London riots: Could they happen in the U.S.?

As Britain grapples with days of violent looting, Americans worry that riot fever could soon cross the pond

Riot police during the height of London's upheaval: Britain's poor economy and unemployment rates are similar to ours, which leads some to worry that an uprising is nye.
(Image credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Riots, irrational violence, and hedonistic looting devastated London for the better part of a week, slapping Britons awake to disturbing truths about what many consider a historically civil society. Now, many Americans are wondering if the same thing could happen on this side of the Atlantic. Are such fears founded?

No. Americans would never stand for this: A culture and history of self-reliance would lead ordinary Americans to take matters into their own hands, says Tim Stanley at Britain's Telegraph. Remember when Koreans shot looters during the L.A. riots in 1992? Plus, political leaders like Jesse Jackson would "brave the violence and make a plea for reconciliation." Bill Clinton would cry and hug someone. And a top Republican would insist on "martial law and the summary execution of everyone wearing a hoodie." Seriously though, the riots would quickly subside because "Americans vocalize their issues and their ideas about resolving them."

"London riots: Americans would have known how to respond to the violence and looting"

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Actually, we're "a spark away" from explosive riots: The London riots are eerily similar to those in Los Angeles in 1992, says Bill Boyarsky at Truthdig. And the conditions appear right for the same thing to happen again. In both cases, community anger boiled up after a racially-tinged episode, and evolved to encompass widespread frustration over a poor economy and socioeconomic disparities. Similar conditions in the U.S. today are causing social tensions "just below the surface in poor minority neighborhoods," just waiting to be "ignited by a spark."

"America is a spark away from riots of its own"

Indeed, we've already seen troubling previews: In the past few months, relatively small youth mobs "wreaked havoc" in cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, says Kevin Dolak at ABC News. These incidents indicate that "unrest could spread to America." In Milwaukee alone, a group of 1,000 youths used social networks to organize the disruption of the Wisconsin state fair. And with a "bleak economic outlook" and "deep distrust of the government" growing, watch out.

"Riot fear: Could U.K.-style destruction happen in America?"

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