Collective Violence – Examples – Part VI

It’s been yet another month-plus since I last blogged about mob violence, which continues to continue. Below are some of the latest incidents reported, and some commentary on the phenomenon by others. (And here’s why I’m doing it.)

As last time, I won’t make the Girardian connections for each of these as I have in the past, because the connections are the same as always — scapegoat is often someone from the margins (disabled, poor, stranger, female, old, young, from another caste or class or country, seen as privileged, etc. ), mob often forms spontaneously or grows larger as the scapegoating occurs due to accusatory mimesis, perpetrators easily justify the scapegoating as necessary and right, scapegoating’s intention is to bring about peace in the community.

INCIDENTS

** 18 June 2008: Mozambique Africa: Four up for Mozambican’s death: “Three men and a woman accused of stoning and burning a Mozambican to death at the weekend have briefly appeared in the Atteridgeville magistrate’s court on a charge of murder.” They “were arrested on Saturday after a mob attacked and killed Abraham Msimango (28). … Police earlier said they believed the incident was not related to xenophobia, but was rather a case of mob justice as the crowd alleged that Msimango had burnt down a shack the on Friday. … The officers had to call for back-up to disperse the angry crowd.” The victim was also robbed.

** 22 June 2008 Vadodara, Gujarat, India: Mob justice in vogue in Vadodara: “A day after women activists beat up a man in the city for allegedly selling off a woman, the city, on Saturday witnessed two more instances of mob justice. In the first case, an M S University student was beaten up by his friends [with hockey sticks] in the university hostel campus for stealing a mobile phone, while in the second case, a youth was paraded around the hospital premises after he was caught stealing a bicycle. .. Strangely in both cases, no police complaint was filed till Saturday evening. … Instances of mob-justice have been common in Vadodara. Earlier, a youth was chained to a tree, his face blackened and beaten up for breaking into a home.

** 27 June 2008, Cleveland Ohio USA: Young Teens Rob, Fatally Beat Man On E. 55th: “A Cleveland man died Wednesday night after he was beaten by a group of kids on bikes. … Police say the suspects — ages 13-15 years of age — robbed the 42-year-old prior to the fatal attack. Investigators believe the random violence took place around 9:15 p.m..”  The victim, Anthony Waters, was walking from a homeless shelter, where he lived, to his mother’s house.

** 28 June 2008 Seattle Washington USA: Seattle parking garage melee involves 50 people: “A dispute over who would be the first to exit a downtown Seattle parking garage early Saturday morning [aroun 2 a.m.] escalated into a 50-person melee and ended with one woman beaten, another stabbed in the abdomen, and a man arrested for assault, according to police. … Two separate groups, one of men and one of women, had left the restaurant and got into an argument about who would be first to exit the lot. The women, in one car, got in front. One of the men got out of another car and started an argument with the women. The man pulled one of the women out of the car and ‘began stomping on her.’ … At that point, onlookers got involved and the scene turned into a ‘free for all, a huge melee.’

** 5 July 2008 Nairobi Kenya: Mob Justice, a piece on The Raven’s blog, a travelogue of a couple living in Nairobi for six months. “Here in Kenya there is a thing called ‘mob justice.’ What it basically means is that a large group of people might attack you if they feel they have a right to do so. One example is from our driver Michael. In his apartment building a group of residents caught a thief in the act of stealing a DVD player. They chased him to the roof of the 6 story building and threw him off the building. When the police arrived and saw the dead body, the residents told the police of the stealing and how the thief by accident fell off the roof after the chase. And the later is what was written in the report, no further investigation was made.” They give another example, too, of attempted mob justice against an innocent party.

** 6 July 2008 Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya: Summer in Kibera, a second-hand account from an American college student living in Kibera, a slum area in Nairobi:

“On a different note; my house mate … went downtown last night to a few bars. When getting ready to leave, someone on the street ran past her, snatching her bag from her shoulder. The street was crowded and well lit, and the many people who saw it ran after him and beat him until he was lying in a pool of blood. She came home horrified from witnessing such an event, and it has and will continue to take a great deal of energy to convince her that it is not her fault. The sense of mob justice is prevalent here, and terrifying. While we can talk all day long about where she was, how she carried her bag, who was with her, what time it was and so on, for me it comes down the troubling process of acclimation. As a white person, no matter how acclimated to Kenya you may become, Kenya is not acclimated to you. After being somewhere for a certain amount of time you naturally become more comfortable and let you guard down. However, we stick out, are stereotyped and targeted for crime. I feel very strongly about not blaming the victim in any circumstance and instead looking at sources of crime, namely poverty, and putting energy in addressing them.”

** 6 July 2008, Haiti: Haitian official says 2 journalists killed in mob attack (AP): “Police said Saturday they are investigating an outbreak of mob violence that a Haitian politician claims resulted in the deaths of two journalists who were considering campaign runs for the Senate. … [P]olice said people in the northern town of St. Raphael were taking revenge on men they believed had robbed a local credit union” of $1,800. The two victims were identified as Prad Jean Vernet and Adrien Michel, journalists with the Haiti Progres newspaper.  A member of the mob was also killed. (The account is somewhat confused — were the two men who were attacked thieves, journalists, both? Were they targeted because they were thieves, journalists, aspiring politicians … ?)

** 9 July 2008 Seattle WA USA: Chop Suey mob beating: when is vigilante justice an appropriate response?:

“Early Sunday morning, witnesses say, a crowd of about a dozen people beat a 25-year-old man outside the Chop Suey night club on Capitol Hill after the man was ejected from the club for allegedly harassing a woman. Angelo — who witnessed the event and did not give his last name … claims he saw someone grab a folding chair … and use it to beat the man. Angelo also says no one did anything to help the man, who was left bloodied in the intersection of 14th and Pike.” In another account, Angelo says, ““All of the people in front of Chop Suey started cheering [on the attackers]. … And at least a dozen other people ran over and joined in beating the man.” [I can’t find this story reported in the Seattle Times or Seattle PI …]

** 11 July 2008 Seattle WA USA (again): Traffic circle dispute turns tragic:

“A 60-year-old Rainier Beach man seriously injured in a dispute over a neighborhood traffic circle died Thursday night at Harborview Medical Center. James Paroline had been in a coma since being punched and hitting his head on the concrete during the altercation Wednesday. … At about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Paroline was watering the little garden he had planted on the traffic circle … He ran a garden hose from his house at the corner to the traffic circle,” setting a traffic cone in the right lane to keep drivers from driving over the hose. A car of “young women drove up. One got out to tell Paroline to move the cone, police said. When he refused, the women began moving the cones themselves. Paroline sprayed one of the women with his hose. ‘When she got sprayed, she really went crazy.’ … A short time later, another car drove up and a passenger — described as an African-American man in his 20s … got out to confront Paroline. The man delivered ‘one punch.’ … The assailant then got in his car and sped off. …

“‘Most reasonable people just wait [for him to finish watering] or go the other way. But for some reason the people in the car decided to make something out of it.'” … On Thursday, some described Paroline as somewhat of a curmudgeon, who’d call the police about neighbors singing in their yard or leaving recycling bins out too long. ‘It shouldn’t have happened, but I thought he’d annoy the wrong person one day,’ said a neighbor.”  (An arrest was made; the mother of the man arrested “said her son was coming to the aid of three girls he believed had been assaulted by the victim,” one of whom is related to his girlfriend.)

** 11 July 2008 Marabastad, Praetoria, South Africa: We have resorted to mob justice: “An alleged thief, who walked past the front of a shop he burgled earlier this week, got the beating of his life when an alert shop owner saw him wearing clothes stolen from his shop. … Members of the public apprehended him and beat him, causing serious injuries. ‘We have resorted to mob justice here, because we are fed up with the crime in this area.'”

** 22 July 2008 Ahmedabad, Pakistan: Mob violence grips walled city: “Two groups clashed in three pols of Raipur and Khadia where a function to pay homage to Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela by Congress workers did not find support with other residents. Khadia is a known BJP stronghold. Violence spread to other parts of the walled city and turned communal. Heavy stone-pelting and arson was reported from Delhi Chakla and Ghee Kanta. Sources said Ghee Kanta police chowky was also attacked by a mob. It had all started with a rally organized to pay homage to the two boys by carrying candles in their memory. The two rival groups clashed as the rally emerged. … The police … had to toil well into the night as sporadic incidents of violence continued in the inner lanes and bylanes of Khadia.”

[I include this because it shows well, in such a short account, how violence can be evoked by sacred ritual and how it spreads and persists.]

ANALYSIS

** 4 July 2008 Karachi Pakistan:  Mystery behind mob violence by Salis bin Perwaiz at The News International (Pakistan):

Speaking of recent incidents in which ‘bandits’ were “torched alive,” Perwaiz offers some reasons for mob violence: (1) people have lost their faith in law enforcement agencies; (2) street crime has increased dramatically: “The every day killing and looting of citizens has caused a severe revulsion among the people and unleashed a deadly hatred which is shown in the aforementioned brutal and savage manner with which the criminals were set on fire. This is a direct example of the deep seated mental agony and psychological make-up of the society, which has decided to take on the criminals on their own out of utter frustration and desperation.” (3) an organised gang involved behind these pyromaniac attempts who want to discredit the present government; “moreover, under the guise of punishing dacoits, some are settling their personal scores by calling their enemies dacoits and killing them on the spot with the help of frustrated people.  … When asked about the morality of the enraged mobs, the investigators categorically said that there is, in fact, ethical justification for such heinous acts.”

“Investigators believe that a racket of criminals have become active in distributing CDs containing these incidents of torching bandits in order to spread sensationalism in the society.

** 7 July 2008 Bangladesh: Mob Violence, a blog entry by kajalie: 

“Whether a mugging, road accident, or protests against a national policy — whenever something goes wrong in our country, violence breaks out. Actions one would never even imagine taking individually are carried out by groups or ‘the mob’. Is this anger a response to a failing social system where people feel forced to take the law into their own hands? Does this violence erupt all of a sudden, or is it dormant inside us all, just waiting for a trigger to set it off?”

Several examples are given, then the writer talks about the etymology of ‘mob,’ the history of mob violence, and, at length, characteristics of mob violence and dynamics of fear, anger and frustration:

* “A mob develops a mind of its own with individuals becoming highly vulnerable and suggestible to the will of the collective group. Crowds are essentially contagious...”.

* “A crowd becomes a mob in steps. First, something exciting or interesting happens —  the trigger — for example, a mugging or a road accident. Then, the focus of the crowd converges on a common element as emotions strengthen and, united around this issue or object, individuals escalate into a behaviour that is then imitated by others. For example, someone may start to beat the mugger, followed by others, or someone may smash a car window, leading others to follow and ultimately set the car on fire. But, while crowds are affected by emotions spiralling out of control, their behaviour may also be rational responses to political, social, religious, racial and/or economic catalysts. People may also participate in such violence because of their novelty in an otherwise routine life, for emotional release, to feel powerful, or simply to go with the flow, feeling no individual moral responsibility or normal constraints on their behaviour, sometimes, with participants not even being clearly aware of what is happening.”

I can’t do justice to the entry in a summary, so please, read it yourself.

** 17 July 2008: Nigeria: Footage of Thieves Burnt Alive in Nigeria, at Max Siollun’s Website:

“[T]hieves being lynched and burnt alive by an irate mob is not an uncommon site [sic] in Nigeria. The Nigerian public has suffered various depravities such as rape, the loss of prized possessions, cash, physical injury and death of family members at the hands of robbers. Having been terrorized by them for decades, the Nigerian public usually deals ruthlessly and unsympathetically with captured thieves and armed robbers. There is no sympathy for robbers. Thieves and robbers that are caught in the act by the public are usually set upon by a mob, have a tyre flung around their neck and are burnt alive in instant vigilante jungle justice.

“Why do usually easy going Nigerians resort to such savagery? [Various causes given.] … When the public catch a robber, it presents the public with an un-missable opportunity for vengeance against those that so terrorise them. A public lynching and burning of a robber is a ritual display of the public’s (a) revenge, and revulsion with the robber’s atrocities, and (b) outright rejection of a corrupt and inefficient penal and justice system.”

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