Poll Tax Riots

Kiersten - 7th Period

Anti-Poll Tax Unions

These were first set up in 1989 as a result of poll taxes being set up in Britain. They encouraged non-payment, organizing protest marches, and resisting those in charge. By the end of the year, an estimate of 1,000 of these groups existed in Britain.


Also, due to the extremely large amount of protesters, the courts would not allow police to arrest them as it would prove to be physically impossible.

Poll Tax Riots

Multiple riots occurred due to the news of incoming poll taxes. The most remembered of the riots occurred in London in 1990, which was a week before the input of the tax. Over 200,000 protesters arrived to protest in Trafalgar Square, London and injured more than 100 police officers.

In Relation to 'Civil Disobedience'

Thoreau landed himself in jail due to his resentment and refusal to pay poll taxes. But despite this direct connection, there are multiple other points that relate these two subjects.


A majority of the people refusing to pay poll taxes were simply acting on their own right, considering the poll taxes as a bad idea. This relates to Thoreau's statement in Civil Disobedience, "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation?"


Thoreau also states, "All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable." Once again, something of this matter must have been going on in those citizens' minds. They considered their government to be too much when issuing the seemingly pointless poll tax.


Based on Thoreau's opinions in Civil Disobedience, a majority of people would normally just go with the laws until they had enough of a population on their side. Only then would they truly begin to rebel. This was not the case with the Poll Tax Riots. According to Thoreau, "[Men] think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil." While this may be true, the rioters and protesters did not seem to be afraid when they paraded the streets with requests of justice.