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. In the United States of America, this was surprisingly common prior to the Civil War and in its immediate aftermath, when slavery (and later the treatment of the recently freed slaves) aroused tempers in North and South.
Compare "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate when the debate is over something mundane or silly.
Note: In Real Life, whilst actual fist-fights are generally considered a bad thing, regular heated debates (of the kind that only very occasionally erupt into physical violence) are actually a sign of health for a country's 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 (in effect, rubber stamp assemblies). On the other hand, heated debates regularly breaking into violence can be a warning sign of a country descending into civil war.
- Defied in Tales of the Emperasque - expecting the human-eldar negotiations to end this way, Taldeer makes her daughter part of the diplomatic expedition, using the fact that Lofn has a passive calming field around her, which helps to keep everyone's tempers in check.
- Discussed, or at least alluded to, in The Next Frontier when the Kerbals watch some alien TV and see a number of local worthies get into a very heated debate on what seems to be a political discussion show.
Scott: "Well, they do say it's a sign of a healthy democracy..."
- Along Came a Spider, much like its source material, includes a case of this, when an ambitious Crusader, Conal Ward, attempts to bring charges against his own Khan, a strong proponent of the rival Warden faction in order to bring him down. His aide, Vlad, was as ardent a Crusader, but was more devoted to his Clan than his cause, and leaked the emails about his plans to his Khan, then held back info that Conals nominee for the junior Khan post had been killed in battle less than 2 days earlier. In a rage, Conal declares a trial of grievance against Vlad immediately after the vote, and has his neck broken in the ensuing fight.
- 300: Queen Gorgo speaks to the Spartan gerousia (senate), hoping to convince them to send the full army to reinforce King Leonidas. Theron betrays her and mocks her fidelity for having slept with him. Gorgo's rebuttal is a sword to his rib, 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.
- Get Smart has the Chief go after the Vice President.
- In The Cat in the Hat, Ms. Kwan turns on the TV and watches a political scuffle; Conrad and Sally turn to each other and say "Taiwanese parliament". Apparently this isn't the first time they've had to watch it.
- 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. The writers quipped that after Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner half to death on the floor of the Senate (see Real Life), only "wiffle canes" were allowed in the Senate. They also claim that, after going down, Sumner retaliated with the Sumner Triple Suplex, thus retaining his title.
- 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.
- In one of the novels from Star Trek: The Fall, the Parliament Andoria finally boils over as the Andorians' ongoing crisis reaches a climax, and its members start fighting in a mass brawl. At a later point in the story, they pelt the Presider and Speaker with thrown objects after the former issues an unpopular executive decree and the latter seconds his call for immediate recess.
- There's a passing mention in Honor Harrington that the San Martin legislative process centers around "debates, arguments, shouting matches and occasional fistfights".
- Robert Harris's Imperium trilogy is a series of historical novels about the life of Cicero and the collapse of the Roman Republic. So naturally, the third book, Dictator, includes the assassination of Caesar. Harris exercises Artistic License History and places Cicero at the scene.
- The second episode 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."
- Octavian threatens this when he has a group of centurions barge into the Senate Chamber and unsheathe their swords, to the terror of the Senators. Octavian gets his way, as usual, and no blood is actually spilled.
- 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 '80s.
- One episode of The Rick Mercer Report was broadcast during an NHL lockout. In an attempt to satisfy the audience, Mercer attempted to create a montage of greatest all-time hockey fights. The NHL said no, so he went with Taiwanese political fights instead... with a hockey song still playing underneath.
- 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).
- Carnival Row: Absalom Breakspear attacks his political rival Ritter Longerbane in Parliament after publicly claiming he's behind his son's abduction.
- "Nobody Speak", by DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels, shows two unidentified representatives/leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom start spitting fire at each other out of nowhere, horrifying everyone else at the summit. When the UK rep/PM eventually hits the American in the face, he responds by going after the guy with a broken pencil, sparking a full-out brawl. The cleaning woman is unimpressed.note
- 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.
- While collecting a comprehensive list would be a bit difficult due to the spottiness of records, a notable number of the Clan Khans of BattleTech have killed each other (in duels) in their Grand Councils, sort of a gathering of peers to debate Clan politics and plans. This includes an old man having his throat stepped on until his neck snapped after his status as a warrior was challenged (outcome not a warrior), someone being shot in the head with a laser (the shooter had said he would fight with only what he had attached to his body, and didn't mention that he had a laser pistol grafted to his arm), and a Khan accentuating his violent policies with a throwing knife to the throat. The Khan who did that last one eventually got beaten to death during a later Grand Council in turn.
- In Traveller, Emperor Cleon III was known for settling debates in his cabinet by shooting his most vocal opponents. The Imperial Moot created the Right of Assassination in order to get rid of him.
- Dragon Age: Origins:
- If you pick Lord Harrowmont 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.
- Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, beating down a Nay vote causes them to like you even less, making them more likely to vote against you the next time you pass a proposal. The Dark Assembly is less about bribes and trying to sway them to your side and more yet another reason for Level Grinding.
- The Commonwealth Provisional Government in Fallout 4 was an early attempt to form a legislature in the post-war Commonwealth. The way Nick Valentine tells it, an Institute Synth murdered every representative in the room, bringing this endeavor to a swift end. Father tells it differently, claiming that the Synth was the only one left after all the other representatives killed each other. Old holotapes corroborate this narrative.
- 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, stabs the evil Senator to death with a flagpole, and even beheads the President after he enters the Senate. The test audiences and executives are horrified.
Mr. Smith: All in favor... say die!
- Cracked is on the case with When Politicians Attack, though not all of them necessarily took place on the floor.
- Ancient Rome: The assassination of Julius Caesar took place at a Senate meeting (actually at Pompey's Theatre, acting as a temporary meeting place) on March 15, 44 BC. His conspirators chose to kill him there precisely because, in an attempt to prevent this trope, senators were forbidden by custom from carrying weapons or bringing in bodyguards, so he would be totally defenseless.
- Austria: The Austro-Hungarian Empire's Reichsrat was the by-word for legislative violence during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least in part because the Empire was composed of many different bits of Europe with their own languages and ethnicities, who were not enamored with the German-speaking ruling class (and the Austrians were not pleased with attempts to extend limited autonomy to these other lands in 1897). Some historians argue that Adolf Hitler came to form his negative opinion of parliamentary democracy at least in part from witnessing debates in the Reichsrat. 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."
- Prime Minister John A. MacDonald (the country's first, considered the father of the country) had a reputation for being an alcoholic with a short temper. He once charged a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons and had to be physically restrained, roaring, "I'll lick him faster than Hell can scorch a feather!"
- Modern Canada, however, gives us the most Canadian version of a legislative fight, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to intervene in a scuffle, accidentally hits a woman standing behind him with his elbow, and apologizes profusely.
- Chile sees it happen every now and then, not just among its legislators, but also in the crowd as well. One of the most infamous examples happened when right-wing senator Ivan Moreira attacked left-wing senator Jorge Schaulsohn when he was speaking to some TV reporters, which reached Memetic Mutation levels back then; some of the most recent involve protesting university students and a lawmakers struggling with several workers, and some claim it later caused a secretary's miscarriage.
- The European Parliament, despite being a by-word for a legislative body no one cares about, occasionally has heated debates that spill into violence:
- In 1988, during a visit to the Parliament by Pope John Paul II, Northern Irish MEP Ian Paisley, a hard-right Loyalist and Free Presbyterian minister, denounced him as The Antichrist, causing the German and very Catholic MEP Otto von Habsburg to hit him.note
- In December 1997, during a debate on support to the tobacco industry, Freddy Blak of Denmark insinuated that Raúl Rosado Fernandes of Portugal received money from tobacco lobbyists, pissing him off enough to give Blak a black eye and try to strangle him.
- Greece: This brawl is the result of putting two opposing extremist politicians, namely a neo-fascist and a Communist, next to each other in an environment as tense as a country in the midst of a deep financial crisis, with one of the world's biggest economic blocs bearing down on them.
- Hungary: In 1912, István Tisza, President of the House of Representatives, used police force to remove numerous opposition representatives from the House, because they wouldn't stop obstructing it. A few days later, representative Gyula Kovács went into the House, jumped off the journalists' gallery, shouted "There is still a member of the opposition here!", and fired three shots at Tisza, but missed him. He then turned the gun on himself, but survived with a permanent head injury. After Kovács was carried out, Tisza continued the session.
- India itself is no stranger to legislative violence and brawls:
- This 1997 incident in Uttar Pradesh became a huge free-for-all when a bill to have the federal government directly control the state was being debated. Starting out as a shouting match, it soon turned into a floor-wide slugfest when members hurled chairs, microphone stands, and shoes at each other. 45 people were injured in the mayhem.
- In January 1988, a riot broke out in the Tamil Nadu state assembly over who should be the chief minister. It ended when police stormed the legislature and beat up everybody with their batons. On top of that, the state was placed under direct federal control for a year.
- As if that wasn't enough, a second legislative riot broke out in March 1989 when the opposition parties tried to stall a hearing on the state budget. During the fistfight, one legislator attempted to disrobe a female colleague, another had his sunglasses broken, while the budget bill itself was torn up.
- Japan: In September 2015, a debate over significant changes to Japan's pacifist military policy saw the opposition try to steal the committee chair's microphone away, leading to a chamber-wide scuffle.
- Jordan: In September 2013, a member of the Jordanian parliament fired upon another with an AK-47.
- Lebanon: This 2011 brawl was in response to an anti-Syrian MP calling Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a liar, which caused a pro-Syrian MP to attack him with a chair.
- The Mexican Chamber of Deputies, now that it actually has power for a change, occasionally devolves into an out-and-out brawl.
- Russia: This was fairly common in the Duma in the 1990s, if only because every now and then an economic minister would have to report that oodles of money had been "lost" in various bad investments. Vladimir Putin more or less put a stop to that, partly because his party includes a healthy mix of military veterans and wrestling/boxing champions.
- South Africa: Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, architect of apartheid, was stabbed to death in Parliament in 1966 by a Communist parliamentary courier. They called the courier deranged, but he had kind of an odd background (his father was white and his mother was mixed-race, which meant that he was legally white but still looked "not white" and suffered a lot of discrimination) which may have been motivation. He was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and a tapeworm.
- South Korea's Parliament trails only Taiwan in its number of legislative brawls. Part of this may stem from a law that Parliament members cannot be arrested during a debate, which was designed to solve a different problem (namely, authoritarian Presidents arresting opponents before critical votes).
- One memorable brawl started with members of one party locking a door to a room they were meeting in, and ended with the door reduced to firewood and an opposition member missing several teeth.
- Taiwan: The Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China is very notable for its fistfights on the debate floor, which can involve up to 50 legislators at a time. It has such a reputation for fistfighting on the debate floor that some lawmakers have been accused of staging such fights just to maintain that reputation. It doesn't help that the Republic of China is relatively new to democracy (only getting it for real in The '90s) and that a Presidential candidate shot himself (non-fatally, of course) to garner sympathy votes and could get away with it because of the country's desensitization to political violence.
- The 2010 debate in the 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.
- A 2012 debate over whether Russian should be an official language in the country (Serious Business throughout Eastern Europe) again devolved into violence.
- This fight in April 2014 arose after pro-Russian protesters had started a campaign to separate the eastern regions of Ukraine and annex it to Russia, and nationalists tried to forcibly stop a Communist legislator from speaking out against nationalism.
- This fight in December 2015 needs to be seen to be believed. It involved a bouquet of roses and the Prime-Minister being carried by the ballsack.
- The United Kingdom: In the House of Commons, there's long been a tradition of legislative violence, and the convention that the party of government and the opposition take their seats on opposite sides of the room came about specifically to deter Members from getting physical: There's an oft-repeated myth that 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 their weapons to work. There's a reason that there is a ceremonial mace, though, and why Parliament cannot legally meet without it. All you need to do these days to "threaten" violence if you're a particularly passionate MP is to symbolically remove the mace from its resting place (although a few have waved it around menacingly). The last time there was any physical violence was in 1972, when MP Bernadette Devlin slapped Home Secretary Reginald Maudling across the face.note
- Several famous instances in the United States: Historically, fighting wasn't unusual in the U.S. Congress. Legislators from both houses and all political persuasions were known to carry canes, blades, and even revolvers to debates.
- The most famous fight in Congress took place on May 22, 1856, when Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in response to a powerful anti-slavery speech by Sumner. It's famous for being seen as particularly cowardly, as the desks were bolted down and Brooks positioned himself so that Sumner couldn't escape or defend himself. Congressman Anson Burlingame, also of Massachusetts, outright called Brooks a Dirty Coward; Brooks responded by challenging him to a duel, only to back out when Burlingame started planning logistics (and when he discovered that Burlingame was a crack marksman). Sumner, for his part, took three years to recover, only to come back and become even more of a radical opponent of slavery.
- Two years later, Senator Lawrence Keitt of South Carolina (who had helped out Brooks in the famous brawl by turning his gun on anyone who tried to help Sumner) started another brawl after a heated debate on slavery when he tried to strangle Congressman Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania. It ended after a missed punch dislodged a congressman's Dodgy Toupee, and the congressman put it back on backwards, causing everyone else to bust out laughing.
- The House of Representatives has its own ceremonial mace, in much the same tradition as the British Parliament. Similarly, particularly passionate congresspeople might pick it up in a show of menace. One time in 1994, Maxine Waters of California threatened to use it on Peter King of New York, but got sidetracked when other representatives tried to figure out what it was, and subsequently couldn't find it.
- Representatives Howard Berman and Brad Sherman nearly got into a brawl because they agreed with each other. A redraw of the district maps in California led the two of them to represent the same district, so they had to campaign against each other to keep their jobs. This led them to get a little physical over which of them wrote the DREAM Actnote , and a police officer wound up having to come onstage in order to assure they separated before someone got hurt. As you can tell from the video, the whooping crowd probably didn't help tensions much.
- During the Congressional certification of the 2020 electors on January 6, 2021, Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Colin Allred (D-TX) nearly came to blows during a speech by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) condemning the pro-Donald Trump rioters who attempted to disrupt the process earlier in the day. As Lamb gave his speech, Allred spoke in a foul manner to Harris, resulting in a shouting match between the two. Given the heightened tension surrounding the riots, the two congressmen had to be physically separated to prevent a fight from breaking out. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) even had to verbally reprimand Harris and Allred before dismissing them.
- It also happens on the state and local level:
- A fistfight (almost) erupted on the floor of the Alabama State Senate in 2007.
- In 1981, Philadelphia City Councilmen John Street and Francis Rafferty — the latter a former prizefighter — engaged in a fistfight on the council floor. It was one of a string of disreputable events that earned the council the label of "Worst Legislative Body in the World". Nineteen years later, Street would be elected mayor.
- Yugoslavia: In 1928, Punia Račić, a representative of the People's Radical Party, shot five people during a parliament session. Three of them, including Stjepan Radić, leader of the Croatian People's Peasant Party, died. The shooting caused a political crisis, and as a result, in 1929 King Alexander I abolished the Constitution, dissolved the Parliament and established a royal dictatorship.