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Civil Disorder and Riots

Civil disorder is also known as civil strife or civil unrest. It describes one or more types of disturbance caused by a group of people that riot, sabotage, demonstrate illegally with sit-ins or parades. It is typically a form of protest against sociopolitical troubles. Protesters are not always in agreement with behavior that is appropriate so that some protesters can be peaceful whereas others will be disruptive.

Even though most people will not participate in a civil disorder, their lives can still be disrupted significantly.Utilities, communication, workplace and recreation areas may be jeopardized and it could be hard to find the necessities of life.

The cause of civil disorder can be caused by man-made disasters (Hurricane Katrina), oppression, political scandal, severe inflation and/or economic stagnation. Recent incidents have included the WTO Meeting in 1999, demonstrations in Tel Aviv in 2004, Pro-Tibetan Independence and protests by Greek, unionists against the government’s pension reforms.

It is also important to educate yourself for the future. State of emergencies are never planned out. Knowing what organizations are there for the assistance during emergencies are essential for prevention of mental distress during those emergencies.

A state of emergency is a government declaration that suspends some normal functions of government, alert citizens and order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans.These declarations can occur during natural disasters or during periods of civil disorder. In some countries this may affect civil liberties and governmental procedure. In many countries it is illegal to modify the emergency law or constitution during the emergency.

Martial Law

Martial law is an imposition of military rule by military authorities when civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively. Curfews, suspension of civil rights, habeas corpus and civilians defying martial law may be subjected to court martial.


Insurgency is an armed rebellion against a recognized authority. The basis of an insurgency can be religious, political, economic, ethnic or a combination.

Economic Collapse

An economic collapse is a breakdown of a national, regional or territorial economy characterized by bankruptcy and unemployment. Examples of this are The Great Depression of 1930 and the Russian collapse of 1998.


A revolution is described as a complete change in organizational structure or power. It usually takes place in a short period of time.A revolution often brings about significant change in the economy, sociopolitical institutions and culture.


Rebellion is a refusal of order or obedience and encompasses a range of behaviors from violent to non-violent and organized attempts to destroy an established authority such as a government.

Sectarian Violence

Sectarian violence and/or sectarian strife are violence inspired by sectarianism, that is, between different sects of one particular mode of thought/ideology or within a nation/community, with the division not necessarily based upon religion. Religious segregation often plays a role in sectarian violence.

Sectarian violence differs from the concept of race riot It may involve the dynamics of social polarization, the balkanization of a geographic area along the lines of self identifying groups, and protracted social conflict.

Some of the possible inputs for sectarian violence include power struggles, political climate, social climate, cultural climate, and economic landscape.

  • Economic -capitalism vs. collectivism
  • Political – communist vs. nationalist
  • Christianity - Catholic vs. Protestant
  • Islam - Shite vs. Sunni

It is important to know where you can go in case you find yourself in a civil disorder predicament. It is good to know how to reach out to counseling and mental health resources in your area.