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A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and exhibit herd behavior, and usually generated by civil unrest. However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that riots are not irrational, herd-like behavior, but follow inverted social norms.
Riots often occur in reaction to a perceived grievance or out of dissent. Historically, riots have occurred due to poor working or living conditions, governmental oppression, taxation or conscription, conflicts between ethnic groups, food supply or religions (see race riot, sectarian violence and pogrom), the outcome of a sporting event (see football hooliganism) or frustration with legal channels through which to air grievances.
Riots typically involve vandalism and the destruction of private and public property. The specific property to be targeted varies depending on the riot and the inclinations of those involved. Targets can include shops, cars, restaurants, state-owned institutions, and religious buildings.
Thus Beloff comments on the food riots of the early eighteenth century: "this resentment, when unemployment and high prices combined to make conditions unendurable, vented itself in attacks upon corn-dealers and millers, attacks which often must have degenerated into mere excuses for crime". Wearmouth[disambiguation needed], in his useful chronicle of disturbance, allows himself one explanatory category: "distress". Ashton, in his study of food riots among the colliers, brings the support of the paternalist: "the turbulence of the colliers is, of course, to be accounted for by something more elementary than politics: it was the instinctive reaction of virility to hunger". The riots were "rebellions of the belly", and there is a suggestion that this is somehow a comforting explanation. The line of analysis runs: elementary — instinctive — hunger. Charles Wilson continues the tradition: "Spasmodic rises in food prices provoked keelmen on the Tyne to riot in 1709, tin miners to plunder granaries at Falmouth in 1727". One spasm led to another: the outcome was "plunder".
Some rioters have become quite sophisticated at understanding and withstanding the tactics used by police in such situations. Manuals for successful rioting are available on the internet. These manuals also encourage rioters to get the press involved, as there is more safety with the cameras rolling. There is also more attention. Citizens with video cameras may also have an effect on both rioters and police.
Dealing with riots is an often difficult task for police departments. Police may also use tear gas and CS gas to stop rioters. In some countries riot police have moved to using less-than-lethal methods to control riots, such as shotguns that fire flexible baton rounds to injure or otherwise incapacitate rioters for easy arrest.
A police riot is a term for the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by a group of police against a group of civilians, commonly where police attack a group of peaceful civilians and/or provoke previously peaceful civilians into violence.
A prison riot is a type of large scale, temporary act of concerted defiance or disorder by a group of prisoners against the prison administrators, prison officers, or other groups of prisoners, often to express a grievance, in an attempt to force change or an attempt to escape the prison.
In a race riot race or ethnicity is the key factor. The term had entered the English language in the United States by the 1890s. Early use of the term in the United States referred to race riots which were often a mob action by members of a majority racial group against people of other perceived races.
Student riots are riots precipitated by students, often in higher education, such as a college/university. Student riots in the US and Western Europe in the 1960s and the 1970s were often political in nature, although student riots can occur as a result of peaceful demonstration oppressed by the authorities and after sporting events. Students may constitute an active political force in a given country, and student riots may occur in the context of wider political or social grievances.
Urban riots are riots in the context of urban decay, provoked by conditions such as discrimination, poverty, high unemployment, poor schools, poor healthcare, housing inadequacy and police brutality and bias. Urban riots are closely associated with race riots and police riots.
Sports riots can be sparked by the losing or winning of a specific team, such as the Nika riots. Fans of the two teams may also fight. Five main reasons for sports riots are teams contending for a championship, a long series of matches, a gathering place for many fans, the presence of young men, and scores that are close. Sports are the most common cause of riots in the United States, accompanying more than half of all championship games or series; almost all occur in the winning team's city. In North America, they are generally seen in two sports, hockey and association football. Players rarely join in such riots, which usually occur in and around the playing field (in association football) or in the streets or stands (in hockey).
Food and bread riots are caused by harvest failures, incompetent food storage, hoarding, poisoning of food, or attacks by pests like locusts. When the public becomes too desperate in such conditions, they attack shops, farms, homes, or government buildings to obtain bread or other staple foods like grain or salt, as in the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots.
The effects of riots in terms of economic and political consequences are as complex as the socioeconomic origins of such events. Widespread property destruction and harm to individuals are often immediately measurable effects. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 2,383 people were injured, 8,000 were arrested, 51 were killed and over 700 businesses burned. Property damage was estimated at over 1 billion dollars. Of the 51 killed, at least ten of them were shot by police or National Guard forces.
Similarly, the 2005 civil unrest in France lasted over three weeks and spread to nearly 300 towns. By the end of the incident, over 10,000 vehicles were destroyed and over 300 buildings burned. Over 2,800 suspected rioters were arrested and 126 police and firefighters were injured. Damages were estimated at being well over €200 Million.
Many governments and political systems have fallen after riots, including:
- Tsarist Russia,
- The Confederate States of America (see the Southern Bread Riots for an example),
- Ancien Régime,
- British rule in India (bread and salt riots hastened the withdrawal in 1947).
- Governments across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring.
The afflicted classes themselves varied in temper between a condition of dismissed suffering, in face of the uncomprehended hardships of their lot, and one of sullen antagonism against those apparently responsible for them. Their resentment, when unemployment and high prices combined to make conditions unendurable, vented itself in attacks upon corn-dealers and millers — attacks which often must have degenerated into mere excuses for crime. Among the plunder of the Worcestershire rioters in 1693 were not merely sacks of grain, but 25s. 2d. in money and 'three cloth coats valor triginti solidi'
The Partition of India was a traumatic event in South Asian history that followed the independence of the region from British colonial rule. The ensuing riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims.
In October 2005 and again in November 2007, immigrant youth rioted in the poor Paris suburbs of Clichy-sous-Bois and Villiers-le-Bel, respectively, each time in reaction to the deaths of North African youth at the hands of police.
The Jakarta riots of May 1998 were a series of riots against ethnic Chinese Indonesians in Jakarta and Surakarta, Indonesia.There were also hundreds of documented accounts of ethnic Chinese women being raped, tortured and killed. Human Rights groups have determined that the Indonesian military was involved in the riots, which degenerated into a pogrom. Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people, broke out in Papua New Guinea in May 2009.
Since the 1950s, the United States has seen a series of race riots in the context of the civil rights movement and urban decay. Over the first nine months of 1967, 128 American cities suffered 164 riots. The 1967 Newark riots became, per capita, one of deadliest civil disturbances of the 1960s. The long and short term causes of the riots are explored in depth in the documentary film Revolution '67. The assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. triggered riots across numerous American cities. The 1992 Los Angeles riots, triggered by the outcome of the Rodney King trial were regarded as the worst in recent U.S. history with an estimated 54 dead and nearly a billion dollars in property damage.
Europe has historically seen a diverse range of riots, ranging from hooliganism to May Day riots. Recent riots have taken place in a political context (escalation of political demonstrations), rioting to prevent the eviction of social centres and/or squats, and racial tensions in the broader context of urban decay.
The worst riots in United States history with respect to lives lost took place during the Civil War when immigrant factory workers forcibly resisted the federal government's military draft, the New York Draft Riots. These riots were graphically depicted in the film, Gangs of New York, albeit with a low level of historical accuracy.
Control and police response
Riots are typically dealt with by the police (riot control), although methods differ from country to country. Tactics and weapons used can include attack dogs, water cannons, plastic bullets, rubber bullets, pepper spray, flexible baton rounds, and snatch squads. Many police forces, such as the London Metropolitan Police Service, have dedicated divisions to deal with public order situations (see Territorial Support Group, Special Patrol Group, Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, Mobiele Eenheid, Arrest Units).
The policing of riots has been marred by incidents in which police have been accused of instigating or provoking rioting or crowd violence (see Police riot); also, while the weapons described above are officially designated as non-lethal, a number of people have died or been injured as a result of their use. For example, seventeen deaths were caused by rubber bullets in Northern Ireland over the thirty five years between 1970 and 2005.
Risk of arrest
A high risk of being arrested is even more effective against rioting than severe punishments.[dubious ] As more and more people join the riot, the risk of being arrested goes down, which persuades still more people to join. This leads to a vicious circle, which is typically ended only by sufficient police or military presence to bring up the risk of being arrested.
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
In India, rioting is an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
England and Wales
- (1) Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot.
- (2) It is immaterial whether or not the 12 or more use or threaten unlawful violence simultaneously.
- (3) The common purpose may be inferred from conduct.
- (4) No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
- (5) Riot may be committed in private as well as in public places.
A single person can be liable for an offence of riot when they use violence, provided that it is shown there were at least twelve present using or threatening unlawful violence.
This word is defined by section 8. The violence can be against the person or against property.
The mens rea is defined by section 6(1).
Restriction on institution of proceedings
See section 7(1)
Mode of trial and sentence
See the following cases:
- R v Luttman  Crim LR 127, CA
- R v Pilgrim, 5 Cr App R (S) 140, CA
- R v Keys, 84 Cr App R 204, 8 Cr App R (S) 444,  Crim LR 207, CA
- R v Cooke, 9 Cr App R (S) 116, CA
Association football matches
In the case of riot connected to football hooliganism, the offender may be banned from football grounds for a set or indeterminate period of time and may be required to surrender their passport to the police for a period of time in the event of a club or international match, or international tournament, connected with the offence. This prevents travelling to the match or tournament in question. (The measures were brought in by the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 after rioting of England fans at Euro 2000.)
Compensation for riot damage
Construction of "riot" and cognate expressions in other instruments
Section 10 of the Public Order Act 1986 now provides:
- (1) In the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 . . . (compensation for riot damage) "riotous" and "riotously" shall be construed in accordance with section 1 above.
- (2) In Schedule 1 to the Marine Insurance Act 1906 (form and rules for the construction of certain insurance policies) "rioters" in rule 8 and "riot" in rule 10 shall, in the application of the rules to any policy taking effect on or after the coming into force of this section, be construed in accordance with section 1 above unless a different intention appears.
- (3) "Riot" and cognate expressions in any enactment in force before the coming into force of this section (other than the enactments mentioned in subsections (1) and (2) above) shall be construed in accordance with section 1 above if they would have been construed in accordance with the common law offence of riot apart from this Part.
- (4) Subject to subsections (1) to (3) above and unless a different intention appears, nothing in this Part affects the meaning of "riot" or any cognate expression in any enactment in force, or other instrument taking effect, before the coming into force of this section.
As to this provision, see pages 84 and 85 of the Law Commission's report.
Common law offence
In the past, the Riot Act had to be read by an official - with the wording exactly correct - before violent policing action could take place. If the group did not disperse after the Act was read, lethal force could legally be used against the crowd. See also the Black Act.
Section 515 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 formerly made provision for compensation for riot damage.
Riot is a serious offence for the purposes of Chapter 3 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
See paragraph 13 of Schedule 5 to the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962.
There is an offence under the law of Scotland which is known both as "mobbing" and "mobbing and rioting".
United States of America
Under United States federal law, a riot is defined as:
A public disturbance involving (1) an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons, which act or acts shall constitute a clear and present danger of, or shall result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual or (2) a threat or threats of the commission of an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons having, individually or collectively, the ability of immediate execution of such threat or threats, where the performance of the threatened act or acts of violence would constitute a clear and present danger of, or would result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual.18 U.S.C. § 2102.
As every state in the United States has its own laws (subject to the Supremacy Clause), each has its own definition of a riot. In the U.S. state of New York, the term riot is not defined explicitly, but under § 240.08 of the N.Y. Penal Law due to the fact there was much fighting in the streets, "A person is guilty of inciting to riot when one urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Riots|
- List of riots
- Riot Acts
- Civil disorder
- Collective Effervescence
- Internal security
- Riot gun
- Riot Dog
- Class conflict
- Poll Tax Riots
- Urban riots
- 2007–2008 world food price crisis
- Southern Bread Riots
- Boston Bread Riot
- Flour Riot of 1837
- 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots
- 1992 Los Angeles Riots
- Wrocław football riot 2003
- Braha, D (2012) Global Civil Unrest: Contagion, Self-Organization, and Prediction. PLoS ONE 7(10): e48596, Eprint.
- You won't prevent future riots by disregarding the psychology of crowds, The Guardian, Aug 19, 2011
- E.P. Thompson, 'The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century', Past and Present, no. 50 (1971), p. 77
- "Thrown pig leads to religious riots in India". CNN. July 3, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Ballard, Steve (2011-12-26). "The Kiss". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- Jim Crogan (Apr 24 2002). "The L.A. 53". LA Weekly.
- Česky. "Émeutes de 2005 dans les banlieues françaises - Wikipédia" (in (French)). Fr.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Česky. "2005 civil unrest in France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- M. Beloff, Public Order and Popular Disturbances, 1660-1714 (Oxford, 1938), p. 75.
- Walsh, Declan (February 16, 2006). "Western businesses burn in Pakistan riots". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Black Africa Leaves China In Quandary. The New York Times. December 30, 1988.
- "1998 Human Rights Report - Indonesia". Fas.org. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- INDONESIA: Five years after May 1998 rights, those responsible for the atrocities remain at large[dead link]
- "Looters shot dead amid chaos of Papua New Guinea's anti-Chinese riots", The Australian, 23 May 2009
- Why Did America Explode in Riots in 1967?, by Joshua Zeitz, AmericanHeritage.com, July 23, 2007.
- Cody, Edward (January 28, 2006). "In Face of Rural Unrest, China Rolls Out Reforms". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Williams, Anthony G. "Less-lethal ammunition". http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/baton.htm. "an amended version of an article which first appeared in Jane's Police Products Review, October/November 2007, and includes information from British 37mm Baton Rounds, which appeared in Small Arms Review in August 2008"
- How Riots Start, and How They Can Be Stopped: Edward Glaeser, Edward Glaeser, Bloomberg.com, Aug 12, 2011
- The Public Order Act 1986, section 1(6)
- "Explanatory Notes to the Football (Disorder) Act 2000". Legislation.gov.uk. 2013-02-26. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Digitized copy
- The Law Commission. Criminal Law: Offences relating to Public Order (Law Com 123). HMSO. 1983.
- The Public Order Act 1986, section 9(1)
- The Public Order Act 1986, section 42
- The Public Order Act 1986 (Commencement No. 2) Order 1987, article 2 and Schedule (1987/198 (C. 4))
- The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, article 12(2) and Schedule 1, paragraph 4.
- Blackstones Police Manual Volume 4 General police duties, Fraser Simpson (2006). pp. 245. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-928522-5
- Applegate, Col. Rex (1992). Riot Control: Materiel and Techniques. Paladin Press. ISBN 978-0-87364-208-8.
- Beene, Capt. Charles (2006). Riot Prevention and Control: A Police Officer's Guide to Managing Violent and Nonviolent Crowds. Paladin Press. ISBN 1-58160-518-8.
- Bessel, Richard Emsley, Clive (2000). Patterns of Provocation: Police and Public Disorder. Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-228-8.
- Bloome, Clive (2003). Violent London: 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0283073101.
- Hernon, Ian (2006). Riot!: Civil Insurrection from Peterloo to the Present Day. Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-2538-6.
- Waddington, P. A. J. (1991). The Strong Arm of the Law: Armed and Public Order Policing. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-827359-2.