The 1976 Great Jokertown Riot erupted amid the rising tensions in the Jokertown populace on a hot mid-July evening. The build up to the Democratic National Convention was happening at this time and this presented an opportunity for activists to attract media attention surrounding the political campaign. To this end the Jokers for a Just Society rallied for a series of protest marches that would take them from Roosevelt Park to Jetboy's Tomb. The event was being conducted without a permit, which set the New York Police Department on edge and had them move to contain the activists.
Senator Hartmann invited JJS leader, Gimli to dine with him at Aces High. While the public move looked to be an attempt to defuse the activist's plan to march on Jetboy's Tomb, Hartmann was also playing for the media, looking to win support for his bid to become the democratic candidate. He had more sinister ulterior motives however, and sought also to add the dwarf to his stable of "puppets", while maintaining the outward appearance of a caring politician. Gimli likewise came to the table with a plan to manipulate Hartmann. His company for the evening was Sondra Falin, a joker occasionally going by the name of Succubus, whose appearance would transform to appeal to the sexual desires of others. Gimli had previously compelled her to serve as Hartmann's mistress.
The meal was conducted with Hartmann repeatedly making attempts to win Gimli over, yet the joker's responses remained scornful and brief throughout the evening. Eventually Gimli lost his temper altogether and lunged at Hartmann. This forced the Ace's High restauranteur Hiram Worchester to intervene, forcibly evicting him from the establishment.
On the morning of the 17th, jokers, with Gimli leading, spilled from Roosevelt Park onto Grand Street and confronted lines of police in riot gear. The police had orders to arrest Gimli and turn the others back, but instead the two forces connected and when they started pushing into each other the order was given to fire a tear gas cannister. One of the jokers then lashed out with uncontrolled telekinesis, bowling over a row of police officers. In the ensuing melee, tear gas drove some of the jokers into a panic and the police themselves were similarly challenged by unexpected force from the jokers.
The confrontation soon fragmented into numerous isolated incidents and eventually police and fire fighters were attending disturbances well into the night. They were often forced to retreat to the safety of their vehicles and these were frequently pelted with waste thrown from the surrounding buildings of Jokertown. In the first day of violence the initial death toll reached 3.
An estimated five-thousand jokers assembled in Roosevelt Park, again with the intention of marching past City Hall to Jetboy's Tomb. With Gimli leading, they repeated the steps of the previous day to face off against the NYPD. This time Hartmann appeared at the front of the police barricades and appealed for calm. Gimli accepted Hartmann's request to return to the park, which defused the mounting tensions until much later in the day.
At dusk the peace was broken when police struck the park in a bid to clear the jokers assembled there and drive them back into Jokertown. They herded the jokers before them, using mace on any who turned back. Resistance in the park itself was quickly crushed with police treating anyone not in uniform as a hostile target, although further afield small battles broke out between jokers and police as the night wore on. Eventually the National Guard were also called in and were issued live ammunition.
The Jokertown Clinic soon became both a refuge and an armed camp, its security arranged to stop aggression at the door while its medical staff coped with the influx of the injured. Police and jokers alike were granted entry if they had need, and hospital staff took to undertaking forays into the streets for more.
Several aces also got involved. The Turtle drifted above the streets telekinetically separating the warring factions wherever he found them. The Howler stalked streets near Chatham Square using his enhanced voice to shout a demand for combatants to return home. Black Shadow watched the chaos for a time before siding with a group of jokers against some Guardsmen.
By morning the death toll had risen to 15 and rioters were continuing to fight guerilla battles against the Guardsmen and police. A crowd of jokers converged on Roosevelt Park, again responding to Gimli's words. These were ringed by National Guard defensive positions on adjoining streets, one further reinforced by the Turtle, and another joined by Senator Hartmann.
When the jokers pushed forward, a knot of them pushed through the National Guard line and a new wave of violence broke out. Sondra Falin, caught in this group, lost control of her wild card, causing those in her vicinity to forget each other as they become completely consumed by their sexual desire for her alone. Unable to reach safety she was born down with a combined mob of her comrades and Guardsman, all trying to reach her. The chaos only ended when her death at their hands released them all from the grip of her power.
Although the chaos resurfaced after the horrific death, the loss of Succubus shocked Senator Hartmann into withdrawing from the field. Without the Puppetman secretly pulling their strings, the fight eventually went out of the rioting jokers and calm was restored.
- Wild Cards Volume I: Wild Cards