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Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.
Congressman Preston Brooks, seconds before the first swing of his gold-headed gutta-percha cane.

Sometimes, debates in legislatures can get a little too heated. The result: a scuffle breaks out on the floor of the chamber.

This sort of thing tends to occur in non-Anglophone legislatures and has provided material for satirical TV shows for years. More dramatic slants, especially in Western literature, often draw on the assassination of Julius Caesar or Shakespeare's famous dramatization.

May be the only interesting thing that Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering will ever do.

Note: In Real Life, legislative violence is actually a fairly good indicator of democracy--if politicians are fighting in Parliament, it means their opinions differ, and differ publicly, and that the legislature is actually a powerful enough institution to be worth fighting over. Dictatorships tend to have very polite, well-mannered "legislative bodies".

Examples of Blood on the Debate Floor include:


Film

  • 300: Queen Gorgo speaks to the Spartan senate, hoping to convince them to send the full army to reinforce Leonidas. Theron betrays her and mocks her fidelity for having slept with him. Gorgo's rebuttal is a knife to his ribs followed by a ruthless Ironic Echo of the words he used against her during said tryst (which was anything but consensual).
  • There are a couple of small ones near the end of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Literature

  • In H.H. Munro (Saki)'s "The Oversight" a character references the violence that had come to be seen as characteristic of the Austro-Hungarian Parliament (See also Real Life, below):

 "...not to my dying day shall I forget last year's upheaval over the Suffragette question. Laura Henniseed left the house in a state of speechless indignation, but before she had reached that state she had used language that would not have been tolerated in the Austrian Reichsrath."

  • Joked about in "America: The Book" from The Daily Show. In an article about the Army-McCarthy hearings, the "have you no decency?" exchange eventually ended in the breaking-out of "wiffle canes".
  • In Star Trek Destiny, when President Bacco calls the ambassadors from the major galactic powers together for an emergency conference, Klingon ambassador K'mtok and Romulan ambassador Kalavak end up fighting. After a series of accusations and insults regarding events in prior novels (particularly in Star Trek Articles of the Federation), the two begin to physically scuffle, until separated by Federation security.

Live Action TV

  • An episode of Rome had a full on fight break out in the senate when Pompey's supporters passed a motion that called on Caesar to return and surrender or be labeled a traitor and condemned to death. Caesar's supporters did not take this well, as might be expected. The fight actually prevented Mark Antony from vetoing the motion, which was what Pompey wanted in the first place (it was supposed to show Caesar he was alone, nothing more).
    • The show also depicted Caesar's assassination, of course. And there was a scene where Cicero sent a message to be read in the Senate in his absence, which turned out to be a scathing attack on Antony. Antony demanded that the clerk read out the whole thing and then bludgeoned the poor bastard to death with the scroll.
    • Antony previously had pretended he was appalled by this trope, but in his usual insincere but lovable fashion he was only using stealth puns or indirect insults.

 "You boys play too rough for me. Knives in the Senate House? I didn't know you had it in you"

  • News footage of this has been used many times on Have I Got News for You, to the point where when a Guest Host tried to lead the teams to an answer about "something" that had happened in a foreign legislature that week, Paul Merton immediately assumed it had been a fight.
    • The earliest version of the opening credits also showed Michael Heseltine grabbing the mace and threatening the Labour frontbenches with it, which he did in The Eighties.
  • The It'll Be Alright on the Night election night special from 1997 had a segment which featured footage from Indian, Jordanian, Russian, and South Korean assemblies where various members of those assemblies threw things at each other (India), went after one another individually while buffered by their own "groups" (Jordan), attacked as a group a lone member who was reticent in ceding the microphone (Russia), or attacked the head parliamentarian for something (s)he said (South Korea).

Theatre

  • The death scene in Julius Caesar. Kinda because it really happened. (see Real Life)
  • John Dickinson and John Adams get into a stick fight during the Continental Congress in 1776.

Tabletop Games

  • In Exalted, it's mentioned that brawls have broken out in the Deliberative of The Realm. Since the representatives are all Super Soldiers, this is a very bad situation for the merely-mortal guards.
    • And one time after the Deliberative vetoed one decree of hers too many, the Scarlet Empress had the exits blocked, then sent in the army to slaughter all the representatives. The next batch of legislators learned their lesson.

Video Games

  • If you pick Lord Harrowmont in Dragon Age as the new king of the dwarfs, Prince Bhelen, and some of his supporters go hostile, and try to kill you and the newly crowned king.
    • Similarly, a fight breaks out at the Landsmeet when the new ruler is decided, no matter who it is. There can be both a formal duel and an all-out brawl there. Sadly, you cannot nominate your dog as your designated champion in the duel...
  • Quest for Glory III is mostly based around gathering two warring groups (a warrior tribe of cattle ranchers, and magical shapeshifting leopard men) for a peace conference in a neutral city. When you finally get the two leaders together, they start talking... for five seconds, before they murder each other.
  • The Dark Assembly in Disgaea often devolves into fighting... because you can instigate them after they reject one of your proposals. Might Makes Right if you win - your bill passes if you defeat the nays.


Western Animation

  • The Simpsons had Homer's and Mel Gibson's remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which Mr. Smith goes on a random killing spree during his famous filibuster and then stabs the evil Senator to death with a flagpole. The test audiences and executives are horrified.

 Mr. Smith: All in favor... say die!

Real Life

  • The most (in)famous occurence of this: the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar (the famous one) inside the Senate (actually Pompey's Theater, where the Senate was temporarily meeting) on March 15, 44 BC. The reason the conspirators chose to kill him there is that, by custom, only senators were allowed to enter the chamber, so Caesar couldn't bring bodyguards.
  • South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was stabbed to death in Parliament in 1966
  • Happened in the Russian Duma in 2005
  • Happens regularly in several South East Asian countries.
  • South Korean Parliament members cannot be arrested while in debate, this goes back to the long practice of SK presidents arresting opponents before critical votes. This has resulted in a number of notable brawls, second in number only to Taiwan.
  • The Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (that's Taiwan, not the other China, whose rubber-stamp National People's Congress is by all accounts very well-behaved) has gotten a bit of a reputation for parliamentary debates devolving into out-and-out fistfights ever since real democracy was introduced in The Nineties; these brawls sometimes involved over 50 legislators. Some have even accused the lawmakers of staging fights just to maintain their reputation as the most violent legislature on the planet.
  • To prevent this sort of thing happening in the British House of Commons, there are two red lines on the carpet, at two swords' lengths apart, which MPs are not allowed to cross - a custom originating from the days when MPs brought weapons to work. However, there was a case in 1972 when MP Bernadette Devlin punched Secretary of state Reginald Maudling, after he made claims that British soldiers during the "Bloody Sunday" massacre only fired in self-defense, which contradicted Devlin's witness testimony of the event.
    • It may be worth mentioning that a few times a particularly passionate MP has picked up the Ceremonial Mace, which presence is needed for Parliament to meet legally, and swung it around threateningly, although sometimes it's merely removed from its usual resting place as an act of protest.
  • In Canada, John A. Macdonald (the first Prime Minister of Canada and Father of the Nation) once charged a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons himself and had to be physically restrained. Macdonald roared, "I'll lick him faster than Hell can scorch a feather!"
    • In Macdonald's defense (sort of), he was an alcoholic...
  • On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with his cane while in the Senate chamber in response to one of Sumner' anti-slavery speeches; Sumner took three years to recover, and was injured for life. Another senator later challenged Brooks to a duel over this; Brooks agreed, then refused to show up after learning his opponent was a crack marksman.
    • It is now only legal to carry wiffle canes in the Senate.
    • Note that fighting wasn't terribly unusual in Congress back then. Members of Congress of both houses and all political persuasions were known to carry canes, blades, and even revolvers in the House and Senate chambers. They were generally used only sparingly (probably never as far as the firearms go). On the other hand, it was unusual for a Senator to be beaten within an inch of his life.
  • That wasn't the last time the U.S. enjoyed a good political brawl--a fistfight (almost) erupted on the floor of the Alabama State Senate in 2007.
  • Cracked is on the case with When Politicians Attack, though not all of them necessarily took place on the floor.
  • In December 1997, during a debate in the EU Parliament on support to the tobacco industry, Portuguese member Rosario Fernandez got so angry when Danish member Freddy Blak insinuated that Fernandez had received money from tobacco lobbyists that he ran over to him, blackened his eye and tried to strangle him.
    • In 1988, Northern Irish MEP and hard-right Protestant Loyalist Ian Paisley denounced Pope John Paul II as the Antichrist during a speech to the European Parliament, only to be hit by the German and very Catholic MEP Otto von Habsburg (and yes, it really is that kind of Habsburg: he was the son and heir of Charles I of Austria-Hungary; he skipped into Bavaria and became an advocate for European integration).
  • The Mexican Chamber of Deputies, now that it actually has power for a change, occasionally devolves into an out-and-out brawl.
  • The 2010 debate in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada that resulted in Russia's lease on naval bases in the country being extended until 2042 involved a full-scale brawl that featured eggs being thrown and someone letting off a smoke grenade.
    • And again in 2012, this time over the issue of whether Russian should be an official language in the parts of Ukraine where it's widely spoken (note that due to historical and economic factors, this sort of thing is Serious Business in Eastern Europe).
  • The Reichsrat of Imperial Austria-Hungary was to the late 19th and early 20th century what the Taiwanese and South Korean legislatures are to today--famous for repeated outbreaks of violence. Particularly notable is the fight of 1897, in which the Reichsrat was the venue of a series of riots occasioned by a measure to extend limited autonomy to the non-German parts of the Empire such as Czechia, Hungary, Poland, etc., which was violently opposed by the pro-German parties. Mark Twain describes a typical scene:

 "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 [Pan-German party leader and racist Georg, Ritter von] Schonerer 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 [German Radical party leader and racist Karl Hermann] 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."

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