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Steve Reicher on the Riots

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Getting it wrong about the riots: why the official explanations and policy responses will only make things worse.

Abstract: Following the riots of August 2011, rioters were portrayed  as amoral and criminal outsiders. The government response was  based on tougher policing and greater intervention in the rioting communities. This approach, encapsulated in the branding of rioters as 'feral', mirrors responses to previous riots both in the US and the UK. However, in time, both the explanations and the responses have come to be seen as flawed and to misrepresent the nature of crowd action. Drawing on both past research on crowds and riots, and also detailed analysis of the events of August, I shall provide an alternative explanation of why people participated in the riots and what they did during the rioting. I shall also argue that effective responses must be based on inclusion and engagement rather than exclusion and containment.

Bio: Stephen Reicher is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews. He has been studying crowds for over thirty years and is is one of the foremost authorities on crowd psychology. His book on the 2011 riots, co-authored with Clifford Stott, is titled 'Mad Mobs and Englishmen?'.