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Violent Flash Mob Phenomenon Potential Losing Ground

According to the Digga Nikaya Buddhist scripture on morals for laypersons, guarding against evil is nearly as important as avoiding vice. Restraints include avoiding "Roaming the streets at improper times" for it is said:

He who roams is unprotected and unguarded; his wife and children are unprotected and unguarded; his property is unprotected and unguarded; he is suspected of evil deeds; he is subject to false rumors; he meets with many troubles. [1]

Indeed, at least where flash mob violence is occurring in Minneapolis, Portland, and Chicago, it is doubtful whether one can venture out in broad daylight, visit a convenience store at night, or even live safely in one's own home.

            From the details gathered in the cases, criminal flash mobs are hardly amusing, although they do contain elements of surprise, profit, and extreme antics for the so-called performers. For instance, blogger Aaron Rupar at City Pages reported on the case of Pieter (last name withheld), a 27-year old Asian-American man who was beaten unconscious by a flash mob one evening in Minneapolis in March.[2]  In Minneapolis, there have been at least six reported violent mob attacks on innocent pedestrians and bicyclists, yet only one juvenile has been arrested with no details on the other suspects, especially race or ethnicity.[3]

                In Portland, a spate of criminal flash mobs in April have left store owners worried. According to the Fox 12 Oregon News video, 15-20 black teenagers ransacked Max Mart and Deli store and stole multiple items, but when the store employees and a pair of white customers tried to control the mob, a fight broke out.  A lack of aggressive prosecution and adequate coverage is allowing many perpetrators to avoid any charges. "Just taking them to jail won't make them learn anything. You know they're going to come back and do the same stuff again," Asian store owner Thapa said. [4]

            Criminal flash mobs have been increasing over the past eighteen months, according to Merchant Analytic Solutions (MAS)'s article "Flash Mob=Flash ROB?" [5]  This webpage includes a number of incidences, termed Multiple Offender Crimes (MOC) by the British authorities, including in Minnesota, Philadelphia, DC, Milwaukie, and Los Angeles. The idea that the mobs target non-black businesses is particularly discomfitting and confusing for storeowners, but MAS includes a list of best practices.[6]

            The lack of official government recognition and support over the increasingly violent flash mob attacks also goads the public. In "Media Conceal True Nature of 'Flash Mob' Racial Violence, John Bennett recounts his frustration about the media's misguided sense of racial sensitivity by routinely withholding perpetrators' race.[7] He writes, "Not every interracial crime has racial significance. Sometimes a fight is just a fight, a robbery is just a robbery, a mob is just a mob. But when there is a trend of racial victimization and a stark racial component in the participants of the attacks, then there is racial significance."  His record of incidences at the Wisconsin State Fair, in Denver, and elsewhere are corroborated by Violentflashmobs.com, a website dedicated to documentating such. [8]

            Many bloggers are also accusing the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder of being too lax. Would not a word or two from African American leaders such as Mr. Holder or NAACP President Benjamin Jealous help? What is the Department of Justice doing with regard to pursuing new action plans and policies? Not enough, it appears. When I conducted a search of "flash mobs" at the DOJ website, the result listed only only six reports, with the most recent public report dated October 2011.[9]

            There needs to be a spectrum for classifying mobs, for law-enforcing actions, and  for law enforcement plans. There needs to be recognition of these types of spontaneous groups at state and federal levels for quick effective measures against future attacks. Insurance companies are also stakeholders if flashmobs become a routine national phenomenon. Bear in mind, however, that many small businesses cannot afford additional insurance costs.

            More can be done to educate communities on how to recognize and respond to such as well because since the Trayvor Martin slaying, some perpetrators have admitted that their motivation was based upon anger.[10]  The irony is that while a host of liberal and progressive media, such as Amnesty International, have voiced their support for the Martin family, many black groups seem unwilling to condemn flash mob violence.

            Violent flash mobs are a phenomemon that should be addressed head-on, just like how demonstrations are now managed through more sensitive crowd control tactics.[11]  By organizing community leaders, providing heart-to-heart open dialogue with youths, the government might discover, for instance, that youth are unhappy at the rate at which well-paid green summer jobs are being created by the Energy Department.

            In the long-term, sociological studies, such as the one being conducted at the University of Kansas can be useful for advancing constructive cultural dialogues; for instance, the trickster monkey may be a revered cultural icon in African cultures, if only such playfulness and freedom or desire for empowerment could be better redirected.


1. Jayaram V., "Morals for the Lay Followers of Buddhism," Hinduwebsite.com, accessed May 2, 2012.

2. "Flash mobs attack Minneapolis," Citipages.com, April 4, 2012, accessed May 2, 2012, http://www.citypages.com/2012-04-04/news/flash-mobs-attack-minneapolis/.

3. Aaron Rupar, "Downtown Minneapolis rocked by six violent 'flash mob' attacks during last two months," CityPages Blogs, March 28, 2012, accessed May 2, 2012, http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2012/03/downtown_minneapolis_rocked_by_five_violent_flash_mobs_attacks_during_last_two_months.php.

4. Fox 12 Webstaff, "Third flash mob theft in past month caught on camera," KVPT Portland, April 30, 2012, accessed May 2, 2012, http://www.kptv.com/story/17938236/third-flash-mob-theft-in-o.

5. Johnny Custer, "Flash Mob= Flash ROB?" Merchant Analytic Solutions, August 15, 2011, accessed May 2, 2012, http://www.merchantanalyticsolutions.com/flash-mob-flash-rob/.

6.  Ibid.

7. John Bennett, "Exclusive: Media Conceal True Nature of 'Flash Mob' Racial Violence," Accuracy in Media, August 18, 2011, accessed May 2, 2012, http://www.aim.org/special-report/aim-exclusive-media-conceal-true-nature-of-%E2%80%9Cflash-mob%E2%80%9D-racial-violence/.

8. "Violent Flash Mobs," Violentflashmobs.com, April 21, 2012, accessed May 2, 2012, http://violentflashmobs.com/

9. United States Department of Justice, Searchjustice.usdoj.gov, accessed May 2, 2012, http://searchjustice.usdoj.gov/search?q=flash+mobs

10. Chad Smith, "Man tells police group yelled 'Trayvon' then beat him," The Gainsville Sun, April 9, 2012, accessed May 2, 2012, http://www.gainesville.com/article/20120409/ARTICLES/120409617/1182?Title=Man-tells-police-group-yelled-8216-Trayvon-then-beat-him&tc=ar

11. John Mangels, "Police Crowd Control Tactics have Changed Dramatically Since Kent State Protests," Cleveland Live, May 3, 2010, accessed May 2, 2012, http://blog.cleveland.com/pdextra/2010/05/police_crowd-control_tactics_h.html

---Prepared by Chriswong (blu-geese.org)

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