Wednesday, December 29, 2010

94th Anniversary of the Bread Riots

On December 29, 1916, Alcovian common folk in the cities and townships rose up in angry protest against the discovered practice of mixing flower with sawdust and other fillers such as ground chaff and even chalk. This recent practice had been the handiwork of bakers who themselves had been victimized by corrupt government grain suppliers who demanded steep kickbacks for the grain they provided.

After three months of on and off again protests and riots, government officials were forced to take action and rooted out at least a dozen corrupt officers from the Department of Agricultural Management. The DAM officers were later found to have amassed a considerable sum of money which, due to the illicit manner in which it was collected, had been shielded from taxation. This elevated their crimes to that of a crime against the state and they were summarily tried and hanged for their "treason".

Newspaper illustration of an attack on a small bakery

In the following months the government dispatched bread trucks throughout the country delivery complimentary loaves of bread to townships and within the major cities. Civil order was restored but only after hundreds were killed in the unrest. The Bread Riots, as these events became known, marked a major change in government policies concerning the control of national resources. It should also be noted that rural Alcovia was relatively untouched by these events as local access to quality grain and other agricultural goods left them unaffected by the corruption of the DAM officers.

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