Ri­ot­ers fired up by ‘warped sense of com­mu­nity’ in 2011

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

A WARPED sense of com­mu­nity spirit in­flamed the ri­ots that swept across Birm­ing­ham and other English cities in the sum­mer of 2011, say psy­chol­o­gists.

Re­search sug­gests that bit­ter turf-war ri­val­ries dis­solved as street gangs joined forces to form a “band of brothers” pit­ted against a com­mon en­emy – the po­lice.

The show of unity amidst the loot­ing, vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion pro­duced feel­ings of eu­pho­ria that con­trib­uted to the dis­or­der, the sci­en­tists claim.

Dr John Drury, from the Univer­sity of Sus­sex, said: “This riot saw tra­di­tional post­code ri­val­ries melt away in the face of a com­mon en­emy in the po­lice, and the emer­gence of a new shared iden­tity.

“Po­lice forces and oth­ers may feel that they un­der­stand how gang men­tal­i­ties work but our find­ings show that at times like this, a fresh sense of commu- nity can break down ex­ist­ing loyalties.”

The psy­chol­o­gists stud­ied videos, looked at po­lice re­ports and ar­rest records, and in­ter­viewed 41 ri­ot­ers.

Dr Drury said: “There was ac­tu­ally a new iden­tity, a new col­lec­tive sense of self amongst the ri­ot­ers.

“That mat­ters... be­cause if peo­ple are united for the first time then it’s a ba­sis for a sense of em­pow­er­ment. If peo­ple all feel the same way and they ex­pect oth­ers to feel that way, they ex­pect to be sup­ported and that gives them the con­fi­dence to take ac­tion.”

A turn­ing point came when the po­lice chose not to re­spond to one of their cars be­ing torched, said Dr Drury, speak­ing at the Bri­tish Science Fes­ti­val at the Univer­sity of Brighton.

That “vic­tory” gen­er­ated a sense of con­fi­dence and a be­lief that the po­lice were weak.

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