What is Riot?

Legal Definition
A riot (/ˈrət/) is a form of civil disorder commonly characterized by a group lashing out in a violent public disturbance against authority, property or people. Riots typically involve vandalism and the destruction of property, public or private. The property targeted varies depending on the riot and the inclinations of those involved. Targets can include shops, cars, restaurants, state-owned institutions, and religious buildings.

Riots often occur in reaction to a perceived grievance or out of dissent. Historically, riots have occurred due to poor working or living conditions, governmental oppression, taxation or conscription, conflicts between ethnic groups, (race riot) or religions (sectarian violence, pogrom), the outcome of a sporting event (sports riot, football hooliganism) or frustration with legal channels through which to air grievances.

While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots typically consist of disorganized groups that are frequently "chaotic and exhibit herd behavior." However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that riots are not irrational, herd-like behavior, but actually follow inverted social norms.

T. S. Ashton, in his study of food riots among colliers, noted that "the turbulence of the colliers is, of course, to be accounted for by something more elementary than politics: it was the instinctive reaction of virility to hunger." Charles Wilson noted, "Spasmodic rises in food prices provoked keelmen on the Tyne to riot in 1709, tin miners to plunder granaries at Falmouth in 1727."

Today, some rioters have an improved understanding of the tactics used by police in riot situations. Manuals for successful rioting are available on the internet, with tips such as encouraging rioters to get the press involved, as there is more safety and attention with the cameras rolling. Citizens with video cameras may also have an effect on both rioters and police.

Dealing with riots is often a difficult task for police forces. They may use tear gas or CS gas to control rioters. Riot police may use less-than-lethal methods of control, such as shotguns that fire flexible baton rounds to injure or otherwise incapacitate rioters for easier arrest.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A concerted action: (1) made in furtherance of an express common purpose; (2) through the use or threat of violence, disorder, or terror to the public; and (3) resulting in a disturbance of the peace. Under common law, the crime of riot requires the assemblage of three or more actors. The concerted acts may be unlawful in themselves, or they may be lawful acts that are done in a violent or turbulent manner. Among the different forms that riots may take include escalated labor disputes or political demonstrations. While most riots occur in public places, they may also take place within prisons
Legal Definition
Crim. law. At common law a riot is a tumultuous disturbance of the peace, by three persons or more assembling together of their own authority, with an intent, mutually to assist each other against any who shall oppose them, in the execution of some enterprise of a private nature, and afterwards actually executing the same in a violent and turbulent manner, to the terror of the people, whether the act intended were of itself lawful or unlawful.

2. In this case there must be proved, first, an unlawful assembling; for if a number of persons lawfully met together; as, for example, at a fire, in a theatre or a church, should suddenly quarrel and fight, the offence is an affray and not a riot, because there was no unlawful assembling; but if three or more being so assembled, on a dispute occurring, they form into parties with promises of mutual assistance, which promises may be express, or implied from the circumstances, then the offence will no longer be an affray, but a riot; the unlawful combination will amount to an assembling within the meaning of the law. In this manner any lawful assembly may be converted into a riot. Any one who joins the rioters after they have actually commenced, is equally guilty as if he had joined them while assembling.

3. Secondly, proof must be made of actual violence and force on the part of the rioters, or of such circumstances as have an apparent tendency to force and violence, and calculated to strike terror into the public mind. The definition requires that the offenders should assemble of their own authority, in order to create a riot; if, therefore, the parties act under the authority of the law, they may use any necessary force to enforce their mandate, without committing this offence.

4. Thirdly, evidence must be given that the defendants acted in the riot, and were participants in the disturbance. Vide 1 Russ. on Cr. 247 Vin. Ab. h. t.; Hawk. c. 65, s. 1, 8, 9; 3 Inst. 176; 4 Bl. Com. 146 Com. Dig. h. t.; Chit. Cr. Law, Index, h. t. Roscoe, Cr. Ev. h. t.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In criminal law. A tumultuous disturbance of the peace by three persons or more, assembling together of their own authority, with an intent mutuuily to assist each other against any who shall oppose them, in the execution of some enterprise of a private nature, and afterwards actually executing the same in a violent and turbulent manner, to the terror of the people, whether the act intended were of itself lawful or unlawful. Hawk. P. C. c. 65, § 1. And see State v. Stalcup, 23 N. C. 30, 35 Am. Dec. 732; Dixon v. State, 105 Ga. 787, 31 S. E. 750; State v. Brazil, Rice (S. C.) 260; Marshall v. Buffalo, 50 App. Div. 149, 64 N. Y. Supp. 411; Aron v. Wausau, 98 Wis. 592, 74 N. W. 354, 40 In R. A. 733; Lycoming F. Ins. Co., v. Schwenk, 95 Pa. 96, 40 Am. Rep. 629. When three or more persons together, and In a violent or tumultuous manner, assemble together to do an unlawful act, or together do a lawful act in an unlawful, violent, or tumultuous manner, to the disturbance of others, they are guilty of a riot. Rev. Code Iowa 1880, § 4067. Any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use such torce or violence, lf accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law, is a riot. Pen. Co.de Cal. § 404. See Riot act.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by an unlawful assembly of three or more persons in the execution of some private object. See 88 Am. Dec. 267, note.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary