January 25th – The Anniversary of the League of Disabled Buentoillitants’ Great Rent Strike

If you had passed a newsagent’s or street seller on January the 25th 1834, you would have seen an array of headlines proclaiming amazement, outrage, and righteous vindication at the news that the Holy Knights of Buentoille had finally agreed to cease their attacks on the ‘hospitals’ they formerly owned.

The Holy Knights of Buentoille were a military, religious and political organisation, attached to the Chastise Church, sworn to protect it’s pilgrims. They were also often referred to as ‘Hospitallers’ because of the numerous hospitals (in this case meaning a type of almshouse for the severely ill and disabled) they owned; an extension of their peacetime ‘protections’. Admission to the hospitals was initially restricted to those who could reasonably prove their devotion to the Church, but after an act of Parliament in 1667, they became opened to all, acting as the City’s official supported accommodation for the long-term ill and disabled. However, the Hospitallers still claimed the right to charge ‘reasonable rents’ to the inhabitants of the hospitals.

Many disabled and ill Buentoillitants were supported by their families, but this was obviously not an option for all. As such, many rooms lay empty; their intended inhabitants on the streets. When the Knights went to war with the City of Strigaxia in 1762, they raised rents to pay for it, and offered a number of beds to disabled persons who were able to work on creating armaments as payment for bed and board. Despite the success of the Knight’s military campaigns, and the vast wealth they received as a result, they did not lower rents when the war ended, and conditions began to deteriorate as well. The situation reached crisis point in 1832, when there were historically high debt levels within the hospitals, huge numbers of evictions, and allegations of slavery were being levelled at the Knights.

Unable to receive relief through the ‘proper’ political or legal means (the Knights were very influential in Parliament at the time), the inhabitants of the hospitals first turned to the established unions for help, but were initially refused. The League of Disabled Buentoillitants was formed later that year, and continues to this day, still retaining the various letters they received from unions, stating that it would harm their members prospects and image to be involved with a (as one letter put it) ‘bunch of cripples and lunatics’. They instigated a rent strike across the hospitals, sparking an, often violent, year long dispute.

It seems as if the Knight’s true mistake was to hugely underestimate the resourcefulness, resolve and capability of the League. Their initial response to the strike was to withdraw the care workers from the hospitals, and to restrict the deliveries of food; the League seemed to have organised so well that mass evictions would have left the hospitals all-but empty. However, many of the care workers had witnessed their own working conditions and pay decline, and almost 50% of them were persuaded to join the League as associated members. The League also seized huge amounts of food and goods from the Knight’s warehouses in night-time raids. The Knights then decided to forcibly restrain members of the League and regain control of their premises.

Once again, the League were one step ahead of the Knights. They had been manufacturing and stockpiling weaponry for some time, and had established barricades and underground routes between the various different hospitals. They had also integrated the hospitals in such a way that each was able to defend themselves, the members ‘buddying up’ to so that each partnership had a wide range of applicable abilities. Formerly evicted disabled and ill folks were invited to join and bolster the ranks of the League, and the first ‘security forces’ that the Knights sent in were easily ejected without casualties. Realising their error, the Knights returned with a much larger force, but this was to ultimately spell their downfall.

Various papers and rights groups had been invited to see the new commune the League had built, cannily in time for the first true skirmish of the dispute. Many were killed on both sides, and all was seen and documented by the observers, and splashed across the news the following day. The Knights attempted to present the skirmish as an attempt to quell a ‘tide of insanity that has sadly befallen the hospitals,’ but were unsuccessful in gaining the public’s support; by the time of the next skirmish, over ten thousand armed Buentoillitants came out in support of the League. The Knights attempted to regain their holdings in a few stealthy campaigns (learned from their military action abroad, no doubt) after this point, but due to a huge public outcry Parliament finally turned against them and ordered that they relinquish their claims to the hospitals. Shortly afterwards the Holy Knights of Buentoille were disbanded in Buentoille, though they only truly disappeared in 1989 when they finally lost their their Strigaxian holdings.

Today those League members and associated members who died in the defence of the hospitals are commemorated by hanging large banners bearing their faces out the windows of the hospitals. The League also hosts a feast, and weaponry is ceremonially laid against the various grave markers and memorials in the Peace Garden.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Start of the Pilgrimage into the East