Though they usually involve spontaneous, wanton violence or disorder by an anonymous crowd, riots have also served as a noteworthy form of social protest in American history. While the American Revolution made popular revolt a “quasi-legitimate” aspect of American culture, the ideals of democracy privilege debate and representation over mob rule. Nevertheless, Americans have frequently brought disorder to the nation’s streets to express opinions and demands. Crowds have sought to limit the rights of others as often as they have demanded equal rights. Riots are not by definition part of organized rebellions, but they sometimes occur when public demonstrations turn to physical violence.

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From Dictionary of American History, 3E. © 2003 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission. www.cengage.com/permissions

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