On Mob Violence


Riots are senseless, explosions of violent anger around some grievance (however frivolous or vital) that topple communities into destructive chaos. Regardless, people in the media and government quite often miss the point.

My people did it without mob violence

Not always. Andrew Sullivan links to Sarah Carr, an Egyptian/British blogger who does not understand why “protestors” would riot to protest an unlawful murder. Also, Sully links to a tweet by Egyptian Mosaa Berizing:

Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said and Bouazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players.

Twitter / @mosaaberizing: Egyptians and Tunisians to …

Egyptians rioted for the purpose of being anti-Algerian Football during the 2009 FIFA World Cup. Egyptians rioted in 2008 Bread Riots due to grain shortages. And they rioted to protest congestion in the traffic riots in 2000 protesting deaths of drivers and riders due dangerous road conditions for the poor. And even a riot when police accidentally killed a man in 2008. Not as widespread, but violent and senseless nonetheless.

So to be sure, Egyptians (like all people) have very well demonstrated the capacity to “take revenge” in the best and worst ways.

Rioters make your people look bad

Groups of black teens (from as young as age 11 to early 20s) have violently attacked pedestrians in flash mobs in Philly this summer (video of one of the awful attacks here). The Mayor, DA and Police Chief are coordinating a large response including curfews for kids, added patrols and a DA focus on this type of violence. Mayor Nutter was livid, during a speech and some other pressers, among some policy suggestions and righteous disappointment, he sprinkled in some unfortunate quack sociology. Annette John-Hall dissects the mayors rhetoric:

And the mayor wasn’t finished. At a City Hall news conference Monday, he told a small group of reporters, “I don’t care what your economic status is in life, you do not have a right to beat someone’s ass on the street.”

We can deal with the public tongue-lashing, even if his intended targets were nowhere to be found among the law-abiding churchgoers in their Sunday best. But what really bothered me was when Nutter fired the age-old salvo that has historically evoked head-hanging shame among black folks:

“You’ve damaged yourself,” the mayor accused. “You’ve damaged your peers, and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race.”

There, he said it.

In a way that his white constituents would hear him loud and clear. At that point, he wasn’t talking to black people anymore.


Nutter expressed in no uncertain terms the sentiment that so often shackles black people – that the unlawful actions of a few smear everyone else.

via Annette John-Hall: In admonishing teen mobs, Nutter pulls out shame-game shackle | Philadelphia Inquirer | 08/09/2011

These thugs discredited themselves. That’s it. It’s why they will be charged for the crimes when they are caught. What Nutter is signifying is some responsibility among all black people for the actions of these few. Just like if these kids were straight A students, it wouldn’t have anything

The Mob is the story

Darcus Howe, is a writer and broadcaster who is a 68 year old emigrant from Trinidad & Tobago who has been in London for over 50 years talks about why the shooting of the young man was a flash point that sparked the riots. At no point does he condone them. But he does explain the initial source of anger. He’s kind of the perfect subject to interview because he is a journalist, and he talks about issues in his community from his earlier years to today. Unfortunately, he is basically talking to a news anchor that fails to report news and instead is looking to justify an opinion. The common pathology in these communities that have carried this violence throughout the country.