What Is Rioting And Inciting A Riot?

The right to protest is one of the fundamental rights of a civilian in the U.S.; however, there are certain limitations to that right. According to federal law, three or more people engaging in acts of violence that result in public disturbance or threats to the safety of the public and state property is known as a riot. 

According to the federal law of the U.S., any party involved in encouraging, urging, or organizing riots is guilty of inciting a riot. However, there is a difference between inciting and expressing beliefs regarding a situation. If one is simply expressing their beliefs, this does not count as incitement under the criminal code. But if an individual or an organization advocates or encourages people to commit violence against the government or civilians, they are inciting a riot. 

What Qualifies as a Riot?

According to criminal law in the U.S., any gathering that involves one or multiple acts of violence is known as a riot. A riot is different from an unlawful assembly. An unlawful assembly means a group of people gathering in a designated area to disturb the public's peace. 

A peaceful assembly of people would have a limited number of demonstrations, whereas an unlawful assembly would disrupt the peace of the people living in the community. However, an unlawful assembly does not involve any violence, unlike riots. 

What Is the Federal Riot Act? 

The Federal Riot Act was introduced in 1968. It prohibits the involvement of any third party that can fuel destructive riots in the country. An individual can be charged for a riot if they do any of the following:

  • Participates or organizes a riot.  
  • Incites a riot, either by traveling across the states or using means of telecommunication. 
  • Initiates an act of violence or commits violence to endorse or proceed with the riot. 
  • Aids any organization or entity in inciting a riot in the country or a state. 

The individual or organization can be charged under federal law if they commit a rioting offense on federal property. The punishment for rioting can include fines, imprisonment, or both. There is a difference between state and federal punishments and prosecutions against rioting. 

Is Rioting Illegal? 

If the speech of a person encourages the public to riot or perform any lawless action, then that person is committing a crime. Riots are unlawful, and people who participate or have any kind of involvement in riots can be charged with a federal crime.

Riots are not the same as protests, although it is not uncommon for a protest to turn into a riot. A protest is the public’s right to peacefully gather in a designated area and show their disapproval regarding something. A riot is the intentional destruction of federal property and a threat to the safety of the civilians which disturbs the peace of the state. 

The First Amendment protects all lawful protests. Incitement of a riot is a misdemeanor offense in the U.S., and if a person is severely injured due to the riot, it can count as a felony.