Collective Violence Examples, Part IX

It’s been about three months since I last blogged about mob violence. Nonetheless, it has continued in many forms, often instigated by or targeting children. Below are some of the latest incidents reported as mob violence or mob justice. (And here’s why I’m doing it.)

In several of these accounts, it’s not rage, outrage, vengeance, retribution, fear or overt conflict that prompts the attacks — but simply the emptiness and hopelessness of boredom.


All 2008 : Many anti-semitic incidents around the world, including direct attacks against people as well as vandalism, outlined in detail Ruth Gledhill’s column at TimesOnline. A few:

* In January in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine: “A teacher at a Jewish educational centre was severely beaten. Rabbi Dov-Ber Baitman was assaulted after evening classes at the centre by four men shouting anti-Semitic slurs.”

* In January in Manchester, England, UK: “Three Orthodox Jewish men were attacked by a group of fifteen white youths. One youth shouted ‘dirty fucking Jews’ and hit one of the Jewish men in the face with a knuckleduster, knocking him unconscious.”

* In April in London: “A Rabbi was walking down the street when a gang of youths on bicycles surrounded him, called him a ‘f*****g Jew’ and kicked and punched him.”

* In May in Warka, Poland:  “A group of teenagers allegedly attacked an Orthodox American Jew as he was visiting a Jewish cemetery this suburb near Warsaw. The perpetrators allegedly mocked their victim, asked him for money and shouted ‘Jew’ in Polish before punching him in the face.”

* In June in Paris: “A teenager was in critical condition after a violent assault by a gang of youths who beat him with metal bars after apparently identifying him as Jewish. The 17-year-old youth suffered several broken ribs and a fractured skull.”

* In November in Prague: “Three men in their early twenties attacked an identifiably Jewish man in the city centre. The assailants shouted insults, threw cobblestones and kicked the victim.”

* In December in Villeurbanne, France: “A Jewish student wearing a yarmulke was walking with his fiancée in the town centre, when they were attacked from behind by three youths. The student suffered a broken nose.”


JAN.  2009

Philadelphia, USA: 19-year-old high school senior Walter Jonathan Pinder “was attacked by a group of about 10 teens on a Saturday afternoon in January and injured so severely that he required surgery, according to court records.  His attackers forced him to fight them one by one until he was ‘exhausted and overwhelmed’ and ‘finally gave up,’ then stabbed him repeatedly, a police report said.  Two 16-year-olds have been charged with attempted murder. … It is not clear from court records what prompted the attack on Walter.”


12 January, Nepal: A young woman journalist with “strong point of views on women’s rights, caste and dowry systems and also for various political issues,” was killed, “suspectedly by the supporters of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is in power at Kathmandu now.” Uma Singh “was hacked to death at her house in Janakpur area of southern Nepal by a group of unidentified armed men.” She was “attacked by around 15 men armed with traditional Nepali curved knives (known as Khukhri).”


FEB.  2009

10 Feb, Kalamazoo, MI, USA: A large group of people — 40 to 50 males — stood and watched as “fewer than 10” others assaulted 49-year-old bicyclist Timothy Stafford, who is developmentally disabled. All are thought to be teens or young men.  Stafford was in critical condition a few days later, having been assaulted with a bottle and then punched as he lay on the ground.  An eyewitness “said he had seen no specific evidence that the attack was anything other than random violence by young people congregating on an unseasonably warm winter evening.” More.


MARCH  2009


Reaction to AIG executive bonuses (amounting to 1/10 of 1% of their bailout money) and reaction to the reaction:

(1) MSNBC:

“Boy, that escalated quickly: We predicted that the AIG bonuses story would lead politicians to begin channeling their inner populist. …  As the Washington Post recounts, New York Attorney General (and possible 2010 gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo said he was issuing subpoenas; more than 80 House Democrats signed a letter demanding that the money used to pay the bonuses be recouped from AIG; House Minority Leader John Boehner warned that there would no GOP support for future bailouts; and even Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested in a radio interview that AIG executives ‘follow the Japanese model … resign, or go commit suicide.’ The Post adds that an aide later explained that Grassley ‘does not actually want executives to kill themselves.’ Well, um, thanks for the clarification. So it is no wonder Wall Street firms may feel the need for extra security…”

(2) President Obama compared the AIG execs to suicide bombers:

“‘The same is true with AIG,’ [Obama] said. ‘It was the right thing to do to step in. Here’s the problem. It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up. But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger.'”

(3) Joe Nocera writing in the NYT (“The Problem with Flogging AIG“) notes that one email sent to the company reads: “All the executives and their families should be executed with piano wire — my greatest hope,” and comments, “this week, the body politic ran off the rails.”


19 March, New Delhi, India: “Villagers in eastern India burned eight suspected robbers alive and beat four others to death, police said Thursday. …  Crowds of villagers beat four suspected robbers to death after a chase and set fire to the house where eight others took shelter … killing them as well.”


APRIL 2009


2 April  New Delhi, India: 25-year-old Hari Om, a trader in types and tubes,  “was beaten to death by five unidentified men as he tried to stop them from assaulting the driver of the vehicle in which he was transporting goods. … ‘According to the passers-by, the argument broke out on a trivial issue'”: Om’s driver was asked to reverse their 3-wheeled vehicle on a road that was blocked, but he said he couldn’t because the reverse gear wasn’t working.  “‘At this, the occupants of the [other] car turned furious and tried to beat him but Hari Om intervened. At this, the men assaulted him instead.”


4 April, Surat, India: “Three months after a 10-year-old boy was tied up to a tree and mercilessly beaten up by people and the security guard of a temple for stealing a pair of shoes from the premises, an official complaint has been registered with the Punagam police station. … Nurulla Ansari (10), a resident of the slums near Kamela Darwaja, was caught stealing by some people from the main gate of the Sai Baba Temple. … The police said the victim comes from a poor family. ”


17 April, Milwaukee WI, USA: “J.T. Downs, 76, was beaten on Friday in the alley of the city block where he has lived for nearly 40 years. Leroy Bentley III, 18, has been charged with aggravated battery, and the criminal complaint lists two other suspects, one 15 and the other 13. … Downs told police that he was first rushed from the back, then hit with a stick, then attacked by others. Investigators said that the beating was so severe that doctors could not save one of his eyes, which had to be surgically removed.  Bentley told police that he attacked the elderly man because he was bored.” The police chief said that recognizes “that there is something else out there that’s going on out there, that we can produce a number of young folks who think that this is some form of recreation.”


MAY 2009

Child and Elderly “Witches” in Africa


“Christian Eshiett was a rambunctious pre-teen who spent a lot of time cavorting with his friends in southern Nigeria. He would skip school and run away from home for days, frustrating his grandfather, who oversaw the boy’s care.

‘I beat him severely with canes until they broke, yet he never shed a tear,’ said Eshiett Nelson Eshiett, 76. ‘One day, I took a broom to hit him and he started crying. Then I knew he was possessed by demons. … Nigerian witches are terrified of brooms.’

“From that day two years ago, Christian, now 14, was branded a witch. The abuse intensified.

“‘They would take my clothes off, tie me up and beat me,’ he told CNN in a telephone interview.

“The teen is one of the so-called witch children in Eket, a city in oil-rich Akwa Ibom state of Nigeria.

“They are blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to ‘cleanse’ them of their supposed magical powers.

“‘Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession,’ said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region.

“Many of those targeted have traits that make them stand out, including learning disabilities, stubbornness and ailments such as epilepsy, he added.

“The issue of ‘child witches’ is soaring in Nigeria and other parts of the world, Foxcroft said.”

Central African Republic:

“Laurent (not his real name) was 10 years old when he was sent to live with his uncle, aunt and their two little boys in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic (CAR). One day his cousin fell seriously ill.

“‘For two weeks, my uncle beat me every single day. He called me a witch. He said there was a beast living inside of me,’ says Laurent. …

“‘In the end, I ran away. I had a broken arm and my head was bleeding from the blows of a machete,’ he said. ‘I’m not a witch. I don’t know what a witch is.’ …

“Laura (also a pseudonym), 15, is from a small village in southern CAR. Her parents died when she was very young, and an aunt took care of her.

“‘I often walked in my sleep, and I had bad dreams. Voices would tell me worrisome things, like I had to follow certain people, even eat their hearts,’ Laura says, adding that she decided to tell her aunt of the nightmares.

“‘After I spoke to my aunt, the suspicions began,’ she recalls. ‘People in the village accused me of things that went wrong. I was accused of causing illnesses, of deaths, of being responsible for the loss of things.’

“Hundreds, or even thousands, of children and elderly people – women in particular – have been accused of being witches in CAR. Belief in witchcraft is widespread in the region, but accusing children is a more recent development.

Increased hardship resulting from decades of armed conflict and widespread poverty could be a catalyst behind the phenomenon. Or, as studies in neighbouring countries suggest, accusations of witchcraft may be an expression of the inability of families to solve a crisis or cope with death and illness. …

“‘I find that sometimes sending an accused child or woman to prison offers the best solution in protecting the person from mob violence, which often leads to death,‘ says Mr. Ngovon [a lawyer in the court at Mbaiki].”


Reported in May: Haiti:

“In Cité Soleil, a dozen street children start pummeling a young girl. It’s not known why. But within seconds word has spread that a fight is on. Hordes of children with matted hair and ragged clothes race to the scene, glad of anything to relieve the monotony of yet another day with nothing to do. Weary parents pull their children away, leaving the shaken girl to escape.”


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