One of the biggest events in the early years of the Ann Arbor Police Department was a student riot at the Star Theatre. This riot took place on March 16, 1908. Interestingly enough, the Star Theatre was located at 118 W. Washington, which later became the site of Conlin and Wetherbee Clothing Store, where Officer Clifford Stang was murdered in 1935.
The riot occurred as the manager of the theatre and a pool room operator, approached a “star” University of Michigan football player and asked him to “throw” a game. The two men would bet heavily on the opposing team, therefore winning a great amount of money, of which the player would receive a share.
The football player refused and this information was kept quiet until the following spring. Somehow students learned about this and told the manager to close the theatre for good. Evidently the students felt so aggrieved that they did not want the theatre operating. The manager did not heed their warning and one week later the theatre was still in operation.
On the evening of March 16, the students assembled downtown and walked to the theatre. When they arrived, they demanded that the manager come outside and speak with them. The manager obviously felt the students wanted to do more than “talk” and ran out the back door of the theatre.
When the manager did not appear, the students began to throw bricks at the windows of the theatre. A building across the street from the theatre was under construction and there were truckloads of bricks sitting in front of the structure.
These bricks were promptly used to destroy the outside of the theatre and once this was done, their anger was turned on the interior. The riot lasted all night and futile efforts were made by police, fire and university officials to stop it. Sixty-two arrests were made and numerous officers received injuries along with torn, damaged and lost uniforms.
Among the civilians injured was Fred Cook, who lived in an apartment directly over the theatre. He was injured with a hurled brick and happened to be the father of future Police Chief Norman Cook. Future Chief Cook was nine at the time, but vividly recalled the incident for the rest of his life. The theatre was completely destroyed, inside and out.