B1 B2 Exam Preparation Lesson 5: Social Unrest
News Reader: Well, a chaotic and violent scene in Anaheim, California, as police clash with protesters.
(Scenes of protest)
Protesters hurled rock and other objects at police clad in riot gear. Police resorting to shooting rubber bullets and using pepper spray on the crowds of protesters. Now, yesterday marked the fourth day of demonstrations. They sparked after police shot dead a man that was, apparently, unarmed. Some protesters believe it was racially motivated, and is just one example of a corrupt police force in Anaheim.
For more now, Scott Shackford, editor of Reason.com, joins us now.
Scott: Thank you
News Reader: So things are heating up in Anaheim. Do you think this outrage will lead to real change?
Scott: You’ll have to keep an eye on what’s going on with Anaheim’s city council. They had a meeting last night, which was taking place while this police action was going on. And from what the news report said the following day, today, the city council does appear to be treating it seriously. They are asking the federal government to come in and investigate the two police shootings they’ve just had.
News Reader: Okay, erm, and so, I mean, does it look, I know a lot of members of the community are calling for the FEDs to get involved, does it look like, what is the likelihood of that happening?
Scott: We’ll have to see. I think the likelihood is fairly high, especially if the city council is supporting the action, and they appear to be. So, that’s sending a message, essentially, that the city council is not necessarily behind the police’s description of what happened. Right now, the police union has come forward and is defending the shooting, claiming that the gentleman who was running away, who was unarmed, the officer believed that he had something in his belt, but, there was no weapon found.
News Reader: And that…..
Scott: And it doesn’t appear, right now, that it’s believed by the city council, by the mayor.
News Reader: Right, and that kind of is the centre point of this argument. Why people are so outraged. The fact that this man was not armed, and that has stirred protests, hundreds of people taking to the streets protesting this. And, there is reports that violence is occurring on both sides, with demonstrators hurling things at police, police firing back with rubber bullets, and with pepper spray. But, I mean, what do you think? Do you think that there’s really, at times, a brutal crackdown on the demonstrations were justified.
Scott: Well, I was actually, last night I spent most of the evening watching an independent reporter’s live feed of the protest and the police, and he was on the police side. And virtually, I could not see much of the protestors, but we did see police behaviour, and the police did appear to be just shooting indiscriminately at protesters and people in the street.
The reporter, himself, was shot at on more than one occasion, despite having a press pass and identifying himself as a reporter. But protesters did destroy some store fronts, throw things through glass windows. So, it was definitely two sided. Now, what I also don’t know is, whether the violence from the protesters really happened before the police started shooting, or after.
News Reader: Alright. So, this is kind of, this incident has kind of ignited this whole debate. To your knowledge, Is this an isolated incident? Or, Is this, kind of, the culmination of a systematic problem within the police force in Anaheim?
Scott: Well, they have had five deadly shootings so far this year, which is more than last year. So, there’s an upward trend going on with the Anaheim police, as far as using force; and in the Los Angeles area as a whole. Even though we are seeing less violence against police officers, we are seeing greater instances of shootings by police officers, this year. And it’s definitely a trend that’s slowly increasing.
News Reader: Alright, and it’s a trend, I guess, that people are taking notice of. Scott, I do want to bring attention to something that’s happening in Texas. The mainstream media has finally caught on to Anaheim, in the fourth day of protests. Some are wondering where they were on day one. You know, but, now there’s similar outrage in Dallas. Hundreds of protesters there taking to the streets. This was after an officer was shot and killed..Shot and killed a suspect that, reportedly, unarmed. So, it’s happening in more place than one. I mean, what do you think is going on here? It doesn’t seem, I mean, when we see more than one instances. Not just with in Anaheim, but with other states across the country. I mean, is this systematic throughout our police force in the U.S?
Scott: Erm, this is a difficult question to answer, as we discuss a lot. One of the things we are discovering now, as we are more and more capable of recording police behaviour, we’re seeing more and more of what the police have been doing; and we don’t really know how long they’ve been getting away with certain types of behaviour. It’s only now, as citizens are more and more capable of showing us what the police are actually doing, which is different from what matches up in the official police reports, that we really understand the nature of the problem. So, maybe, we’ll never know how bad it used to be, and all we can do is judge as we move forward, how accurate police are in reporting what actually happens.
News Reader: Now, a lot of this is a story, as you’ve just hinted at, because a lot of it was caught on camera. And, so, do you think, because of this, this trend, you know, everybody now, almost everybody carries a phone with a camera on it, that police will start to be held more accountable for their actions.
Scott: That is the hope. It is a little bit challenging because, as is in this case so far, police unions are very quick to line up behind their officers; and defend their officers. And, whenever discipline comes down on police officers it often gets overruled. It can be very very difficult to get rid of a police officer who is performing poorly, unless he or she ends up being arrested for a crime. So, there will have to be some reform in policies on how we deal with police discipline, for there to be some long term behaviour. but, I think the recording of police will lead and force this change.
News Reader: Alright, Scott, I’m going to have leave it off right there, but, appreciate you coming on the show. That was Scott Shackford. He is the editor for reason.com
To resort to
A corrupt police force
To heat up
The city council
To send a message
To run away
To come forward
A press pass
To take notice of
An instance of
A culmination of
To bring attention of
To use force
To take to the streets
To be held accountable for
READING: Could Freud have predicted the London riots?
Lawrence J. Saha
Professor, Research School of Social Sciences at Australian National University
Three days of rioting across London since Saturday have once again raised the question of “why?”. Do riots “just happen” or is there a science, an underlying formula, that can be employed to predict and prevent such events? The police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in Tottenham resulted in a peaceful protest, as might be expected. But why that protest has led to destructive riots across the city and beyond is not entirely clear. Some have said the subsequent rioting might have had little to do with the original shooting.
But is there a connection?
Urban riots are not new, but they have been explained in many ways by observers and social scientists, all the way back to the French Revolution in 1789. Why do people in crowds sometimes behave in ways that are radically, almost unbelievably, different to the ways they would act when alone? And why do peaceful protests sometimes degenerate into riots? Mass hysteria and imitation are a couple of the ways people have tried to explain these apparently irrational phenomena.
Freud, for example, wrote about the herd instinct and the role of the leader in riots.
But the riots of Freud’s day were far different from those we witness today. Modern urban riots are very complex. Most crowds that gather in today’s cities are not homogeneous – people have amassed for a variety of reasons. Most might have done so with peaceful intentions, as apparently was the case on Saturday. But even peaceful crowds are potentially volatile, and can be manipulated.
A trigger event is sometimes all that’s needed to turn a peaceful demonstration into a dangerous riot, and that might have happened on Saturday in Tottenham. But why have the riots returned on subsequent nights, and spread to other areas of the city – and to other cities in the UK? One thing we do know is that, in times of general unease or discontent, a spark is all that’s needed to bring about a collapse of the normative structure which keeps most people behaving according to social rules. We commonly see these rules as the maintenance of law and order. But when this structure collapses, many things happen. People in a crowd will start doing things they would not normally do, such as smashing windows or starting a fire. In other words, they invent a new set of rules as to what is acceptable behaviour.
But modern riots can be even more complex, and it seems this is the case in London where text-messaging, Twitter, and other forms of electronic networking have been, and continue to be, used to coordinate crowd formation and violence. In other words, phenomena – namely riots – that were formerly considered irrational, seem to have become both planned and rational. What seems to have happened is that the rules of law and order have weakened or even collapsed sufficiently to allow politically discontented or even criminal elements to exploit the situation.
I suspect the riots, after the one in Tottenham on Saturday, are really quite different and have different explanations. In other words, there are several different types of riots currently taking place, and the common underlying cause may simply be the weakness or breakdown of the rules of law and order. Many of the original peaceful protestors from Saturday are probably now at home, trying to avoid the violence and danger. It’s those who are a little outside, or on the fringes, of the normative structure – the angry, the cynical, the deviants, the criminals – who are responding to the law and order vacuum.
The original shooting and protest may have been the trigger events, but the later riots have taken a different form.
We’ve seen this pattern before. Think of the 2005 Cronulla riots in Sydney – the culmination of racial and ethnic tensions – or the 1999 WTO anti-globalisation riots in Seattle. I think there are some parallels.
What does this mean for London? Eventually the police will restore law and order. Some of the participants will be arrested and will be dealt with. There will also be considerable soul-searching by some members of the public and some reform in police tactics. It certainly doesn’t mean these kinds of events will not happen again. It only takes the right combination of factors to weaken social rules of behaviour, and the presence of people who will exploit it.
We know it will happen and, in time, we might learn better how to respond to these events once they do occur. That will be the challenge.
To raise a question
The herd instinct
An underlying cause
There are some parallels
To restore law and order
A combination of factors
ESSAY: Poor people have more difficult lives than rich people. Do you agree with this statement?
LETTER: You witnessed riots in Paris this weekend. Submit your testimonial to the local newspaper.
NYC Violent Crime Rates by Commissioner and Mayor (Source: http://www.randominterestingfacts.com/new-york-city-violent-crime-rates-by-police-commissioner-mayor/)
This graph created by The New York Times, illustrates New York City’s violent crime rates by year, police commissioner, and mayor. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.
REPORT: Write a report on how to prepare your city for the coming riots. You can draw inspiration from the picture below.
REVIEW: You have just watched a documentary on a lottery-winner’s rise and fall since the winning. Write a review on the change of social status and financial implications incurred.
PROPOSAL: Write a proposal to open a help centre in your neighbourhood to tackle the growing problem of homelessness.