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Riot - Nature And Elements, Riotous Conduct, Common Intent, Terror, Suppression Of Riot - Number of Persons Necessary, Purpose of Original Assembly, Persons Liable, Municipal Liability, Defenses

unlawful rioters assembled separate

A disturbance of the peace by several persons, assembled and acting with a common intent in executing a lawful or unlawful enterprise in a violent and turbulent manner.

Riot, rout, and UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY are related offenses, yet they are separate and distinct. A rout differs from a riot in that the persons involved do not actually execute their purpose but merely move toward it. The degree of execution that converts a rout into a riot is often difficult to determine.

An unlawful assembly transpires when persons convene for a purpose that, if executed, would make them rioters, but who separate without performing any act in furtherance of their purpose. For example, when a restaurant owner refused to serve a certain four customers and barred them from entering the establishment, the four men remained in front of the doors of the restaurant and blocked the entrance to all other customers. Although a riot did not result from their actions, the men were arrested and convicted of unlawful assembly.

Inciting to riot is another distinct crime, the gist of which is that it instigates a breach of the peace, even though the parties might have initially assembled for an innocent purpose. It means using language, signs, or conduct to lead or cause others to engage in conduct that, if completed, becomes a riot.

Conspiracy to riot is also a separate offense. In one case, the leader of a small Marxist group took to the streets preaching revolution and organized resistance to lawful authority. Cursing the police, he spoke about how to fight and kill them and generally advocated violent means to gain political ends. The court ruled that a person who agrees with others to organize a future riot and who commits an OVERT ACT in conformity with the agreement is guilty, not of riot, but of conspiracy to riot.

In legal usage, the term mob is practically synonymous with riot or with riotous assembly. A federal court held that night riders were a mob and that their act of burning a building constituted the crime of riot.

Number of Persons Necessary

The common law rule, and most of the statutes that define riot, require three or more persons to be involved. Some statutes fix the minimum number at two.

Purpose of Original Assembly

The jurisdictions differ on whether the original assembly must be an unlawful one. Some require premeditation by the rioters, but others prescribe that riots can arise from assemblies that were originally lawful or as a result of groups of persons who had inadvertently assembled.

Persons Liable

Principal rioters are those who are present and actively participate in the riot. All persons present who are not actually assisting in the suppression of the riot can be regarded as participants when their presence is intentional and tends to encourage the rioters.

Municipal Liability

In the absence of a statute, a MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, such as a city, town, or village, is not liable for injuries caused by mobs or riotous assemblages. Where statutes do impose liability, the particular statute determines the type of action one can institute against a city, town, or village.

Defenses

There is never any justification for a riot. The only defense that can be claimed is that an element of the offense is absent. Participation is an essential element. Establishing that an individual's presence at the scene of a riot was accidental can remove any presumption of guilt.

FURTHER READINGS

Brophy, Alfred L. 2002. Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921: Race, Reparations, and Reconcilation. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Gale, Dennis E. 1996. Understanding Urban Unrest: From Reverend King to Rodney King. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

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