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Is rioting ever justified?
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Riots are a necessary response to rulers' breach of power

Rulers can more easily use violence to unjustly suppress their people. Their people have the right of self-defense and, if necessary, violent protest.

The Argument

Oppressed peoples have a right to protest through rebellion and riot. While governments are in place to protect the people from being taken advantage of, the government (or the ruling class) has no higher authority holding them accountable. When rulers legislate or enact violence towards its subjects, then its subjects have a right to protest and defend themselves.[1] If self-defense is justified, then riots against the ruling class or the government are also justified. If the government is oppressing its people and violating their right to live or vote, then the government has forgone its social contract to serve its people. The government is an entity meant to serve the common good, but government leaders can easily become corrupt and abuse their power. When the government uses its power to maintain unjust laws, overtax its people, or imprison its people without due process of the law, the government cannot expect its people to accept such injustices quietly.[2] The people should, and will, riot.

Counter arguments

Riots legitimize violence and suppression from people in power. If riots are a necessary response to violence from people in power, then people in power have the same right (and more justification) to quell riots with military or police force.[3] If the entity being protested was elected democratically, the entity will rely on its political sovereignty to justify police force (or violence) against protesters. Riots are unlawful because they destroy property and put people in danger. When the people are in danger, rulers are justified to quell the source of the danger—riots—with state-sanctioned police force.[4][5] Riots are never a justifiable way to petition the government for lasting social change. Only peaceful protest, resulting in civil discourse and policy amendments, will bring about lasting social change.



[P1] The government should protect and defend its people. [P2] If the government is not fulfilling its duty to protect its people, then violent response is justified.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Violent protest for a political cause does not justify the lives lost during a violent uprising.

Further Reading

An article in the National Geographic: "2020 is not 1968: To understand today’s protests, you must look further back" (


This page was last edited on Friday, 11 Sep 2020 at 07:20 UTC

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