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