Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why is it so easy for the madness of crowds to take over

Even if the madness may only affect a minority:

From a previous post, on the bad of social media:
"In two minutes there were 100 people, in three minutes there were 1,000 people, and by the time he got to the corner of Hollywood and Highland there were 3,000 people around me. Cars couldn't go anywhere."

Instead of continuing down Hollywood Boulevard, they turned onto Highland Avenue, Duddie said.

"Another 1,000 kids ran down the street at top speed -- right down the middle of the street with traffic coming at them. It grew out of control," Duddie said.

Police asked the crowd to disperse and a riot ensued.


Police are on the streets of Tottenham, north London, where overnight riots saw petrol bombs thrown at officers and patrol cars and buildings set alight.

Eight injured police officers were taken in hospital, at least one of them with head injuries.
The unrest began after a protest over the fatal shooting by police of 29-year-old Mark Duggan on Thursday.

About 300 people gathered outside the police station on the High Road after demonstrators demanded "justice".

A friend of Mr Duggan, who gave her name as Niki, 53, said marchers had wanted "justice for the family" and "something had to be done".

She said some of them lay in the road to make their point. "They're making their presence known because people are not happy," she added.

"This guy was not violent. Yes, he was involved in things but he was not an aggressive person. He had never hurt anyone."

Vanessa Robinson said she had joined the original protest outside the police station and it had begun peacefully.

She said the situation had then turned into "absolute chaos".

In both cases it is unclear how things got out of control but it doesn’t appear to to take much. A crowd with a focus can be easily manipulated when they do not get what they want. In one case, a party (music, food, etc.) and in another peaceful protest that turned violent - all it takes is a single spark.

In some cases, it can be a good thing, for instance, the so-called Arab Spring movement. But perhaps this is just a reminder of the power of small.

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