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Riots are a form of civil disorders characterized by disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence, vandalism or other crime. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are typically chaotic and exhibit herd behavior.

Riots often occur in reaction to a perceived grievance or out of dissent. Historically, riots have occurred due to poor working or living conditions, government oppression, taxation or conscription, conflicts between races or religions (see race riot and pogrom), or even the outcome of a sporting event. Some claim[How to reference and link to summary or text] that rioters are motivated by a rejection of or frustration with legal channels through which to air their grievances.

Riots typically involve vandalism and the destruction of private and public property. The specific property to be targeted varies depending on the cause of the riot and the inclinations of those involved. Targets can include shops, cars, restaurants, state-owned institutions, and religious buildings.

In some places, rioters have become semi-professionals, travelling to the sites of likely riots. These rioters are known as firms. This is particularly noted in sports-related riots in Europe. For example, France, Poland and England commonly have riots related to football (soccer) matches. 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.

Police response Edit

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Riots are typically dealt with by the police (as 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, and flexible baton rounds. Many police forces, such as the London Metropolitan Police Service, have dedicated divisions to deal with public order situations.

The policing of riots has been marred by incidents in which police have been accused of instigating or provoking rioting or crowd violence: also, while the weapons described above are officially designated as non-lethal, a number of people have allegedly died or been injured as a result of their use.

Rioters often make use of various tactics to counter the police, including gas masks (to protect against chemical weapons), projectiles such as rocks, bottles and molotov cocktails, firecrackers to scare away attack dogs, and the removal of police weapons (e.g. batons, shields). Rioting, particularly in economically-disadvantaged areas, is often accompanied by looting.

In N.Ireland both the army and police were used to subdue rioting, using all types of equipment- water cannon rubber/plastic bullits to stop and inflict injury on the perceived rioters. The history of civil unrest had also bred a new type of activity in which children would use the act of rioting as a form of escape from boredom. A leading community activist Mary Montague coined, the now used phrase to describe this as, "recreational rioting". She identified as both dangerous and creating tension.

Laws against riots Edit

England and Wales Edit

Under English law, a riot is defined by the Public Order Act 1986 as twelve or more persons who "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". A single person can be liable for an offence of riot when they use violence provided that it can be shown there were at least twelve present using or threatening violence. The violence can be against the person or against property. This carries the possibility of a fine and a sentence of up to ten years' imprisonment.

If there are fewer than twelve people present, the lesser offence of "Violent Disorder" is charged, for which there is a requirement for at least three persons to use or threaten unlawful violence together. This is defined similarly to riot, but no common purpose is required.

In the past, The Riot Act had to be read by an official - with the wording exactly correct - before any 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.

Current English LawEdit

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In English Law Riot forms part of the Public Order Act 1986 under section 1.

The Public Order Act 1986 s.1 states:

1) Where twelve 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 twelve 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.

Ramifications Edit

United States Edit

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 'riot.' In New York State, for example, the term 'riot' is not defined explicitly, but under § 240.08 of the N.Y. Penal Law, A person is guilty of inciting to riot when he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm.

United States Edit

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 movie Gangs of New York. In the 20th century, the 1992 Los Angeles riots were regarded as the worst in recent U.S. history. The 1968 Democratic National Convention, however, saw the most well-remembered riots in recent US history and were a strong influence towards the eventual American withdrawal from Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War. The 2000 Democratic National Convention protest activity made headlines, including the Lakers riot. Also notable were riots in response to the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. across numerous American cities, as well as the recent anarchist and anti-globalization riots of the last decade such as the Seattle protests of the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 and the 2005 Toledo Riot in Toledo, Ohio.

Australia Edit

The Sydney Riot of 1879, is one of the earliest riots at an international cricket match. Riots have become major news generators, including Aboriginal riots in response to the death of an Aboriginal boy, and most recently the 2005 summer race riots. These riots took place on the beaches of the eastern Sydney suburbs, most prominently Cronulla.

Europe Edit


The Nørrebro riots followed the selling of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen in Denmark. People from Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom participated in the riots. In total 750 people were arrested during the fighting; 140 of these foreigners.

Riots also broke out in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden from the 14th to the 16th of June 2001. A total of 53 police officers and 90 vandals and demonstrators were hurt during the many riots that was going on between these days. The reasons for the riot were the EU summit that took place in Gothenburg and the visit of USA's President George W Bush.

In October 2005 and again in November 2007, immigrant youth rioted in the poor Paris suburbs of Clichy-sous-Bois [1] and Villiers-le-Bel [2], respectively, each time in reaction to the deaths of North African youth at the hands of police.



The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were a series of demonstrations led by students, intellectuals and labour activists in the People's Republic of China between April 15, 1989 and June 4, 1989. The demonstrations centred on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Government retaliation was often violent and riots broke out in affected regions.

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. [3] Human Rights groups have determined that the Indonesian military was involved in the riots, which degenerated into a pogrom. [4]

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, with Hindus and Sikhs being massacred in the newly formed Pakistan, which resulted in Muslims being killed in India.

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For the whole month of November 1984 Sikhs were hunted down and killed, raped or beaten. These events occurred after Prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Innocent Sikh men were burnt alive while women were gang raped by Hindu mobs, while reprisals against Hindus were organized by the Sikh community. The death toll is uncertain. Estimates range from 2,000 to 250,000 (it is estimated 2,000 people were killed in New Delhi alone).

2002 Gujarat violence refers to incidents that took place in the state of Gujarat in India in the year 2002 involving a flare-up of tensions between Muslims and Hindus, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was burned by Muslim extremists in Godhra .

In 2005, the Chinese government admitted to 87,000 riots across China. [5]

In 2006, there were nationwide riots in Pakistan and numerous other areas over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. [6]

See also Edit

References Edit

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External linksEdit

  • Revolution '67 - Documentary about the Newark, New Jersey race riots of 1967

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