When is a riot not a riot?

In the US, whether something is called a riot or not has little to do with the amount of damage or harm caused by it. If the rioting crowd is largely white and the cause is because their team won some sports event, as happened on Sunday in Philadelphia when the local team won the Super Bowl, then it is ok. If the crowd is of mixed ethnicities and is protesting social and economic injustices, it is not ok. If the crowd is largely black and the cause is police brutality, then the riots squads are brought out to deliver a brutal crackdown.

As Newsweek explains, “Revelers reportedly ripped down light posts, caused entire structures to collapse and damaged vehicles and store buildings as they celebrated the Eagles’ 41-33 victory. But officials appeared slow to condemn the destruction caused by rioters, offering seemingly gentle requests for everyone to ‘go home.'”

This response contrasts sharply with the way cities like Baltimore handled recent protests like the ones following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Riots following major sports events are generally reported with humor and exasperation, while those triggered by police shootings are used as an excuse to pathologize the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community.

“You can riot if you’re white and your team wins, but if you’re black and being killed, you can’t speak out,” Newsome said.

Officer Friendly explains to children how the system works.


  1. says

    White riot -- I want to riot
    White riot -- a riot of my own
    White riot -- I want to riot
    White riot -- a riot of my own

    Black people gotta lot a problems
    But they don’t mind throwing a brick
    White people go to school
    Where they teach you how to be thick

    An’ everybody’s doing
    Just what they’re told to
    An’ nobody wants
    To go to jail!

    All the power’s in the hands
    Of people rich enough to buy it
    While we walk the street
    Too chicken to even try it

    Everybody’s doing
    Just what they’re told to
    Nobody wants
    To go to jail!

    Are you taking over
    Or are you taking orders?
    Are you going backwards
    Or are you going forwards?

  2. jrkrideau says

    Heck, here in Canada we don’t have riots, just the occasional sport’s event. I believe the terms are similar.

    I question the statement that hockey is Canadian for fight.

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