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This crowd was waiting uncertainly for news that it was going to become a riot.

Something is seriously wrong, and a crowd of people — usually common, lower-class, etc. — has gathered. They are discontented and angry, but not really whipped up. They don't really have a plan in mind unless they are protesting something, in which case the overt purpose is usually Waving Signs Around. Sometimes, they would gladly riot, but the number of soldiers, police, or other warnings of force keep them in check with an implied Who Will Bell the Cat? — the first person to riot will clearly die.

This can last a long, long, long time, with no overt effect except some hostile looks, but eventually something will happen.

  1. Someone provokes them, possibly from more-or-less legitimate fear of how bad it could get. Particularly likely when a Blue Blood doesn't take them seriously or when the police at the scene take an overly aggressive approach. Then the mob really is whipped up. Lots of damage all around. Although most of the dead are likely to be in the crowd, it really does get that bad. (Torches and Pitchforks is not likely; the mob is not focused and will likely destroy whatever they get their hands on, which means they are often far more destructive than Torches and Pitchforks.) If the crowd has weapons, it may become a Blast Out or a Molotov Cocktail throw-fest. Looting is also very common, and innocent bystanders unlucky enough to be in their vicinity are likely to be savagely attacked.

    When they are kept in check, someone loses control, or deliberately starts it, or (most commonly) does something that was misinterpreted as starting the riot. Things can and usually will get even more ugly and the riot will usually get to the point where nothing short of focused overwhelming force can quell it.
  2. Or, conversely, someone can calm them, soothing them and sending them going. This can be Shaming the Mob, or it can be convincing them that things are being handled properly.

    Fear can lead to their dispersing if Victory Through Intimidation is made clear.

Sometimes the Rabble Rouser can convert them to Torches and Pitchforks.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Wild Fang series, every time the manbeasts go into human settlements, the humans start getting suspicious and violent because they subliminally pick up the destructive power the manbeasts are capable of. This in turn makes the manbeasts lose their control and involuntarily react, escalating the situation.
  • It's not exactly easy to animate a riot scene. Unless, of course, computers take away the drudgery. They pulled it off with Metropolis (2001) and one of the shorts in The Animatrix.
  • In Little Witch Academia (2017), a refereeing mistake during a football match leads to multiple such gatherings, as angry fans protest the erroneous result. Professor Croix takes advantage of the protestors, covertly inflaming them and then feeding off their anger to power her Noir Fuel Spirit, with the side effect that the protests gradually escalate.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, the whole prison goes berserk when an inmate finally dies from injuries inflicted by Rorschach.
  • Showed up in Diabolik in the story "The Great Escape", where the volatile political situation in Benglait explodes in a brief civil war when crown prince Danilo has the royal guard fire on protesters.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: As the political situation in New Iacon is getting more tense than ever, with Decepticons protesting in the streets and the Autobots stocking up on weaponry, Wheeljack ruminates nervously on how the slightest spark could cause everything to explode into a full-scale riot that would tear the city apart. Later that night, as he is rushing to deliver some important information, Wheeljack accidentally stumbles right into the aforementioned crowd of protesters, who promptly begin screaming obscenities at him and tossing stuff around. Wheeljack realizes, to his horror, exactly what the Last Straw is gonna be:
    Wheeljack: Anything sets them off. But this time, it's me. Me being at the wrong place at the wrong time provides the spark that sets this city on fire.
    (As if in response to his thought, someone throws a Molotov cocktail that consumes a building in flames and sends the crowd into a furious rampage)
    Decepticon: You ready, Autobot?

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • The White Martian population is more or less in this state in With This Ring, with widespread de jure and de facto oppression leading to small-scale peaceful and violent unrest — and then one of them obtains clear proof that the entire system of color divisions does not stem from natural differences but from the Guardians' millennia-old tampering and conditioning. In the Paragon timeline, the protagonist approaches the planetary government, which quietly freaks out and rapidly pushes reforms through the more cooperative cities, nipping most of the discontentment in the bud. In the Renegade timeline, the information is disseminated everywhere, and the planet erupts in civil war.

    Films — Animation 
  • The climax of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a rare example that's on the protagonists' side. Thanks to Frollo's extended assault on city in search of one woman, the Parisians now hate him more than they do the Romani. The crowd gathered to watch Esmeralda's execution by burning have to be penned back by soldiers and a few even shout their belief that Esmeralda is innocent. It's not difficult for Phoebus, once he escapes, to incite them to rise up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In '71 the west Belfast locals are already angry at the presence of the army, but the RUC's behaviour make them violent.
  • An angry mob forms at the jailhouse in Fury (1936). A tomato thrown at the sheriff escalates the riot.
  • Toward the end of Do the Right Thing, Mookie intentionally turns an Angry Mob into a full-blown riot by picking up a trash can and throwing it through a diner window (the owner having been very distantly connected to the death of one of his friends).
  • Also toward the end of Hot Rod, a crowd of people are following the protagonist through the streets, to the sound of 80's power rock music. Everything's great, people are singing, everyone's getting hyped up for The Big Jump. When, all of a sudden, someone throws a trashcan through a window. Riot police appear of nowhere, and eventually, it's a full-scale riot.
  • Carefully explained by the detective in V for Vendetta as the little girl with the broken glasses is shot, leading to the first type of result. Then the same thing is set up with the crowd at the houses of parliament.
  • This seems to be a common theme in Soylent Green, especially in the marketplace when masses of people (disgruntled over a shortage of Soylent Green) break out into a riot.
  • In the The Book of Eli post-apocalyptic world, this seems to happen in the town bar/pub on a regular basis.
  • Illustrated very well in the 2012 film version of Les Miserables. A crowd has gathered for the funeral of a popular military figure, General Lamarque. The atmosphere is charged, more so when a group of young revolutionaries start up an anthem and hijack the funeral cortege. Suddenly a soldier fires on a bystander. Uproar ensues.
  • In The Hunger Games, a crowd in District 11 is shown watching the Hunger Games. When Rue dies and Katniss salutes her, an angry man in the crowd (implied to be Rue's father) starts attacking the guards, provoking a full-scale riot.
  • In the Death Race remake, in a crap-sack world set 20 minutes into the future, the factory where the main character Ames works is shutting down, and all of the hundreds of angry workers are lining up to collect their last paycheck. Just as Ames collects his and leaves, SWAT team vans start parking at the edge of the crowd but don't do anything, because they were brought in out of fear that a riot might start. Ames scoffs that this is a "self-fulfilling prophecy", and is quickly proven correct: simply having SWAT teams show up at all is enough to spark off a full-scale riot by the angry laid-off workers. The police and/or factory owners thought that having SWAT teams just standing there would be enough to intimidate the workers. Problem is it's hard to intimidate desperate unemployed men with nothing to lose.
  • Tumbleweed: Jim is almost lynched by a powder keg crowd when he rides into Borax. Only the intervention of Sheriff Murchoree manages to save him, and, even then, it still looks like any spark might ignite the mob into storming the jail and dragging him out.
  • The Man Who Would be King: Near the climax of the film Dravot's guise as the god-king Sikander is foiled by his would-be-bride, as she scratches him in front of the high priests during their wedding ceremony, making it evident he bleeds like a mortal man. Dravot and Peachy try to make their getaway, but the high priests soon whip up the entire city into a frenzy and go after the men- not even their loyal trained riflemen and their Gurkha manservant can stem the tide of angry zealots set to kill the men for masquerading as their god.
  • In Johnny Reno, Mayor Yates has deliberately whipped the citizens of Stone Junction into a frenzy so they will lynch the Connors brothers as soon as they are captured.
  • In Halloween Kills, the Haddonfield citizens gathering at the hospital to inquire about loved ones in the wake of Michaelís renewed attacks form one as Tommy Doyle rallies them to take down Myers once and for all. Unfortunately, the crowd is set off when another Smithís Grove patient, who escaped alongside Michael Myers but isnít working with him and is ultimately harmless, is mistaken for Myers, causing the rage-fueled crowd to give chase through the hospital. Ultimately, the mob doesn't realize their mistake until after the patient desperately attempts to escape through a window and dies messily.
  • Seven Days in May opens with two lines of protestors for and against an upcoming nuclear disarmament treaty outside the White House. At first the two groups file impassively past each other until one man starts catcalling; then suddenly both groups are involved in fisticuffs.

  • The Day of the Locust climaxes with a Hollywood movie premiere at which the crowd of star-gawkers, whom protagonist Tod Hackett regards as having been disappointed and disillusioned by the life of leisure they thought they would find in Los Angeles after years of work back east, gets more and more restless and agitated, and finally explodes into a full-scale riot after Enfant Terrible child actor Adore Loomis gets stomped to death. It's disturbing enough in the book, but John Schlesinger's movie version takes it to the level of full-on Nightmare Fuel.
  • Discworld:
    • It's repeatedly said (usually in Watch books) that Ankh-Morpork exists in a perpetual state of "proto-mob": it's spread out like an amoeba that can instantly contract around a trouble spot, or wherever there's some impromptu street theater.
    • Though not a pre-riot mob, in Jingo, Vimes find the crowd around a man railing against Klatch to be disturbing because they're not cheering, they're listening.
    • The provocative case occurs off stage in Night Watch and results in many deaths. The defused kind turns up when Vimes expends a great deal of effort ensuring that it doesn't happen at his post.
    • Another instance occurs in Guards! Guards! when an angry crowd surrounds Lady Sybil's dragon sanctuary; on this occasion, Vimes manages to calm them down by threatening to use one on them.
    • In Unseen Academicals, the Shove is always a Powder Keg Crowd. Neatly defused by Nutt at the climax.
    • In Thud!, trolls and dwarfs. Even, alas, in the Watch. At one point, Vimes notices how rumor is spreading through a crowd of dwarfs and thinks "This crowd was waiting uncertainly for news that it was going to become a riot."
    • The village of Escrow in Carpe Jugulum. Despite the Count's talk, they are clearly not that happy with the bloodletting "arrangement". As soon as they see that the vampires are off their game, the mayor tries to strangle the Count and a number of them get staked. Then they proceed silently to the castle to pursue the ones who escaped.
  • In One for the Morning Glory, Prince Amadeus faces such a crowd and manages to persuade them that they had come to draw matters to his attention and that he would deal with them.
  • In Wizard and Glass, Roland recounts his backstory where he lost his One True Love. He lost her due to a Powder Keg Crowd whipped into a killing frenzy by Rhea of the Coos. Said crowd burned Roland's love alive.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe:
    • In the Ciaphas Cain novel For the Emperor, Cain is sent to a newly minted regiment that had been roughly merged from the remains of two widely different regiments: the Valhallan 206th (an all-female garrison unit) and the Valhallan 301st (an all-male frontline assault unit). Tensions between the two had simmered over into a Bar Brawl that left several soldiers and crewmen of the transport they were aboard injured or dead, but Cain is able to pull rank and get the Valhallans to tolerate each other under the new banner of the 597th. After he's dealt with that, Cain then has to deal with a much larger version of this when the regiment's assigned to a whole planet which is in this state thanks to the Tau's attempts to annex it (in their usual Bread and Circuses fashion). It quickly turns out that someone is trying to set off the civil war. It turns out to be a Genestealer cult trying to sow disorder before a Tyranid invasion.
    • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, Vervunhive Commissars attempt to stop refugees from going into sealed off areas. When throwing about "State of Emergency" doesn't work, they shoot several to scare them off. Not a good idea when the odds are six armed troopers facing several hundred unarmed refugees.
    • In the Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, when a crowd is pressing in on the governor, a sergeant orders the Arbites to open fire, over his captain's orders, killing many, until the captain manages to override them. Later, a demonstration is deliberately fired on by men disguised as Arbites, and the resulting riot kills thousands and spreads destruction about the city.
  • In A Clash of Kings, King Joffrey and the other Lannisters are riding through a resentful crowd of starving peasants on their way back to the castle. Someone throws dung at Joffrey. Furious, Joffrey orders the Hound to cut his way through the crowd and retrieve the offender. This triggers a riot that spreads throughout the city.
  • The main character in Invisible Man has a knack for manipulating these crowds towards what he hopes will be the best possible course of action. Ras, the resident Dark Messiah, just gets them to destroy things.
  • The Rifter: In Gisa, when the prisoners accused of witchcraft are due to be taken to the Payshmura temple by a troop of rashan'im soldiers, a huge crowd gathers in front of the prison gates, singing and shouting to the soldiers to go home. The guards at the gate don't interfere. Even the soldiers hesitate, but the situation is hanging on a knife-edge between them leaving or starting a massacre when The Cavalry arrives in the form of kahlirash'im warrior-priests who turn out to not agree with the Payshmura priests at all. The rashan'im turn tail.
  • In The Court of the Air, when a crowd gathers about the castle, the figurehead/scapegoat king comes out on the balcony to let them throw fruit and rubbish at him, sating their desire to riot.
  • 1632:
    • At the end of 1633, one of these was gathering in Magdeburg after word of the death of Hans Richter reached the general public. Mike Stearns and company defuse the situation before it actually blows up, though.
    • Examined in 1635: The Cannon Law, where it is made blindingly obvious that the crowd is only there because somebody who thinks he's The Chessmaster paid them to do so. Several of them aren't even sure what they're gathering around angrily protesting, just that they're getting a nice bit of gold to stand in the square and yell incoherently.
    • In 1635: The Dreeson Incident, what was supposed to be a protest against vaccination at a Grantville hospital turns into a protest against autopsies (a much bigger religious issue at the time). When a policeman takes offense at the insults being thrown, he draws his gun and fires, killing a protester. The policeman is then killed by the furious crowd and a major riot erupts with multiple deaths on both sides.
  • Sword of Truth: In Faith of the Fallen, a large crowd has gathered around the statue created by Richard, on their knees and weeping with pure joy, only for an official of the Imperial Order to force Richard to destroy it. This doesn't go down well.
  • The crowd in Sylvie and Bruno, among other things, shout "Less! Bread! More! Taxes!"
  • It is mentioned at some point in the Persian part of The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar that as a result of an economically disastrous recent war with Russia, all of Persia — and especially Tehran — has been teeming with all the right ingredients for such a powder keg. Needless to say, it turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Beka Cooper:
    • Near the end of Terrier, Beka is deeply unsettled by a large and unusually quiet crowd watching the Guard retrieve the bodies of several dead diggers, the latest in a series of group disappearances. Sure enough, fighting breaks out shortly thereafter and the perpetrator is killed by the mob.
    • In Bloodhound, the combination of rampant counterfeiting of silver and a potential blight in a major grain crop turn the entire capital into this with a massive riot starting after a shop owner doubles the price for bread in the slum district.
  • In "The Scarlet Citadel", reports of Conan the Barbarian's death stir up this, which erupts into violence, though Trocero manages to put it down, with violence.
  • Shadows of the Apt:
    • In Blood of the Mantis, the news of the queen's death puts Szar into this, although the Wasps foolishly think they can suppress it.
    • Solarn appears to be a city of intrigue and politics, but with the arrival of the Wasps, violence erupts. Che thinks it's been a powder keg all along.
  • Scaramouche: Andre-Louis constantly lights the powder keg crowds of The French Revolution.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's books had plenty of these. In the Jeeves and Wooster stories, Bertie would typically run for his life while Jeeves gave them some Verbal Judo.
  • The Lost Stars: In the novel Tarnished Knight, the loss of the security forces brought about this. Drakon acts quickly to contain it, publicly reminding the population that they weren't out of the woods yet and people urging violence and destruction may be ISS agents and setting guards on crucial locations.
  • The striking millworkers in North and South angrily swarm up to employer John Thornton's house and very nearly start to riot.
  • In Dorothy Sterling's novel Mary Jane, there's one of these protesting the integration of the local high school. It lasts for some days, but there's no actual violence, due to adequate police protection. Eventually, the protesters stop returning.
  • Dragaera:
    • This happens a few times in Teckla, in which the narrator Vlad is so apolitical that he has no clue why everyone in South Adrilankha is so worked up, or why particular choices by activists and/or city authorities either soothe or heighten the tension.
    • In Five Hundred Years After, conspirators intentionally engineer a riot by stirring up the Powder Keg Crowd of hungry people in Dragaera City's slums. The one tasked to do so admits that she won't be able to control how long it lasts or how far it'll spread, just when it starts.
  • Ukridge: The crowd attending Boko Lawlor's election campaign event in "The Long Arm of Looney Coote" is notably volatile. When Ukridge, who has been on Lawlor's campaign staff, gets arrested for automobile theft on stage, a riot breaks out. The arresting policeman was actually trying to provoke a strong reaction (delaying his appearance at the meeting to "give it time to warm up"), but probably wasn't intending it to go that far.
  • Lampshaded in The Caves of Steel when the protagonist is told by his android partner that they're Being Watched by a large group of anti-robot activists. At first, he fears that they plan to expose his partner as a robot and start a riot, but then he realizes that the activists would also be at risk of being trapped in the chaos.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andor: The first season finale features a funeral for beloved local Maarva Andor on Ferrix that quickly becomes this. After weeks of bureaucratic stonewalling and Imperial decrees limiting attendance to public events, the fed-up locals start the funerary march two hours early, attracting a crowd significantly larger than was permitted — with one attendant, the son of a man executed by the Imperial garrison for conspiring with the rebellion, brining a bomb in his satchel. After a fiery anti-Imperial speech recorded by the deceased is played on a massive holo-projector, the Imperials attempt to disperse the crowd and shut things down, leading the locals to attack; once the bomb is thrown and detonated, Imperial forces begin firing indiscriminately into the crowd, sparking a full-blown riot that nearly gets a major Imperial official lynched.
  • Since Babylon Berlin is set in The Weimar Republic, a riot is characterised as something of a weekly occurrence (and only if it's not interrupted by an attempted revolution or coup d'etat). In the show, a KPD 1st of May demonstration in Kreuzberg gets out of hand, and it ends with the police driving by with armoured cars and spraying the streets with machine gun fire.
  • The Expanse: Miller, an officer of the unpopular Star Helix private law enforcement, is riding the tube train when the power suddenly goes out — he gets an Oh, Crap! when everyone starts staring at him in a menacing manner. Fortunately, the power comes on before things get ugly.
  • In Game of Thrones, King Joffrey and the other Lannisters are riding through a resentful crowd of starving peasants on their way back to the castle. Someone throws dung at Joffrey. Furious, Joffrey orders the Hound to cut his way through the crowd and retrieve the offender. Tyrion Lannister, part of the entourage, can metaphorically smell the explosive powder in the air and immediately orders his younger niece and nephew's guards to take a safer route before everything explodes.

  • Billy Idol wrote "Shock to the System" after watching the LA riots unfolding live on TV. The music video builds on it with an amateur cameraman getting beaten up by cyber-cops, then proceeds to fuse with the remains of his camera and assist the rioters.
  • Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" was partly written about the 1981 Brixton riots.
  • Sly and the Family Stone's 1970 album "There's a Riot Goin' On" was heavily inspired by the riots that happened at Watts, Detroit, the 1968 DNC Convention, and following the assassinations of MLK and RFK.
  • Toy Dolls: "Park Lane Punch Up" starts with the narrator taking offense at a "trendy geezer with no brain" setting foot in the taxi rank, and ends with... well...
    The Park Lane punch-up escalates, somebody's teeth are gone
    It's too much for the coppers, THERE'S A RIOT GOING ON!

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Thebaid: Despite how highly they think of themselves, the men of Argos start a frothing mob just because the day is hot and dry. They trample over each other without concern for their fellow man at the first word of a river, proving that they are just as illogical as the Thebans who worship the god of madness.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "School on Saturday", Madison High's students are in an angry protesting mob outside the school. They're angry because, you guessed it, they're being forced to go to school on Saturday. They even have plans to burn the principal, Mr. Conklin, in effigy. Mr. Conklin sends Miss Brooks outside to make a speech to calm them down.

  • Fangirls: After he disappears, Harry's fangirls mass in the centre of town: ready to search for him and/or unleash their fury on whoever took him. However, with no leads to follow and no obvious targets on which to vent their fury, they wind up almost turning on each other before gradually dispersing.
  • William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The conspirators calm them down. Mark Anthony whips them back up again.
  • In Twilight: Los Angeles, the uniting arc of the interviews that Anna Deveare Smith collected is the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

    Video Games 
  • Attempted in Bravely Default in the nation of Ancheim. Khamer, the Time Mage, and king of Ancheim, tries to push the nation towards Anticrystalism by ordaining hard manual labor to man the turbines that provide energy to the city to substitute for the winds stopping due to the corruption of the crystals. He also gives the Profiteur Merchantry free reign to seize the water supplies and inflate the price of water, while thieves under their employ rob anyone who attempts to sidestep this by going to the nearby oasis. Both of these would erode the resolve of the citzens and build up pent-up frustration that the king intended to unleash upon the Wind Vestal, were it not for Agnès diffusing the situation by restoring the Wind Crystal and with it the winds powering Ancheim. One of Khamer's subordinates, Khint the Spell Fencer, even describes Ancheim as a powder keg waiting to be set off by any spark of trifling grievances.
  • In the Game Boy Advance game Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, Nadia (under Bolozof's orders) infiltrates a street protest and fires on the police mechs stationed there as crowd control, giving Bolozof's Acemos unit an excuse to move in and attack.
  • Halo 3: ODST has a crowd trying to get on a subway train that the corrupt police commissioner has commandeered. His men are shooting anyone that gets too close, and when it seems like he's about to accomplish what he's been trying to do for the entire audio story (rape the girl that the story centers around) her companion manages to get the crowd riled up enough to overwhelm the cops and break onto the train, ripping the guy to shreds. Literally.
  • In Suikoden V, the Prince finds out that Salum Barrows took advantage of one of these to steal the Dawn Rune
  • In Alpha Protocol, one of the Big Bad's plans is to produce one of these out of a pro-independence Taiwanese rally, aided by the assassination of the speaker. You can only stop one of the two plans, which will either lead to the death of one important politician or nationwide riots that kill hundreds. Chinese-Taiwanese relations hit rock bottom either way.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, these crowds keep showing up: in the prologue, there's one waiting in Washington D.C. for the Senate hearing that Adam and Megan are heading to, and there was another one just outside the LIMB clinic in Detroit in the first act when Adam finally gets to the streets. A third crowd gathers outside Sarif Industries in the third act, and almost immediately explodes when the Illuminati leak "evidence" of terrifyingly unethical augmentation experimentation. Fully a quarter of Detroit is inaccessible as a result of the ongoing riot, and the rest of the area has massive police presence.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has Officier Frank Tenpenny, who is the most crooked and corrupt cop in the entire Los Santos region that goes out of his way to make life for gangs (and possibly poor/impoverished people in general) hell. Towards the end of the game, Tenpenny was taken to court on the account of all the seedy things he's done. However, Tenpenny was cleared on all charges due to lack of evidence and witnesses. The outcome of the trial causes the entire Los Santos neighborhood to ignite in a massive riot as the rioters demanded Tenpenny's head on a plate for his actions.
  • In one ending route of Aviary Attorney the crowd isn't too bad, aiming to remain peaceful even as the situation deteriorates. A friar pretending friendship with both sides goes to the military aiming cannons at the protesters and claims to its leader that the crowd is a powder keg and if he wants to survive he'll have to kill them all if he hears even one gunshot.
  • Referenced nearly by name by Achilles in Assassin's Creed III, in the scene leading up to the Boston Massacre. Charles Lee firing his gun into the air unseen provokes the Redcoats responding to the colonists' demonstration to open fire, and the rest is, quite literally, history.

    Web Animation 
  • Since the Fall of Beacon in RWBY, General Ironwood of Atlas has put the entire nation under his protection on lockdown, keeping troops on patrol and imposing an embargo on the energy source Dust, Atlas/Mantle's chief export. In the impoverished Mantle, tensions are at an all-time high as Ironwood continues towards the mission he's kept closely guarded. In Volume 7, Chapter 5 "Sparks", the Corrupt Corperate Executive Jacques Schnee's political announcement (where he all but states he's holding his business and people's jobs hostage unless he wins the election) finally sets Mantle over the edge to riot in the streets. This is especially dangerous in this setting because so much negative emotion acts as a beacon to the Creatures of Grimm, monsters driven to the goal of genocide against all mankind.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons. The inhabitants of Springfield will do this at the drop of a hat. Lampshaded by Mayor Quimby in "Mayored to the Mob".
  • See The Venture Bros. episode "Tag Sale - You're It!"
    • Also happens in "Now Museum, Now You Don't", though everyone's discontented for different reasons.
    Dr. Venture: This is gonna be one of those things, isn't it?
    Brock: Uh-huh.
    Dr. Venture: I mean, you get a bunch of short-fused, costumed idiots together in one room like this, and what do you think's gonna happen? Any minute now, stuff's gonna start blowing up, guys'll be throwing each other at other guys.
    Brock: Yeah, probably.
    Dr. Venture: You know, when you're not the one in the middle of it all for once, it's actually totally, completely obvious.
    Brock: Welcome to my life.
  • Played for laughs in The Fairly OddParents!, after a crowd celebrating a young Denzel Crocker's achievements has their memory of what he did wiped, leaving them confused as to why they are there. "Well, we're not celebrating anything... so we must be an angry mob!" Cue the Torches and Pitchforks directed at Crocker.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, the Bikini Bottom in general is this, one example is the episode "Bubble Buddy", where a crowd of people become enraged at the eponymous bubble. Once they're set off, they tip over the lifeguard stand and attempt to kill the lifeguard before focusing their rage on Bubble Buddy.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender subverts it, plays it straight, and plays it for laughs in "The Boiling Rock, Part 2". Our heroes need a riot as a distraction, so Hakoda tries to pick a fight with a fellow prisoner... who calmly responds that Hakoda is being kind of rude (turns out he was learning to control his anger). The Token Evil Teammate, Chit Sang, scoffs at their efforts and then demonstrates the proper procedure,
    Chit Sang: (lift someone over his head) Hey! Riot!
    Crowd: *Shouting and firebending*
  • Recess. The students at Third Street Elementary are astonishingly easy to provoke.
  • According to The Boondocks, all it takes to turn a mildly disgruntled crowd - especially a black crowd - into a full-blown riot is someone throwing a chair. This starts off sounding like Riley's normal level of hyperbole, until he actually does so: the crowd stops, one guy yells "I'M MAD" and punches someone else at random, and it all instantly descends into an orgy of violence. This, despite the fact that it was Riley the crowd was angry at, and that the chair didn't even hit anyone.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Political Power", after the Crystal Gems accidentally cause a blackout, Mayor Dewey tries to reassure the townspeople that the power will be back by nightfall. When it doesn't happen, the townsfolk form an angry mob demanding that Dewey do something. They eventually get sick of the mayor's reassurances and empty promises, and Nanefua Pizza convinces the mob to attack Mayor Dewey's campaign truck. Only Steven Shaming the Mob and giving a Rousing Speech saves Dewey from being lynched.
  • Frankenstein's Cat: Saying the word "monster" will get the villagers of Oddsburg to pick up their torches and pitchforks in a flash.

    Real Life 
  • Famously the Romanian revolution against Nicolae Ceauşescu. In a time of great public unrest, it probably wasn't the smartest idea to round up "supporters" to attend a rally to promote loyalty to the regime. A few minutes into the president's speech, the crowd got fed up with his delusional talk and everything went downhill within minutes, forcing Ceauşescu to retreat inside the building. To make things worse, the whole event was broadcast live on TV. The next morning the military joined the protesters and three days later Ceauşescu was executed.
  • During 1848, there was a string of nationalist revolutions, revolutionary attempts and riots all across Europe. England was the only nation to mostly avoid violence, having gone through very similar turbulence sixteen years earlier, and having enacted reforms to resolve some of the internal tension.
  • The 1863 New York City draft riots. People were annoyed at the draft (which allowed the wealthy to buy their way out) and the Emancipation Proclamation (many whites not thinking that abolitionism was a cause to die for, and many of the working class being pro-slavery). What was the spark? A fireman was drafted. Three days later, the riot ended. The total dead is still debated, with estimates ranging from 120 to 2,000.
  • On a similar note, the one Arab revolution in 2011 that fully succeeded—Tunisia—was one in which the regime fired upon and otherwise brutalized the protesters (who were almost entirely if not entirely peaceful). The three protest movements that kind of just fizzled out—Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan—were the ones where the police did not fire into the crowd; the Moroccan police were specifically given strict orders to give the protesters a wide berth and not to fire.
    • Most analysts agree that the decision to fire on peaceful, unarmed civilians attracted sympathy for the protesters that would not otherwise have existed, which in turn led to increased turnout at the protests. This is borne out by the results in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, where the protest movement grew each time it was reported the police or army had fired upon civilians; this led Syria and Yemen into a state of vague turmoil and led the Libyans to take up arms. In each case the situation quickly devolved into a full-on civil war. The only way (it seems) for a strategy of brutal violence to work is if it is done whole-hog and very quickly; the Bahraini government managed to crush the protest movement, but only because hardliners did not hesitate to use the military to break up the sit-in at Pearl Roundabout and then call in Saudi and Emirati troops to quell the uprising once and for all.
    • Also, a government that won't fire on its citizens is a good candidate for genuine reform, while a regime that kills its own people kind of needs overthrowing.
    • Though this was, notoriously, inverted by the Tiananmen Square protests in China; twenty years later, there has still been no reform worth speaking of, let alone anything like overthrow.
  • The 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles.
  • The 1967 Detroit riots, which the city never fully recovered from, and the riots in Newark that same summer.
  • In Indianapolis, Bobby Kennedy defused such a situation the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot: there was no riot.
    • The day after MLK Jr. was shot James Brown performed at the Boston Garden. Mayor Kevin White arranged to have the concert broadcast on local public television, and there was no rioting in Boston. Brown was thus given credit for saving Boston from burning.
    • In Chicago, the same day, the situation was not defused and rioting broke out. Three days later it was finally over, with 11 dead, over 500 injured and 3,000 arrested. Over 200 buildings were destroyed and nearly 1,000 were left homeless by fires.
  • The 1981 Brixton Riots in London.
  • The 1992 LA Riots. There were large amounts of tension even before the officers involved in the Rodney King incident were acquitted (due to a Korean store owner who shot a black girl that she thought was shoplifting a $2 bottle of orange juice, being given only 5 years probation), as well as the rampant poverty in the area. The officers' acquittal was just the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.
    • There were Powder Keg Crowds in many major US cities leading up the Rodney King verdict, and there was some rioting in all of them. The most violent aside from L.A. were across the South, from Dallas to Atlanta.
  • Woodstock 99 had its attendants in a scorching hot former air base, being borderline price-gouged ($4 for a water bottle, $12 for an individual pizza) and with at least two musicians stimulating bad behavior (Kid Rock asked the audience to toss anything "that can't hurt each other," resulting in an impressive shower of bottles; Limp Bizkit riled up the crowd during "Break Stuff", and even sexual assaults ensued). So after two already chaotic days, in the third there was a literal flame to ignite the angry mob, and ironically meant for peace: an anti-gun violence organization PAX had distributed candles to those stopping at their booth during the day, intending them for a candlelight vigil to be held during the Red Hot Chili Peppers' concert. Thus during the band's set, the ignited candles led to huge bonfires fueled by plastic bottles, plywood pieces from the security fence, and eventually vendor booths and merch tents that had just been ransacked (the ATMs of the place were equally looted), with the riot only being diffused once the New York State Troopers and local law enforcement arrived. Seeing the resurrection of a "peace and love" festival finish in such unrest and violence guaranteed the retirement of the Woodstock brand.
  • The riots in France in 2005.
  • To a certain degree, the 2005 Cronulla riots in Sydney.
  • The anti-austerity riots throughout Europe in 2011, most notably in Greece.
    • The riots in London and other major centers in England that same year, which weren't directly anti-austerity (the catalyst was a dubiously-justified police shooting), but high unemployment and the government's lacklustre attempts to reduce it certainly contributed to the ugly mood; a short while earlier an actual anti-austerity protest had ended with an Angry Mob forcing their way into the head offices of the Conservative Party and trashing the place.
  • During Mao's Cultural Revolution in China, people were instructed to hunt down anyone suspected of being an "enemy of the people." Many of the victims were teachers, artists, doctors, religious followers. Those who were caught by Mao's Red Guard were dragged into the streets and publicly vilified by a jeering crowd. This was mandatory, and anyone not attending to these were considered enemies themselves.
    • The riots went out of control to the point where Mao himself and his inner party had to order the Red Guard to step down.
  • The infamous French St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. It was intended (ordered by the king Charles IX of France after long pressures from his mother and her counsellors) to be the mere murder of the French Calvinist leaders, who were then gathered in Paris because of the wedding of their chief (the future king Henry IV) with Charles IX sister. This elimination quickly went out of control and violent catholic mobs started to kill Parisian Calvinists anywhere. This slaughter extended to the whole country the following days.
  • The Nica riots during the time of the Byzantines started off because of a chariot race. Emperor Justinian was actually planning to flee the city until Empress Theodora persuaded him to stay. Justinian did so and called out the army, and the riots ended several thousand dead people later.


Video Example(s):


Fake Tickets

When Homer and Wally's Super Bowl tickets turn out to be fake (which they failed to notice), Homer tries to let his gang of friends down easily. Unfortunately, they immediately see through the whitewash and flip out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / PowderKegCrowd

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