Dr. Avia Pasternak | Associate Professor at University College London
Abstract: In recent years many democracies have experienced waves of riots, instigated by police brutality and racial and social exclusion. A common view is that protestors who resort to this type of collective violence deserve serious moral censure and legal punishment. This article challenges such common perceptions. It develops instead a qualified moral defense of rioters. The argument focuses on ‘political rioters’: agents who resort to violence in response to social or economic injustice, and who communicate anger and defiance of the law. Political rioting can be a justified form of protest in light of the valuable roles it plays in democracies marred by severe injustice – promoting the disadvantages rights and resisting injustice. It follows that protesters who resort to public violence for justified political reasons, and who keep the violence within the limits I prescribe, deserve an entirely different moral response from their political community.