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How riots spread between cities: Introducing the police pathway





Waves of riots are politically and psychologically significant national events. The role of police perceptions and practices in spreading unrest between cities has been neglected in previous research, even though the police are significant actors in these events. We examined the role of police interventions in the spread of rioting to one English city in August 2011 by triangulating multiple data sources and analysing police accounts and community participant interviews. Rioting in other cities had relatively little direct influence in the community, but led to heightened vigilance in the police. The resultant police mobilization inadvertently created a large gathering in a local community with a history of hostile relations with police. Police attempts to disperse the crowd affected many more people than those originally intending to riot, leading to collective conflict. These findings support a new theoretical account of the role of policing in riot spread. Complementing existing accounts of diffusion, our study helps explain how self-fulfilling prophecy can operate to spread conflict between cities.

Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2021
Publication Date Oct 12, 2021
Journal Political Psychology
Print ISSN 0162-895X
Publisher Wiley
Keywords riots; social identity; social influence; empowerment; police; civil unrest
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