It’s been about nine months 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.)
To repeat, some elements of conformity of collective violence with mimetic theory include:
* there exist high levels of social unrest and/or conflict in the community
* the scapegoating is justified by the direct perpetrators and perhaps others, and it is often called “justice”
* the scapegoating brings about a temporary feeling of security, balance, power, relief; it relieves the pre-existing ‘bad’ feelings of fear, powerlessness, anger, envy, alienation, etc., even if only in the moment
* those on the margins of society (high or low) will be the most likely victims; however, victims are fairly interchangeable once violence begins, so another hallmark is that seemingly unsimilar victims can be substituted with ease
* a small group may directly attack the victim, while a larger group gives tacit approval
7 March 2011, Patna, Bihar, India: Suspected thief lynched in Bihar: “A mob in a Bihar village lynched an unidentified man who was suspected to be a thief, police said Monday. The man in his late 20s was beaten to death in Pakadiya village in Sitamarhi district late Sunday night. … Police said he was thrashed and his head was crushed with bricks and bamboo sticks.”
12 March, Degai, Pali, Rajasthan, India: Mob burns house, 4 kids among 9 killed: “Nine persons, including four children, were killed when a mob set on fire the house of a man who, along with three others, had allegedly killed the gram pradhan of Degai village. According to the police, gram pradhan Deena Nath, 45, was killed by rival Dwarika Dubey and three of his relatives …. Those who were killed in the fire were all members of Dubey’s extended family.”
Dubey and his relatives allegedly got into an argument with Nath, and one of them shot him with “a countrymade pistol,” then shot him again when he ran away, and then “attacked him with axe and sticks.” After the police arrested the four men, “a mob of villagers marched to Dubey’s house and set it on fire.”
Elements of mimetic theory: Surrogate victims (e.g., children, people other than those accused of a crime or sin) are acceptable. General social unrest and conflict in the village (people are known to be “rivals” of each other; people don’t trust police to bring about justice).
13 March 2011, La Libertad, Guatemala: Mob Lynches 2 Suspected Thieves in Northwestern Guatemala: “A mob of Indians lynched two suspected thieves in Guatemala’s northwestern Huehuetenango province, the National Civil Police reported Sunday …. with the enraged mob beating and stoning two brothers – ages 20 and 21 – to death. The mob attacked the two men, police said, after they were accused of looting a business in the area. … Police also said, however, that the two men had not committed any crime and were sitting peacefully outside when they were attacked by the angry mob.”
Elements of mimetic theory: Obviously, a lot we’re not told here, like why two men “sitting peacefully” were set on by an angry mob. The article also notes that instances of mob violence have increased in Guatemala since the mid-1990s, in localities “where the security forces and judicial authorities are not much in evidence.” In mob ‘justice’ that occurs where there isn’t faith in a judicial system, we often see suspected thieves murdered. I wonder if there is any element of fear of doubles in this lynching, with two brothers being killed….
17 March, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, India: Police officer burnt alive in mob violence in Rajasthan: A police officer was burnt alive when his car was set on fire, and 15 policemen were injured “in violence and arson by a mob angry over the suicide of a youth in Surlas village on the outskirts of the town.” The young man who committed suicide lit himself on fire and jumped into a water tower after his demands were not met for an arrest in the murder of a woman that occurred on 25 February. “Agitated over his death, the villagers turned violent, threw stones at the police and set on fire two police jeeps and tried to prevent the cops from escaping from the burning vehicles.”
Elements of mimetic theory: The cycle of retribution continues. The young man killed himself in anger, which led to his followers mimetically killing others in anger (even using the same method of fire), stemming from both the original murder and the young man’s suicide on her behalf.
20 March 2011, La Rinconada, Ananea, Peru: Mob Burns Alive Three Gold Thieves in Peru: “The incident occurred on Friday when a group of criminals entered a gold storage center in the town of La Rinconada, in the Ananea district, and took a quantity of the precious metal. However, a group of townspeople organized themselves to capture the men and managed to apprehend four thieves, who were carrying the stolen gold with them. After a quick informal ‘trial,’ the villagers decided to burn three of the men alive …. Police tried to rescue the criminals, but the mob did not allow them to approach the spot where they were carrying out the lynching. … Apparently, the townspeople justified their action by saying they were intending to put a stop to recent thefts of gold they had mined.”
Elements of mimetic theory: Mob lynching is seen as OK when done against criminals/thieves and when justified as a means to prevent the taking of one’s property (i.e., the lynch mob is taking control of the situation and restoring peace). In this case, there was even a ‘trial,’ a process that lends additional justification.
21 March 2011, Manama, Bahrain: Harrowing tale of Pakistani policemen lynched in Bahrain: Kashif Mehmood, a 20-year-old member of the Bahraini police force, was “lynched and murdered by an angry mob when a police unit, which Kashif was a part of, was ordered to move in against protesters gathered at Pearl Square in Manama.”
Kashif was of Pakistani origin, as was his police partner, who was run over and killed by protestors, and another policeman who was critically injured after being taunted and humiliated as a Pakistani. Kashif, “who barely survived the first onslaught, was kidnapped and taken to an empty ground. Videos posted online show that groups of young men then took turns in kicking and clobbering with sticks Kashif’s lifeless body. Even though it was apparent that he was dead, the protesters proceeded to mutilate his body, with groups of young men in their SUVs repeatedly running over the corpse. The incident bore an eerie resemblance to the Sialkot lynching incident, where the onlookers cheered on as the victim was tortured. … Gruesome images and videos of his death have appeared all over the internet. Many have also posted hateful and racist slogans under them, against the Pakistani community in Bahrain.”
Elements of mimetic theory: The policemen attacked and killed are marginalised, even though they may have been born and lived in Bahrain all their lives, because of their outsider status as Pakistanis, as well as belonging to the police. The protestors who killed them cheered, and continued to attack and mutilate the bodies long after their victims were dead, apparently because attacking and killing these men made them feel good and brought some kind of relief to them. There was obviously already civil unrest, as the police were trying to quell protests.
25 March, Chicago, IL, USA: Man jailed for 32 years for killing honours student aged 16 by stomping on his skull in street brawl
This is the report of a judicial sentence resulting from 2009 mob violence, when Derrion Albert was killed by “a mob of American teenagers” who hit him with wooden planks, punched him in the face, and stomped on him after he was on the ground. A bystander filmed the attack on her mobile phone. One of the attackers (there seem to have been at least seven of them) was aged 14 at the time.
This fight apparently sprang from “a shooting earlier that day that police called gang-related” and by all accounts, Albert was caught in the middle of a “street fight [that] escalated from a dispute between two factions at Albert’s high school to a beating that left the honor student dead.”
Elements of mimetic theory: This fight was in retaliation for an earlier attack. There are certain kinds of sacrificeable victims (in this case, an honours student who is marginal to the rivals) — but any victim, even one on whom an attack cannot be easily justified by the scapegoaters, will do in a pinch, as violence is highly mimetic and will accept surrogate victims as violence escalates. Besides the men involved in the beating, there were obviously onlookers — at least one, the one who videotaped it all.
27 March, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, India: Swami Agnivesh, journalists attacked in Dantewada:
“A large group” including Special Police Officers (SPOs) and the Salwa Judum (“a controversial tribal vigilante group” armed by the government) attacked a social activist, Swami Agnivesh, who was attempting to deliver relief aid to a village where the SPOs had recently burned 300 structures, and had “killed three men and sexually assaulted three women during a five-day anti-Maoist operation.”
On Saturday morning, a group surrounded Agnivesh’s vehicle,
“pelted him with raw eggs, knocked off his turban and pushed him around. … [T]he crowd accused Mr. Agnivesh of turning a blind eye to the plight of victims of Maoist violence.” In the afternoon, a crowd again attacked him, stoning his vehicle. “Reporters at the site said a crowd of nearly 2,000 people at Dornapal attacked mediapersons and broke several cameras. … Mr. Agnivesh [said] ‘This was an attack on the administration by an unaccountable lynch mob.'”
Elements of mimetic theory: The justification here seems to be, at least in part, that Agnivesh was rendering aid to alleged Maoists, who are (say the anti-Maoists) actually persecutors and not the victims they seem to be; though we know from earlier reports that the anti-Maoists are also persecutors. The persecutors see themselves as victims. They feel the killing is completely justified, entirely necessary and powerfully beneficent. Obviously, there is social and political unrest in this area, with Communists and anti-Maoists attacking each other.
28 March 2011, all over Italy: Report: Italy must act to end racist and xenophobic violence. A report on “intolerance in Italy toward immigrants and minorities, … [and] violence against vulnerable groups,” such as the Roma and Sinti, based on a recent Human Rights Watch study (full report here):
“Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at HRW, said: ‘The government spends far more energy blaming migrants and Roma for Italy’s problems than it does on efforts to stop violent attacks on them.'”
The comment of a young man: “‘Romanians have stealing in their DNA. I work with a Romanian, but at night, we’re enemies. If I see him, I beat him up.'”
Just a few of the instances of mob violence documented in the report include:
— “For two nights in a row, on September 19 and 20, 2007, a mob of some 40 men wearing ski masks attacked an improvised Roma settlement in the Ponte Mammolo area of Tiburtina, a district of Rome. According to media reports, the men were armed with Molotov cocktails, iron bars, bats, and chains.”
— “Following the rape and murder of a 47-year-old Italian woman in late October 2007 by a Romanian man arrested immediately after the crime, two separate attacks targeted Romanians. A group of 10 to 12 people, reportedly including one woman, attacked a group of Romanians in a shopping mall parking lot in Tor Bella Monaca on November 2, 2007,” armed with bats and chains.
–In Ponticelli, Naples in May 2008, after a teenaged Roma girl was accused of kidnapping a baby, a series of violent attacks on Roma settlements in the area followed, including a mob that “attacked and stabbed a Romanian man on the street as he returned home and a group of 300 to 400 people who assaulted a Roma settlement with wooden and metal clubs,” throwing stones at homes, overturning cars and making threats.
— The October 2008 brutal beating of a Chinese man by a group of [at least 7] youngsters as he waited for a bus in Tor Bella Monaca, a district of Rome that has seen numerous attacks on immigrants. In this case, the attackers shouted racist insults, such as ‘shitty Chinaman.'”
— “In February 2009, two adults and a 16-year-old attacked an Indian man in Nettuno, near Rome, beating him and then dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire.”
— “On the night of February 15, 2009, a mob of some 20 men with their faces covered and armed with bats entered a kebab restaurant in the Porta Furba area of Rome and attacked those inside. Four Romanians were injured in the attacks, two of them requiring hospitalization. Later that night, not far away, a Romanian man was attacked by a similar group. The attacks followed the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a nearby park on February 14; the press reported that the police were looking for two men with Eastern European accents.”
— Samba Sow, a 31-old Senegalese man, was attacked on the night of April 12, 2009, after going to a bar near where he lived to buy a phone card. When his car would not start as he tried to go home, a group of five or six men began to insult him and make fun of his car, saying things like, ‘Shitty nigger, look what a crap car you have.…’ Sow got out of his car when he saw someone he knew, and one of the men struck him in the face with a beer bottle. Sow permanently lost the use of his left eye in the attack.”
— In January 2010, there were two days of violence between migrant workers and locals in the small town of Rosarno, sparked by two separate attacks on migrant workers. Then “a group of African workers organized protests against the shootings that evening and the following day, which turned violent as some protestors smashed storefront windows, damaged cars, and burned tires. In the most serious episode attributed to migrants, a woman and her children were forced out of their car, the woman was hit in the face with a rock, and the car was set on fire. Over the next two days, violence against African seasonal migrant workers escalated,” with “at least nine more targeted attacks on African migrants,” including “mobs of men wielding sticks and iron bars [who] attacked six African migrants in separate incidents. Besides shootings and beatings, there were “two attempts to run migrants over with vehicles, and an arson attack on a house occupied by migrant workers.”
— “On March 14, 2010, a group of 15 to 20 people attacked a bar owned by two Bengali brothers in the Magliana neighborhood of Rome. Four people were injured in the attack, including Mahbub Miah, one of the owners, who was beaten with wooden bats in the head and the face and suffered a puncture injury in his arm.” Six people were arrested, some under age 18.
Elements of mimetic theory: Those targeted for violence are those on the margins: immigrants, migrants, Roma, those with different traditions or cultural habits. In some cases, there were high levels of social unrest in the community (e.g., in Rosarno between migrants and locals). The scapegoating is justified as justice for crimes believed to be committed by people from the same ethnic group. If you read the full report, you’ll see that while small mobs committed the violence, others stood around and watched without intervening (one person attacked in Rosarno recounts: “I saw eight people. … All of them beat me. They beat me with sticks on my side, on my head, everywhere. There were other people around, watching but not helping me, not calling an ambulance. I saw faces in the windows of apartments, watching.“)
30March 2011, La Democracia, Guatemala: Guatemala mob publicly lynches, burns 3 accused of stealing truckload of coffee. Very similar to the story above from mid-March in La Libertad, Guatemala … In this case, three men — including two brothers — “were publicly lynched by a mob after being accused of stealing a truckload of coffee in rural Guatemala.” Residents “caught the men, beat them, hung them and then torched their gasoline-sprayed bodies…. Police said some 3,000 people were involved in the lynching, erecting barricades to the entrance to the town to keep authorities from intervening.”
Elements of mimetic theory: 3000 people involved in the killings! Very much as above. In mob ‘justice’ that occurs where there isn’t faith in a judicial system, we often see suspected thieves murdered. Again I wonder if there is any element of fear of doubles in this lynching, with two brothers being killed ….