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Riots, or civil disturbances, are any large unruly gathering of people. They may occur for political, social, religious, or other reasons. They can be extremely dangerous especially due to unpredictability.


Understanding Riots

Riots are the violent expression of civil unrest triggered by any number of reasons- political dissatisfaction, perceived or real injustices, a local sports team's victory or defeat, or any number of external social factors. A riot is not civil disobedience, though it may start as such. A riot can be "mob rule", or it can be violent anarchy. A riot, and the accompanying police response, can spread quickly from their point of origin to other locations without warning. Do NOT assume that an external factor such as race, political affiliation, or even press credentials will keep you safe during a riot.

Preparing for a Riot

It is unlikely that one would have advanced enough warning to begin preparing for any specific riot, therefore it is recommended that individuals take general precautions and preparatory steps that are relevant to any form of riot. These include:

  • Stockpiling several days of food and water for you and your family (pets included!) Don't forget water for cleaning and bathing.
  • Owning and maintaining firearms and a supply of ammunition for them, where legal.
    • Regularly train with them so you are proficient with them if necessary.
    • Even with weapons and training, follow all local laws and common sense about use and display of weapons.
  • Having adequate means of producing fire and electricity for a short period. This includes hand cranked flashlights, portable or roof top '''Solar panels''' or wind generators, candles, matches, gas stoves and so forth. Make sure to have adequate amounts for each person (i.e. not just 1 flashlight, but one for each family member). Don't forget those batteries either!
  • Have adequate means of putting out a fire- arson is a popular crime during a riot.
  • Understanding the vulnerabilities of your home or apartment. Do you live in an urban, suburban or rural area? If you live in an apartment, what floor are you on and what are the security implications for defense or escape. Where are the points of entry/exit (doors, windows, balcony, etc)? In the event of an intrusion, where will you fall back to?
  • Taking steps to protect your dwelling. Do your windows have shutters? Do you have cheap laminate doors or solid wood/metal ones? How easily can your locks be broken? Do you have an alarm system? Video cameras?
  • Have an emergency plan for your family. Everyone may not be at home when riots break out.
  • Consider your escape. If you need to leave your dwelling, where will you go? How? Is your car protected in a garage, or could it have already been destroyed by vandals? If destroyed, how will you leave? Where will you go, and how will you get there? Highways may be blocked. What will you do in case of fire?
  • What do you live near? The locations of police and fire departments near you are important, as are places to procure supplies like Wal-Mart and Target should there be prolonged disorder. Understand that these commercial locations will be hit first and hardest- there may not be supplies available, and those locations may not be safe. Likewise, travel may o

During a Riot

If you find yourself in a riot (and are not intent on breaking any laws), there are a number of options one can take to avoid becoming a victim of violence by rioters or police:

  • Leave the area!
  • Stay inside!
  • Do not draw undue attention to yourself and make yourself a convenient target for violence. Not including any specific actions that may gather attention, this includes displays of force (do not go about openly armed), displays of allegiance to any particular group (like a rival football team or political party), displays of wealth, nationality, or anything else that might make you a target for opportunistic criminals. Remember that they are not targeting you, they are targeting what you represent.

If you are detained by the police, cooperate fully and sort the rest out with your lawyer afterward.

Riot Aftermath

Depending on the scale of the riots and your proximity to them, order and public services may or may not be quickly restored. One must plan for both contingencies.

See Also


Man-made Disaster

Snippet from Wikipedia: Riot

A riot () is a form of civil disorder commonly characterized by a group lashing out in a violent public disturbance against authority, property or people.

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

Riots often occur in reaction to a grievance or out of dissent. Historically, riots have occurred due to poverty, unemployment, poor living conditions, governmental oppression, taxation or conscription, conflicts between ethnic groups, (race riot) or religions (sectarian violence, pogrom), the outcome of a sporting event (sports riot, football hooliganism) or frustration with legal channels through which to air grievances.

While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots typically consist of disorganized groups that are frequently "chaotic and exhibit herd behavior." There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that riots are not irrational, herd-like behavior (sometimes called mob mentality), but actually follow inverted social norms.

Dealing with riots is often a difficult task for police forces. They may use tear gas or CS gas to control rioters. Riot police may use less-than-lethal methods of control, such as shotguns that fire flexible baton rounds to injure or otherwise incapacitate rioters for easier arrest.


, armed with pipes, riot in a clash with riot police in the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934.]]


A riot (

) is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden 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”,<ref>Braha, D (2012) Global Civil Unrest: Contagion, Self-Organization, and Prediction. PLoS ONE 7(10): e48596, Eprint.</ref> 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.<ref>You won't prevent future riots by disregarding the psychology of crowds, The Guardian, Aug 19, 2011</ref>

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 music concert or 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/or 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, 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

, 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”.<ref>E.P. Thompson, 'The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century', Past and Present, no. 50 (1971), p. 77</ref>

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. The police force may use tear gas or CS gas to attack 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.


, 1874]] 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.

In a religious riot, the key factor is religion.<ref>

</ref> The rioting mob targets people and properties of a specific religion, or those believed to belong to that religion.

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.<ref name=“ballard20111226”>


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.


in Philadelphia in 1844]] 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. Of the 51 killed,<ref>

</ref> 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.<ref>

| |date= |accessdate=2013-04-30}}</ref> Over 2,800 suspected rioters were arrested and 126 police and firefighters were injured.<ref>

</ref> Damages were estimated at being well over €200 Million.

Many governments and political systems have fallen after riots, including:


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'<ref>M. Beloff, Public Order and Popular Disturbances, 1660-1714 (Oxford, 1938), p. 75.</ref>


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 2006, there were nationwide riots in Pakistan and numerous other areas over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.<ref>


Across the World


Riots in Australia have become major news generators, including 2004 Aboriginal riots, and the 2005 Cronulla riots.


The mass demonstrations and riots against African students in Nanjing, China, lasted from December 1988 to January 1989.<ref>Black Africa Leaves China In Quandary. The New York Times. December 30, 1988.</ref>

In 2005, the Chinese government admitted to 87,000 demonstrations and riots across China.<ref>



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.<ref>

</ref> Human Rights groups have determined that the Indonesian military was involved in the riots, which degenerated into a pogrom.<ref>INDONESIA: Five years after May 1998 rights, those responsible for the atrocities remain at large

</ref> Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people, broke out in Papua New Guinea in May 2009.<ref>"Looters shot dead amid chaos of Papua New Guinea's anti-Chinese riots", The Australian, 23 May 2009</ref>

United States

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.<ref>Why Did America Explode in Riots in 1967?, by Joshua Zeitz,, July 23, 2007.</ref> 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.


The late '60s and '70s saw a series of riots and protests in the Philippines specifically in Manila. The famous one was known as “The First Quarter Storm”, a period of leftist unrest composed of heavy demonstrations, protests, and marches led by students of the University of the Philippines and laborers from the countryside against the government regarding problems such as graft, corruption, decline in the economy due to high oil prices, foreign control, and the overkill electoral victory of the late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It began in January 1970, when students welcomed Marcos with demonstrations after his speech in the Congress. The protest resulted into a violent one when police used tear gas and arms to quell the demonstrators. Students tried to counter using Molotov cocktails and pillbox bombs while retreating. Those who were slow enough were beaten with rifle butts and fists of the police. The riot extended to other parts of Manila.<ref>First Quarter Storm</ref> Another uprising led by students, faculty members and residents of the same university occurred in February 1–9, 1971, in protest of the three centavo increase in oil prices during the Marcos administration. The protest also ended violently. 6 months later, two grenades exploded at Plaza Miranda in the city of Manila during a public meeting of the Liberal Party. In response to the event, President Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on the entire country on August 23, 1972 and petitions were filed in the Supreme Court for the release of several arrested persons. This greatly outraged the public and caused another riot through the streets of Manila.<ref>Philippine habeas corpus cases</ref> These sequence of uprisings and riots were factors leading up to the declaration of Martial Law on 21 September 1972.<ref>Martial law in the Philippines</ref> In mid-1970s to early-1980s, the riot spread to other regions of the country.


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.<ref>Williams, Anthony G. “Less-lethal ammunition”. “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”</ref>

Risk of arrest

A high risk of being arrested is even more effective against rioting than severe punishments.<ref name=bb>How Riots Start, and How They Can Be Stopped: Edward Glaeser, Edward Glaeser,, Aug 12, 2011</ref>

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.<ref name=bb/>

National laws


In India, rioting is an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

United Kingdom

England and Wales

in London, 1981]] Riot is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is created by section 1(1) of the Public Order Act 1986. Sections 1(1) to (5) of that Act read:

:(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.

Mens rea

The mens rea is defined by section 6(1).

Restriction on institution of proceedings

See section 7(1)


See R v Tyler and others, 96 Cr App R 332, [1993] Crim LR 60, CA.

Mode of trial and sentence

Riot is an indictable-only offence. A person convicted of riot is liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding ten years, or to a fine, or to both.<ref>The Public Order Act 1986, section 1(6)</ref>

See the following cases:

  • R v Luttman [1973] 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, [1987] 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.<ref>


Compensation for riot damage

See the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and section 235 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995..

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.<ref>Digitized copy</ref>

As to this provision, see pages 84 and 85 of the Law Commission's report.<ref>The Law Commission. Criminal Law: Offences relating to Public Order (Law Com 123). HMSO. 1983.</ref>

Common law offence

The common law offence of riot was abolished<ref>The Public Order Act 1986, section 9(1)</ref> for England and Wales<ref>The Public Order Act 1986, section 42</ref> on 1 April 1987.<ref>The Public Order Act 1986 (Commencement No. 2) Order 1987, article 2 and Schedule (1987/198 (C. 4))</ref>


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.

Northern Ireland

Riot is a serious offence for the purposes of Chapter 3 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.<ref>The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, article 12(2) and Schedule 1, paragraph 4.</ref>

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: <blockquote> 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.


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.”

See also


  • Blackstones Police Manual Volume 4 General police duties, Fraser Simpson (2006). pp.&nbsp;245. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-928522-5

Further reading

External links

Riots Protests Civil disobedience

riot.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:37 (external edit)