Stott sees crowds as the opposite of ruleless, and crowd violence as the opposite of senseless: What seems like anarchic behavior is in fact governed by a shared self-conception and thus a shared set of grievances. Stott’s response to the riots has been unpopular with many of his countrymen. Unlike Zimbardo, who would respond—and indeed has responded over the years—to incidents of group misbehavior by speaking darkly of moral breakdown, Stott brings the focus back to the long history of societal slights, usually by police, that primed so many young people to riot in the first place.
Meeting Stott in person, one can see how he’s been able to blend in with soccer fans over the years. He’s a stocky guy, with a likably craggy face and a nose that looks suspiciously like it’s been broken a few times. When asked why the recent riots happened, his answers always come back to poor policing—particularly in Tottenham, where questions over the death of a young man went unaddressed by police for days and where the subsequent protest was met with arbitrary violence. Stott singles out one moment when police seemed to handle a young woman roughly and an image of that mistreatment was tweeted (and BBMed) throughout London’s black community and beyond. It was around then that the identity of the crowd shifted, decisively, to outright combat against the police.