5. Student Riot of 1908

March 16, 1908 was the date of the historic student riot at the Star Theater on East Washington Street where Conlin & Weatherbee Clothiers is now located. The cause of the riot as related by witnesses was that the manager of the theater and a pool room operator or owner on State Street had approached one of the University of Michigan’s star football players with a financial offer if he, the player, would “throw” a certain game. These two businessmen would bet heavily on the opposing team in this particular game.

Information on this did not leak out until the following spring. When the students learned about this, they advised the theater manager to close his place for good. After one week the theater was still operating so on March 16, 1908 in the evening, the students assembled and came to the theater in a body. They demanded that the manager come before them but he had made his exit through a rear door.

The physical arrangement was ideal for the students. A building was being constructed across the street on the north side of East Washington Street, east of the alley. (At present, this building is unoccupied but until recently the General Market was located in it.) About three carloads of brick were stacked on the sidewalk in front of the building being constructed and the students made use of the bricks. Bricks were hurled at the theater and hurled continuously until the theater was demolished inside as well as outside. The riot lasted all night and futile attempts were made by the police, firemen and University officials to stop it. Sixty-two arrests were made that night and the police received injuries, with torn, damaged and lost uniforms. The Fire Department’s equipment was damaged likewise and so were streetcars. It cost the city $31.25 for repairing or replacing officer’s uniforms.

Among the injured civilians was Fred Cook who lived in the apartment directly over the theater. He was injured by a hurled brick. He was the father of the present chief, Norman E. Cook, who though only a youngster of nine years at the time, vividly remembers the incident.