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Encyclopedia > Civil unrest

Civil disorder is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of disturbance. Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of severe cultural issues. Typically, the severity of the action coincides with public outrage. Examples of civil disorder include, but are not necessarily limited to: parades; sit-ins; or 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.


Frequently, participants in a civil disorder are not in agreement about appropriate behavior. As was the case in the WTO Meeting of 1999, a vast majority of protesters were peaceful, and a small, highly visible minority of anarchists were responsible for a vast majority of damage.


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. Often, public demonstrations are viewed as the last resort of political organizations. If the power equation in a civil disorder becomes unbalanced, the result is either oppression or riot. Police brutality is a frequent result of civil disorder.


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 intrastructure 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. More frequently, the cause of such issues is related to economic stagnation, severe inflation, devaluation of currency, severe unemployment, oppression, political scandal, or, in some countries, sporting events.


See also


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