debate about the Spanish Civil War, Conservative MP Robert Bower told Jewish Labour MP Emanuel Shinwell to "go back to Poland". Shinwell walked across the floor of the House and struck Bower in the face, before turning to the Speaker, apologising and walking out of the chamber. Bower also then apologised to the Speaker, and no disciplinary action was taken against either MP.
31 January 1972
During a dispute over the conduct of British Army soldiers on Bloody Sunday on the day before, Independent Socialist MP Bernadette Devlin punched the Conservative Party Home Secretary Reginald Maudling. Her aggression was in response to the comments made by Maudling, who was maintaining that the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment had fired at the protesters in self-defence, contrary to the testimonies of civilian eyewitnesses (including Devlin herself). She argued that she was being denied the right to speak. Her actions resulted in her being banned from the House of Commons for six months.
27 May 1976
In the aftermath of a rancorous debate with Labour MPs over the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, Conservative Michael Heseltine was enraged by a group who began singing The Red Flag. He seized the chamber's ceremonial mace and brandished it over his head, but was restrained by Jim Prior, and after his departure legislative action was suspended for the day.
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15 February 1798
Federalist Congressman Roger Griswold of Connecticut attacked Vermont Representative Matthew Lyon with a hickory walking stick in the chambers of the United States House of Representatives. Griswold struck Lyon repeatedly about the head, shoulders and arms, while Lyon attempted to shield himself from the blows. Lyon then turned and ran to the fireplace, took up a pair of metal tongs, and having armed himself thus returned to the engagement. Griswold then tripped Lyon and struck him in the face while he lay on the ground, at which point the two were separated. After a break of several minutes, however, Lyon unexpectedly pursued Griswold again with the tongs, and the brawl was re-ignited.
The two men had a prior history of conflict. On 30 January of that year, Griswold had publicly insulted Lyon by calling him a coward, and Lyon had retaliated by spitting in Griswold's face. As a result of Lyon's actions in that case, he became the first Congressman to have charges filed against him with that body's ethics committee, although he escaped censure through a vote in the House.
4 December 1837
John Wilson, the speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives and president of the Arkansas Real Estate Bank, stabbed Representative J. J. Anthony to death during a legislative dispute on the floor of the chamber. Anthony had suggested that bounties for the killing of wolves be administered by the president of the state bank, a responsibility comically beneath an official of Wilson's stature. Incensed, he drew a bowie knife and attacked Anthony, who was unable to defend himself despite drawing a knife of his own. Although Wilson was expelled from his office, he was later acquitted of murder.
22 May 1856
Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina famously assaulted Charles Sumner of Massachusetts for a speech of his, saying Brooks' cousin Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina took "a mistress who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean, the harlot, Slavery." According to Hoffer (2010), "It is also important to note the sexual imagery that recurred throughout the oration, which was neither accidental nor without precedent. Abolitionists routinely accused slaveholders of maintaining slavery so that they could engage in forcible sexual relations with their slaves." Sumner's own adopted daughter Mary Mildred Williams was a white-appearing girl born into slavery who was the descendant of such a relationship before being freed with the help of Sumner.
Brooks was infuriated and intended to challenge Sumner to a duel. After having consulted with fellow South Carolina Congressman Laurence Keitt on the situation, Brooks and Keitt decided that Sumner had the social status of a "drunkard" and was thus unworthy of the traditional challenge to a duel. Brooks (accompanied by Keitt), approached and confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner severely on the head with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head before he could reach his feet. Sumner was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat the motionless Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt, who had jumped into the aisle, brandishing a pistol and shouting, "Let them be!" Keitt was censured for his actions and resigned in protest, but was overwhelmingly re-elected to his seat by his South Carolina constituency within a month. For several decades following, Senators often carried walking canes and even revolvers in the Senate Chamber, fearing a similar assault.
5 February 1858
Congressman Laurence M. Keitt of South Carolina was involved in another incident of legislative violence less than two years later, starting a massive brawl on the House floor during a tense late-night debate. Keitt became offended when Pennsylvania Congressman (and later Speaker of the House) Galusha A. Grow stepped over to the Democratic side of the House chamber while delivering an anti-slavery speech. Keitt dismissively interrupted Grow's speech to demand he sit down, calling him a "black Republican puppy". Grow indignantly responded by telling Keitt that "No negro-driver shall crack his whip over me". Keitt became enraged and went for Grow's throat, shouting that he would "choke him for that". A large brawl involving approximately 50 representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi. The embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter. Keitt would later die of wounds following the Battle of Cold Harbor while fighting for the Confederacy.
5 April 1860
During an anti-slavery speech by Illinois Republican Owen Lovejoy on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on 5 April 1860, Lovejoy condemned the Democratic Party for its racist views and steadfast support of slavery. As Lovejoy gave his speech condemning the evils of slavery, several of the Democrats present in the audience, such as Roger Atkinson Pryor, grew irate and incensed over Lovejoy's anti-slavery remarks and threatened him with physical harm, brandishing pistols and canes, with several Republicans rushing to Lovejoy's defense.
24 February 1887
The Indiana General Assembly experienced a massive brawl between Democrats and Republicans in the Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives. The event began as an attempt by Democratic Governor Isaac P. Gray to be elected to the United States Senate and his own party's attempt to thwart him. Gray was a former Republican who had been elected Governor by popular vote but was scorned as a turncoat by his new party, who maneuvered desperately (and unsuccessfully) to try to prevent his eligibility for the Senate seat. When Gray went over the head of the Democrats in arranging a midterm election for a new Lieutenant Governor, Republican Robert S. Robertson was elected with a majority of the popular vote, a situation the Democrats refused to accept despite a ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court. The matter came to a head when Robertson attempted to enter the Senate chamber to be sworn in and take his seat presiding over the session; he was attacked, beaten, and thrown bodily from the chamber by the Democrats, who then locked the chamber door, beginning four hours of intermittent mass brawling that spread throughout the Indiana Statehouse. The fight ended only after Republicans and Democrats began brandishing pistols and threatening to kill each other and the Governor was forced to deploy the Indianapolis Police Department to restore order. Subsequently, the Republican controlled House of Representatives refused to communicate with the Democratic Senate, ending the legislative session and leading to calls for United States Senators to be elected by popular vote.
20 February 1902
During a debate on a bill dealing with the Philippine Islands, Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina accused Senator John L. McLaurin of South Carolina of "treachery" for siding with the Republicans in support of Philippine annexation, and alleged that McLaurin had been granted control of government patronage in South Carolina. Upon receiving word of this statement, McLaurin entered the Senate Chamber and denounced Tillman, upon which Tillman attacked him. During the fight, other senators were hit by the punches. As a result, the Senate went into closed session to debate the matter. Both senators apologized to the Senate, but almost came to blows immediately thereafter. On 28 February, the Senate voted 54 to 12, with 22 abstentions, to censure both Tillman and McLaurin. McLaurin did not seek reelection, while Tillman served in the Senate until 1918.
4 March 1985
On the House of Representatives chamber floor, Democrat Thomas Downey of New York confronted Robert Dornan, a California Republican, and Dornan grabbed Downey's tie in response. Downey approached Dornan in response to a speech Dornan had given two days earlier before the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he called Downey a "draft-dodging wimp" because of Downey's repeated denouncement of US-backed antigovernment Contras rebels in Nicaragua. During the Vietnam War, Downey received a medical deferment from the draft because of a perforated eardrum. Downey had also been active in protesting the war. The Dornan-Downey feud originated two years earlier, when Downey spoke against Dornan's nomination for a position at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
The Dornan speech was made on Saturday, 2 March. On Monday afternoon, 4 March, Downey confronted Dornan, attracting dozens of viewers. Dornan claims Downey grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him around, asking if he had actually called him a wimp. Dornan answered "I did and you are." The exchange became heated, and at some point Dornan accused Downey of having cost him the job two years earlier. According to Downey, as he began to walk away, Dornan grabbed him by the tie and collar and threatened him with "bodily harm." Dornan claimed he was just straightening Downey's tie knot, saying later, "I like all the members to look elegant on the floor, you know." Dornan, according to himself and other witnesses, then told Downey to "get out of my face." After, Downey went to the Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill to tell him what had happened.
After the incident, Downey released a statement and stated through a spokesman that he would not speak to reporters "until Dornan apologizes." His spokesman also said that Downey was considering filing a complaint with the House Sergeant at Arms. Several witnesses spoke about the incident. Democratic Congressman Mike Lowry said, "Dornan grabbed Downey roughly by the collar, and I mean aggressively. None of this straighten-the-tie baloney. And he told Downey, 'Don't let me catch you off the floor, where you are protected by the sergeant at arms.' I really think Downey restrained himself." Republican Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, who witnessed the altercation, said, "I found it humorous that Downey had to run up to the Speaker when it was over to tell all. It was like a little classroom act . . . Very childish . . . I think he's made much to-do about nothing."
The day after the incident, House Speaker Tip O'Neill condemned the behavior, and said he told Dornan, "You can settle it on the street, but don't settle it on the House floor." He also told reporters that "discipline" would ensue if "anything like that" happened again. That day, Downey stated again, "Congressman Dornan owes me and the House of Representatives an apology." Dornan responded, "Apologize for what? For calling him a wimp? I am willing to concede that perhaps he just walks, talks and acts like a little arrogant wimp. But maybe it's disinformation. Maybe he really wears a black leather jacket by night that I don't know about."
7 June 2007
During the final day of the 2007 regular session of the Alabama State Senate Republican Sen. Charles Bishop of Jasper punched Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron of Fyffe in the head after the latter allegedly called the former a "son of a bitch". The two were then pulled apart by bystanders in the room.
15 June 2011
15 December 2015
29 May 2017
During a contentious 2017 Texas House of Representatives session, a minor altercation was observed after State Representative Matt Rinaldi was pushed and received personal death threats. The incident occurred after Rinaldi called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a large crowd of protesters, in opposition to the sanctuary cities ban, disrupted the legislative proceedings. Representative Poncho Nevárez admitted to laying hands on Rinaldi amid the fierce debates, but no arrests were made by Texas DPS.
10 February 2011
30 April 2013
During a session of the National Assembly pro-government and opposition deputies got into a fight. The origin of the discussion had to do with the rejection by National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello to give members of the opposition a right to speak.
5 July 2017
On 5 July 2017, colectivos and supporters of President Nicolás Maduro stormed the Palacio Federal Legislativo on the Independence Day of Venezuela, assaulting many members of the opposition-led National Assembly. At least 12 opposition legislators and their staff were injured as a result of the attack.
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