Civil disorder

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Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest or civil strife, is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of unrest caused by a group of people.[1] Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of, and a form of protest against, major socio-political problems; the severity of the action coincides with public expression(s) of displeasure. Examples of civil disorder include, but are not necessarily limited to: illegal parades; sit-ins and other forms of obstructions; riots; sabotage; and other forms of crime. It is intended to be a demonstration to the public and the government, but can escalate into general chaos.[2]


Frequently, participants in a civil disorder are not in agreement about appropriate behavior. As was the case in the WTO Meeting of 1999, most protesters were peaceful, and a small, highly visible minority were responsible for most of the damage.[citation needed] Any civil disorder is a delicate balance of power, and indeed, a political power struggle of some sort is typically the root cause of any such conflict.[original research?] Often, public demonstrations are viewed[by whom?] as the last resort of political organizations. If the power equation in a civil disorder becomes unbalanced, the result is either oppression or riot.[citation needed] Contagion effects and endogenous processes of positive feedback is another source of explanation for civil disorder[3]


Citizens not directly involved in a civil disorder may have their lives significantly disrupted. Their ability to work, enjoy recreation and in some cases, obtain necessities may be jeopardized. Disruption of infrastructure may occur during very severe events. Public utilities such as water, fuel and electricity may be temporarily unavailable, as well as public infrastructure for communication. Occasionally, the disruption of such services may be the original cause of the disorder.[4] More frequently, the cause of such issues is related to economic stagnation, severe inflation, devaluation of currency, disasters, be they man made or natural, severe unemployment, oppression, political scandal, or, in some countries, sporting events.[citation needed] Civil disorder can occur in any country and environment. Switzerland, a country unaligned with any major organization, suffered from much civil unrest in the weeks prior to its October 2008 elections.

People's Republic of China[edit]

Incidents of civil disorder are called "mass frustration," (simplified Chinese: 群体性事件; traditional Chinese: 群體性事件), in the People's Republic of China. Mass incidents are defined broadly as "planned or impromptu gathering that forms because of internal contradictions", and can include public speeches or demonstrations, physical clashes, public airings of grievances, and other group behaviors that are seen as disrupting social stability.[5] Mass incidents have occurred in China due to popular dissatisfaction with enforcement of China's one-child policy,[6] crime and official corruption,[7] and bus fares.[8] Environmental issues and seizures of land by local governments were issues which resulted in mass incidents in 2011.That such incidents are reportedly increasing in China is a source of concern for its leaders.[9]

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External links[edit]


  1. ^ Schurink, W.J. (1990) Victimization: Nature and Trends. Human Sciences Research Council. p 416.
  2. ^ Black, D. (2007) What to Do When the Shit Hits the Fan. Skyhorse Publishing. p 212.
  3. ^ Braha, D (2012) Global Civil Unrest: Contagion, Self-Organization, and Prediction. PLoS ONE 7(10): e48596, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048596.
  4. ^ Vale, L.J. and Campanella, T.J. (2005) The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster. Oxford University Press. p 299.
  5. ^ Tao Ran, China's land grab is undermining grassroots democracy, The Guardian, 16 December 2011.
  6. ^ The Bobai Mass Incidents
  7. ^ The Mass Incident in Dazhu County
  8. ^ Mass Incident Calmed in Central China
  9. ^ Jacobs, Andrew (September 23, 2011). "Farmers in China’s South Riot Over Seizure of Land". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2011.