On this day in the year 1768, soldiers of the British government opened fired on rioters protesting the imprisonment of John Wilkes, a radical Member of Parliament in prison for offending the crown. Wilkes had published material deemed not only libelous but obscene and blasphemous as well, and his six or seven of his supporters were killed protesting in favor of his right to criticize the king. It is believed that this event entrenched the idiom “reading the riot act” in the English language.
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