A riot (/ˈrət/) 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 theft, vandalism, and 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 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, (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.” However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that riots are not irrational, herd-like behavior, but actually follow inverted social norms.

T. S. Ashton, in his study of food riots among colliers, noted that “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.” Charles Wilson noted, “Spasmodic rises in food prices provoked keelmen on the Tyne to riot in 1709, tin miners to plunder granaries at Falmouth in 1727.”

Today, some rioters have an improved understanding of the tactics used by police in riot situations. Manuals for successful rioting are available on the internet, with tips such as encouraging rioters to get the press involved, as there is more safety and attention with the cameras rolling. Citizens with video cameras may also have an effect on both rioters and police.

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.

Classification

A police riot is a term for the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by a group of police against a group of civilians. This term is commonly used to describe a police attack on peaceful civilians, or provoking peaceful civilians into violence.

A prison riot is a large-scale, temporary act of concerted defiance or disorder by a group of prisoners against prison administrators, prison officers, or other groups of prisoners. It is often done to express a grievance, force change or attempt escape.

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 referred to riots that were often a mob action by members of a majority racial group against people of other perceived races.During apartheid regime,racial riots were common in South Africa.Even,in modern world racial riots of varying degree occur in many European,African,Asian and American countries.

In a religious riot, the key factor is religion. 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 or university. Student riots in the US and Western Europe in the 1960s and the 1970s were often political in nature. Student riots may also occur as a result of oppression of peaceful demonstration or after sporting events. Students may constitute an active political force in a given country. Such 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 such as the Nika riots can be sparked by the losing or winning of a specific team. Fans of the two teams may also fight. Sports riots may happen as a result of teams contending for a championship, a long series of matches, or 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 sports riots occur in the winning team’s city.

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 desperate from such conditions, groups may 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.

Effects

The economic and political effects of riots can be as complex as their origins. Property destruction and harm to individuals are often immediately measurable. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 2,383 people were injured, 8,000 were arrested, 63 were killed and over 700 businesses burned. Property damage was estimated at over $1 billion. At least ten of those killed 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. Estimated damages were over €200 Million.

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

  • Russian Empire
  • Ancien Régime
  • British Raj in India, when bread and salt riots hastened the withdrawal in 1947
  • Governments across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring