It’s been about six weeks since I last blogged about mob violence. It continues in many forms. Below are some of the latest incidents reported as mob violence or mob justice. (And here’s why I’m doing it.)
This period, many of the attacks are of a racial or xenophobic nature, against those perceived to be ‘lower’, whether because of race, social class, age, or sexual identity. There are also several cases where the mob turns it sights onto another victim who intervenes to help the original victim.
Oct. 2008 – June 2009, attacks on Indians in Australia:
Australian Police says they have recorded 500 cases of assault on Indian students between October 2008 and March 2009….
* Rajesh Kumar, a student suffered 30 per cent burns on Tuesday after a suspected petrol bomb was hurled at him in home in Harris Park in Sydney, Australia.
* Ashish Sood “was badly beaten up by a group of 15 youngsters. … He, along with three others, was attacked by the group ‘who started teasing and bullying them for nothing and then pounced on them.'”
* Baljinder Singh was robbed and stabbed in Melbourne as he pleaded with his attackers to spare his life.
* 21-year-old Shravan Kumar and his three Indian friends being brutally attacked with screwdrivers by a group of drunk teenagers, who gatecrashed their party. Shravan sustained severe brain injury.
* Four minors were charged in a case in early May involving “the brutal bashing of a 21-year-old Indian student, Sourabh Sharma, on a train.”
* A 24-year-old Gujarat student was attacked by a group of men in Melbourne: “This is the latest in a spate of racial assaults against Indian students in Australia. As he was about to enter his car, he was punched in the face, hit on the head from behind, and went unconscious. He was also robbed.
* An Indian student from Gujarat was attacked at the Newport Station in Melbourne with a cricket and baseball bat, and another student who witnessed the attack was chased by the offenders.
Though the papers sometimes identify the attacks as racial, and the India High Commissioner has asserted that racism is a factor in some of the incidents, “police believe the attacks are opportunistic as Indian students travel alone at odd hours because of their work and study requirements. ” Indian students feel that police and train inspectors are not willing to intervene on their behalf.
22 May, Dominican Republic: Haitian Migrants Targets of Mob Violence: “Carlos Nerílus was tortured and beheaded … as an angry mob watched and took pictures. There is no evidence that local authorities took any action to stop the lynching.”
Apparently, the killing by the “inflamed throng,” which is said to have “applauded and laughed,” was in response to the stabbing murder of a Dominican by his Haitian worker.
“Haitian immigrants have increasingly been victims of mob violence in recent years. A report by Amnesty International found there to be ‘deep rooted racial discrimination’ against Haitians in the Dominican Republic.”
23 May, Bihar, Patna, India: Rape accused lynched in Bihar: “A man accused of raping a four-year-old girl … was beaten to death by an irate group of people in Naugachia in Bhagalpur” the day after he allegedly raped the girl. Subhash Yadav, in his mid-20s, “an auto-rickshaw driver, was caught from a house he was hiding in and thrashed, which led to his death.”
24 May, Australia: Good Samaritan Killed: A 29-year-old man was stabbed five times after he had intervened to help protect another man who was minutes before being attacked by “three Asian men” near a nightclub : “Witnesses pleaded for his attackers to stop as they continued to kick him as he laid on the ground.”
The man killed wasn’t the original target of violence but the attackers’ rage quickly transferred to him, a common feature of mimetic violence.
4 June, Guinea: Fury at Guinea ‘burn thief’ idea: “A senior member of Guinea’s military government has been criticised after he called for robbers to be burnt alive. … Capt Camara had said the country’s prisons were full already and it was better to kill those who killed others. … ‘I am asking you to burn alive armed bandits who are caught red-handed,’ Capt Camara said at a meeting discussing security measures in the capital, Conakry.”
Obviously, this isn’t an incidence of mob violence but an incitement to widespread mob violence by an officer of the law. Human rights groups decried it.
6 June, Xenophobia: Postcommunist Societies Remain Acutely Susceptible To Racism. Few recent examples of mob violence in an article that speaks mostly in generalities about the pervasive nature and effects of xenophobia in Eastern Europe. Of note, though, is its assertion that attacks against ethnic minorities, “particularly Roma — one of the most victimized groups in Serbia and indeed Europe — have continued unabated.”
9 June, Seattle, WA, USA: Transgender person assaulted: “A group of teens beat a transgender person and threatened to kill her.” The victim, who is partway through her change from being a man to a woman, was attacked at a bus stop by teens (13 or 14 years old), one of whom told police that they didn’t bother the victim “until she solicited him for sex.” The victim, in her 30s, said that the teens hit and kicked her while one tried to take her backpack. She got away, but they “charged again, knocking her to the ground. She said she heard a homophobic term said when she was being beaten.” She thinks that she was targeted because she sometimes wears skirts.
13 June, Surat, India: Gangrape accused thrashed by angry people: “Three men arrested for the alleged gangrape of a teenager in Surat were attacked by angry people at the city hospital where they were taken for a medical checkup by the police. The men, two of them sons of policemen, were being taken out of the hospital … when they were surrounded by a large group of people, including women. The accused were thrown to the ground, punched and kicked by the mob as the policemen tried to fend off the attackers. The chaos continued for over 20 minutes …. ”
The men are accused of abducting a 17-year-old girl and her male friend, posing as policemen to force them into their car, and raping the girl in the car with her friend tied up inside as well.
In most of these mob violence cases, there’s generally a point at which the mob, wielding profane or chaotic violence, comes up against the police and the legal system, symbols of sacred or orderly violence, the legal system in most places being a largely retributive system whose purpose is to use a minimal amount of violence to check and subvert a society’s capacity for uncontained violence and vengeance. In this case, the irony of the juxtaposition is even stronger because the lawbreakers who were themselves subjected to violence by other lawbreakers were imitating (consciously) and echoing (genetically) law-upholders.
14 June, Nagpur, India: Mob goes berserk as truck crushes boy: “Agitated citizens pelted stones damaging a state transport bus and police vehicle after a nine-year-old boy came under the wheels of a heavy truck on Nagpur-Amravati road at Waddhamna on Saturday evening. Police had to resort to mild caning to disperse the mob after the mishap triggered violent reaction.” The 9-year-old and an 11-year-old cousin were riding cycles when the cousin jumped from his cycle, “while trying to negotiate an elevation on the road, which is under construction.” His cousin didn’t do the same , lost his balance and was crushed by a 10-wheeler truck coming from the other direction. The driver fled the scene.
20 June, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Peacemaker dad hacked to death: “Kishore Ramdayal, 50, of Copesville was attacked with a bush-knife after he allegedly intervened in a dispute between neighbours last Sunday afternoon. His eldest son, who asked not to be named, said his father was watching wrestling on television when he heard a commotion outside. His father tried to help a man who was being attacked by a group of men and women. … Ramdayal’s neck was severed and his face was bruised.” Two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old were “arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly assaulting another person with an iron rod during the same attack.”
21 June, Buffalo, NY, USA: Two beaten by group using racial slurs: “Two men were attacked by a group of assailants who used racial slurs while they punched and stomped them.”
22 June, Seattle, WA, USA: Women Reportedly Attacked By Kids, Dog In SeaTac: A group of four kids, aged 11, 12, 13 and 15, used a pit bull dog to attack two women, aged 41 and 63, in separate incidents. In the first case, the 63-year-old woman tried to intervene to stop “the group of four kids repeatedly kicking a pit bull dog.” She was told to mind her own business before the kids pulled her from the car, where the oldest child, the only girl, punched her repeatedly and a boy in the group “reportedly ran over with the dog who began biting her.”
In the second case, a 41-year-old woman who witnessed the first attack followed the group; when they realised they were being followed, the 15-year-old girl head-butted and punched the woman, which incited the dog to violence, egged on by the rest of the group. That woman was seriously wounded.
28 June, Speyer, Germany: Elderly Gang Tortures Financial Planner: A group of four “wealthy, elderly pensioners” is accused of “kidnapping and torturing a financial adviser who lost some $4 million of their savings.” The financial planner was kidnapped for four days, bound with duct tape, and driven around in the trunk of a car. He was also allegedly “burned with cigarettes, beaten, had two ribs broken, was hit with a chair leg and chained up ‘like an animal.'”
About half the commenters to the article cited above seem to think it’s funny and/or justifiable to take revenge in this way. More here.
29 June, Botswana and Zimbabwe: Mob Justice Over Cattle Theft: Farmers in Botswana have threatened to invade Zimbabwe if their government does not intervene “in the rampant stock theft paralysing the cattle farming community. … Mob justice over the cattle thefts has already turned violent in Botswana, after a mob set fire to the house of a man suspected of being involved in cattle rustling. Two children sustained serious burns in the attack and were hospitalised.”
29 June, Dieplsloot, South Africa: Constant Fear and Mob Rule in South Africa Slum.
If you want a glimpse into the despair and misery that is the life of a poor person in South Africa (and probably in many places), read this article. It’s an article about crime in an impoverished slum on the edge of Johannesburg, perpetrated by the poor against the poor.
A few excerpts:
“The suspects were awaiting the final cathartic wrath of the mob, the torment of being burned alive, wrapped in the fatal shawl of a gasoline-soaked blanket. Then suddenly they were saved from that hideous death by the brave intervention of a local politician. ‘Let the police handle this,’ he implored.
“As usual, the police arrived late on that recent evening, and many in the mob angrily objected to their being there at all.”
“In Diepsloot, people usually bear their losses in silence, their misfortune unreported and their offenders unknown. If a suspect is identified, victims usually inform quasi-legal vigilante groups or hire their own thugs to recover their property.” One method of the vigilante groups is to “chain prisoners down and pour saltwater on their buttocks to soften the skin. Then they wield a heavy plastic cane called a sjambok. A dozen or so whacks are usually enough.”
“South Africa is a young democracy, and people have yet to trust the government for protection. Under apartheid, the police were agents of state repression. Now, says Antony Altbeker, a criminologist, attitudes toward law enforcement have ‘turned from hatred into contempt.’
“There is also the impromptu mob justice, when an apprehended suspect becomes the sacrificial culprit for a thousand grievances.”