There is an effort to paint the original 1773 Tea Party as violent. It wasn’t. Here’s the back story:
The high-handed ways the British treated the colonists, from the Quartering Acts forcing them to lodge and feed British soldiers, to the increasingly burdensome taxes, stoked frustration and anger throughout the colonies.
A new Tea Act was passed with a special wrinkle: taxes were due when the bales of tea were unloaded. Incensed colonists all along the eastern seaboard refused to allow British ships to unload, which they viewed as their only recourse to make an unequivocal protest against ever higher taxes. The refusals proved to be surprisingly effective. Many ships were forced to make grudging return trips to England still loaded with their cargoes of tea.
Boston’s embattled Royal Governor had an inspiration. He reasoned that if the ships couldn’t leave the harbor, eventually they would have to be unloaded, making the tea tax immediately due and payable. Thus, in late November 1773, he instructed his military commanders to keep the British ships in port, using force if necessary.
For weeks the hulking ships fueled Boston’s colonists’ seething anger. After constant, intense discussions at daily meetings attended at first by hundreds — and soon by thousands — a decision was reached on December 16: To make a clear-cut statement by boarding the three ships and tossing the tea overboard, thus ensuring that no tax could ever be paid on any of it. Approximately 120 colonists took immediate action, rowed out to the ships and boarded.
British crews attested that other than hoisting the tea overboard, there were no acts of destruction. Indeed, the protesters even swept the ship decks clean afterwards. The Massachusetts Gazette reported that a broken padlock, the personal property of one of the ships’ captains, was replaced.
Soon enough dubbed “The Boston Tea Party”, the colonists’ “tea toss” was an early defining act of rebellion against government repression, crackdowns, and unfair, burdensome taxation on our continent. It paved the way for the American Revolution.
But it was not violent.