The 10 Worst Riots in Europe

A scene from the riots in Kiev.
A scene from the riots in Kiev.

Riots are defined as forms of public disorder or civil unrest and usually feature the use of violence. Riots are a common occurrence in most countries all over the world and are seen as a form of public expression against a particular form of oppression. Europe has had its fair share of riots with some leading to loss of life and destruction of property.

10. 2011 Northern Ireland riots

The Northern Ireland Riots of 2001 were several riots which occurred between June 20th, 2011 and July 16th, 2011. The riots began in Belfast, instigated by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force and quickly spread to other regions of Northern Ireland. The riots featured the use of projectiles such as petrol bombs, widespread vandalism, and gun battles. The police made over 50 arrests in the aftermath of the violent riots with over 300 people sustaining injuries.

9. 2001 Oldham Riots

The Oldham Riots of 2001 occurred in May 2001 in the town of Oldham, Manchester and were among the worst ethnically-motivated riots in England. The riots took place in an area with extremely high ethnic tensions between residents of Caucasian heritage and those of Asian descent. According to reports, the riots began after a fight between two young men which morphed into widespread violence with rioters using petrol bombs and bricks. About ten people were jailed for their participation in the riots. The Oldham Riots showed the deep-rooted segregation in the area which authorities had continuously failed to address.

8. 2009 NK Siroki Brijeg - FK Sarajevo football riots

2009 NK Siroki Brijeg – FK Sarajevo football riots were violent clashes between supporters of two local soccer clubs; the NK Siroki Brijeg and the FK Sarajevo on October 4th, 2009. The clashes began after the altercations between members of Horde Zla (FK Sarajevo supporters) and Skripari (supporters of NK Siroki Brijeg) which escalated from verbal exchanges to violent clashes which spilled into the city. The clashes were among the most violent involving sports fans and featured widespread vandalism and gun shots. In the aftermath, one member of Horde Zla died of gunshot wounds with other 31 people sustaining injuries. The protests continued in the home cities of the warring sides and featured thousands of participants.

7. 2008-09 Oslo riots

The 2008-09 Oslo Riots were a series of violent protests which erupted in the city of Oslo, Norway beginning in December 2008 until January 2009. The protests began on December 29th, 2008 as peaceful protests against the Gaza War with protestors marching towards Parkveien to the Israeli embassy. However, the protests quickly morphed to become violent when protesters began throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the police who responded by firing tear gas at the protestors. Another wave of riots began on January 8th, 2009 during a pro-Israel rally which escalated to violent clashes between pro-Israel and anti-Israel demonstrators and the police. The riots left a trail of destruction in their wake and were a testament of the growing anti-Semitism in a European country.

6. 2005 Birmingham Riots

The 2005 Birmingham Riots happened in the Handsworth and Lozells areas of Birmingham, England. The riots occurred in two consecutive nights of 2005, beginning on October 22nd and ending on October 23rd. They were caused by the alleged gang rape of a teenage girl of Jamaican heritage by several British men of Pakistani heritage. The riots featured vandalism of Muslim graves as well as the stabbing-to-death of one man. The Birmingham riots revealed the growing ethnic hatred in the Birmingham region.

5. Harehills riot

The Harehills riot occurred in June 2001 in Harehills, Leeds and involved the police and members of the public. The riot which took six hours was caused by the wrongful arrest of an Asian man by the police in West Yorkshire. The police had arrested Hossein Miah over a tax disc, and the arrest was high-handed and caused him injury. The protests began at Banstead Park with protestors lighting barricades on the streets and looting of neighboring shops. Two police officers and two journalists sustained serious injuries. The 2001 Harehills riots highlighted the animosity in Harehills between the police and the public.

4. 2011 England riots

The 2011 England riots began on August 6th, 2011 in Tottenham, London as a response to the murder of Mark Duggan who was killed by police. The protests quickly escalated into violent protests with widespread arson, looting, and vandalism in Tottenham with several police vehicles being destroyed. The riots quickly spread to other cities in England such as Liverpool, Nottingham, and Manchester. By August 11th, the protests had ceased after thousands of arrests by the police with over 1,000 rioters charged with criminal offenses. The riots left five people dead and 186 police officers nursing injuries. The protests forced the British government to look into the factors which may have fuelled the violence with unemployment, police harassment and social exclusion being noted as key contributors.

3. 2008 Greek riots

The 2008 Greek Riots were a series of violent protests which began on December 6th, 2008 after the murder of a 15-year-old student by special officers. While the initial protests were confined to the Greek city of Athens, the wave of riots spread to other cities including the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki, with thousands of students rioting against the police. While the murder was the trigger, there was growing public dissent against the government due to the 2008 global economic crisis which led to rising unemployment. The protests ended on December 31st, 2008 and left a trail of destruction in Athens and Thessaloniki. The 2008-Greek riots cast Greece in the global spotlight with students from countries all over the world showing their solidarity with the protestors with protests in Argentina, Austria, Cyprus, and Germany.

2. Bronze Night

Bronze Night is a name given to a series of riots which occurred in the Estonian city of Tallinn. The cause of the violent protests was the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, a Second-World-War memorial in the city. The monument had great symbolic value to the Russian community in Estonia who saw it as a sign of Soviet victory during the war while ethnic Estonians saw the monument as a symbol of Soviet repression and occupation. The violent riots began on April 26th, 2007 and featured widespread looting and vandalism that led to the death of one Russian protester. The protests ended three days later.

1. 2005 French riots

The 2005 French Riots were a series of riots which happened in the outskirts of Paris and involved vandalism of public property and widespread arson. The riots began on October 27, 2005 and were sparked by the electrocution of two men who were hiding from police in an electricity substation. The violent protests which began in Paris quickly spread to other French cities and culminated in the President announcing a state of emergency on November 8, 2005. The riots led to the death of two people and a destruction of property worth over $220 million. The French Riots were partly blamed on the rising unemployment of the French youth population.


More in Society