Urban Riots: concerns

Urban Riots: concerns

Author: Juan_Jose Villalon_Ogayar

For many years, collective violent acts such as race, religious and youth riots have been in the news in a lot of metropolitan areas in large European cities and other towns. Local urban riots are a huge problem in urban societies because they represent destruction, disorder and institutional defeat. Some of them have involved people that could be categorised as immigrants, ethnic minorities, young people, workers, neighbours, foreigners, extremist ideological parties, Catholics groups, Muslims, etc. The same things occur in a lot cities around the world. We could say that local riots are commonplace occurrences in large urban zones. Some of the best known local riots in Europe to date were: Madrid in 2011, Rosarno in 2010; Villiers-Le-Bel in2007; metropolitan area of Paris in 2005; Bradford in 2001; Belfast in 2001; Oldham in 2001; Almería in 2000; Tolouse in 1998; and Brixton in 1995. But, there have been more local urban riots. Some of them became news but most occur without much publicity being attached to them because their consequences seem insignificant. For example, the burning of containers or cars are actions which take place very often in any city or borough. Are they riots? No, but they could be indicators of them, an indication, a trail.

There is institutional concern about local rioting. In Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe was the scenario of discussions about the relevance of riots in 2008. The main question was how they could be prevented. In a committee, Mr. Roland Blum offered the report “Riots in European cities: lessons and Council of Europe response”. This paper showed that the riots were a European phenomenon, taking place in France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and the Russian Federation, although they were regarded by governments as sporadic and isolated incidents. Blum proposed some solutions approved by the Chamber of Local Authorities (Recommendation 197, approved 31 May 2006). But they had been refused in 2007 by the Committee of Ministers (995 Meeting, 16 May 2007). Meanwhile, other non-profit organizations are seeking new ways for finding solutions to the critical security issues facing today’s cities (For example: The International Centre for Urban Security). Furthermore, there are new institutional initiatives such as those being developed within the OCDE project “Future Global Shocks” (Renn, O. and others, 2011) or The Riots Communities and Victims Panel in United Kingdom or the observatories for urban violence, urban security or those with similar objectives being worked on.

Academic research on neighbourhood rioting is extensive. For example, classic studies were carried out by Lieberson and Silverman on the race riots of 1965, Robinson (1941). Classic research on rioting can be divided according to object and methodology. Existing studies are mainly about: race riots, religious riots, youth riots and urban riots. They often study a specific case and others seek for comparisons between riots, countries or cities. However, in general, all the studies on rioting have had the same objective: to understand how they happened. Some examples of these studies are: Wiviorka, 2009, Loch, 2009; Entzinger, 2009. Others pieces of research seek to understand how there are new factors such as the TICs affect riots (Tonnevold, 2009). However, there are less pieces of research on how to prognosticate riotous actions. So, from current research, political authorities get ideas on how they can, in general terms, prevent these situations: by reducing inequality, by increasing redistribution, by improving public services, by strengthening social bonds, by means of local associations, permitting participation in local elections, by the formal registration of all, by building better buildings, streets, public equipment. But they don´t predict the likelihood of rioting.