Leaders can stop mob violence

THE ‘mob mentality’ described by police in Sunday morning’s riot in Yamba may have been avoided if party leaders had taken decisive action against it, according to a professor of sociology.

University of Queensland social psychology professor Jolanda Jetten said that leaders could exercise a lot of influence over groups and it could be positive or negative.

She said that in a situation like that in Yamba, a leader could identify police as being the target and things could get out of control, but equally if those leaders made an attempt to calm the situation it would be less likely to escalate.

Police allege that on Saturday night they went to the party in Deering Street about 1.30am to respond, for a second time, to noise complaints.

It is alleged 50-year-old Craig Jeremy McNeil flatly refused to turn down the music and incited party goers to attack police.

Professor Jetten said many people were under the misapprehension there was no direction in mob behaviour.

She said mobs usually had some structure and direction that could be influenced by their leaders.

She said if a leader said to the mob ‘If police arrive this is what we will do’ it would make it easier to direct the group.

The mob seemed very organised in the way it went out of control, she said.

She said people would often do things in a group that they would not do on their own, and behaviour could be further influenced by alcohol.

“Alcohol can further amplify these effects so that people don’t question and think about what is moral or consider the consequences,” she said.

She said the mob need not be a negative and cited examples like Gandhi in India and the civil rights movement in the United States as mob activities that had led to positive change.

They were examples how mobs could be organised and have goals.

She did not believe violence was becoming more prevalent.

“There are many instances (of violence) over the course of history,” she said.

“What happened last weekend is not something new.”

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