Template:Otheruses3 Street fighting is a term used to denote spontaneous, hand-to-hand fighting in public places. This violence is usually intended to result in injury and submission but not death (although death may inadvertently occur). It often results from a dispute and can stem from group association, harassment, or bullying. Violent incidents involving firearms or explosives are not usually called street fights.

Other forms of violence that are not usually called street fighting are domestic violence, riots, civil unrest, police brutality, and terrorism.

The term "street fighting" is sometimes used to describe military combat between opposing armies (regular or irregular) within a city as part of a war, insurrection or revolution. This form of combat is more accurately termed urban warfare.

Street fights fall into two major categories: individual street fights, between individuals or small groups of people, and factional street fights, between two or more large groups of people.

Individual street fightsEdit

Individual street fighting is distinct from sport fighting and duels because the latter are normally conducted according to some pre-arranged format, sometimes including some sort of rules. The distinction is not simple, since street fighting may be conducted according to an informal code of honor, but in street fighting such a code would be understood rather than explicitly agreed upon. In societies where dueling was common (and in those that still practise it today, such as the Philippines) many of the circumstances that would otherwise lead to an individual street fight lead to duels instead.

Individual street fighting is very often discussed in martial arts classes, often called self-defense, as a real-world application of the techniques taught in the class. Though most, if not all teachers do strongly stress avoidance of fights altogether.

Individual street fighting can arise in many ways, and different cultures are subject to different forms of street fighting. The causes of a street fight are almost always mixed, but certain factors often lead to problems.


The most common factor in street fights is drunkenness and other forms of intoxication. With alcohol or other drugs impairing their judgment, people are more likely to get into a heated argument which leads to violence. Most nightclubs have staff called bouncers whose job is to remove people who are causing this sort of problem. Of course, when belligerent drunk people are expelled from nightclubs, the bouncers are not supposed to follow them, especially if the combatants wander onto an adjacent street or other areas considered public property.


It is common in many societies for people to hate what they see as different, and this can lead to violence. The most common differences are

Other differences, such as preferred sports team (for example, the Byzantine chariot races leading to the Nika riots and the National Hockey League ice hockey teams) have led to conflict as well. Under some legal systems, violence caused by some of these motivations gets special legal treatment as hate crimes.

All these causes can also lead to much larger-scale conflict, such as race riots, ethnic cleansing, pogroms, and the Holocaust.


For centuries, thieves have been accosting travellers and demanding their money. This is now usually called mugging. Normally, if the victim hands over their money, no violence occurs. However, if the victim resists or frightens the thief or thieves, a fight may occur. Generally things go poorly for the victim, as thieves select only victims who appear vulnerable, so as the thug(s) can defeat should any type of resistance by the targeted occur, either because the thieves are larger, stronger, more heavily armed, or more numerous than the victim.

Sexual assaultEdit

While rare, it does occur that one or more attackers will attempt sexual assault on a victim in a public place (most sexual assaults are by acquaintances of the victim; see date rape, a much more common problem). If the victim attempts to fight (rather than submit or flee), or if a passerby intervenes on the victim's behalf, a street fight may break out; as above, attackers will usually not attack unless confident of success.

Organized crimeEdit

Individuals involved in organized crime are more likely to be embroiled in street fights, as these organizations often resort to violence to control their own members and to keep each other in check. This includes members of gangs, drug dealers, prostitutes, gamblers, and other people in illegal or quasi-legal occupations.

Factional street fightingEdit

Factional street fighting differs from war in that governments are not usually involved, modern weapons and soldiers are not involved, and the intent is not usually to kill. It differs from rioting because there are two major factions more interested in attacking each other than destroying property. Of course, this becomes a subtle point when police are sent out to quell the riot, especially if the riot was a political protest. One excellent example of factional street fighting is the running battle between the punks and the teddy boys on King Street. This occurred the summer of 1977 in London.

A riot is different from a political street fight in that usually a riot is a one sided expression of violence by a group against property, individuals or small groups of individuals (often of a different race, nationality or social class), or the police, although combat between rioters and the police can also be termed street fighting if firearms are not used.

The same factors that cause individual street fights aggravate and trigger factional street fights, but for factions to form, some underlying tension in the society must erupt.


Street fights can arise when the police are sent out to monitor a peaceful demonstration and police prejudice leads to violence between police and protesters. They can also arise between factions - Jews and neo-nazis, for example. Other historical examples include race riots (such as the Zoot Suit Riots) and the Stonewall riot (in which sexual orientation and gender were issues).

Political ConfrontationEdit

Although sometimes described as rioting, a political street fight is a physical confrontation between supporters of opposing political organizations or ideas which takes place in public. They are usually unorganised or semi-organised and are either completely spontaneous or result from conflict between rival demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.

During the 1930s there were numerous street fights between large crowds of fascists and anti-fascists (particularly socialists or communists). The Battle of Cable Street was one such confrontation that occurred in the East End of London in 1936 when Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists attempted to march through a Jewish district of London and were stopped by large crowds of Jews and leftists. In Toronto, the Christie Pit Riot in 1933 broke out during a baseball game in a public park when an anti-Semitic youth group unfurled a swastika banner at a game between a Jewish team and a Christian team. Street fights between Nazis and Communists were common in Germany prior to Hitler's consolidation of power.

In recent years street fighting has resulted from large scale confrontations between thousands of police and protesters, particularly at anti-globalization protests such as in Seattle in 1999 or Genoa and Quebec City in 2001. These may involve police use of tear gas, pepper spray and even rubber bullets, and protesters who throw rocks, vandalise automobiles and property, loot, commit arson, set up and tear down barricades, return lit tear gas canisters, and use incendiary devices such as Molotov cocktails (this last being rare in North America). Physical violence on all sides is common.

Labour confrontationEdit

Work disputes may escalate into street fighting when management tries to break a strike by bringing in strike breakers across picket lines. As well, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, management would sometimes hire "private security forces" (such as Pinkerton's in the United States) or so called "goons" to harass and physically intimidate picket lines.

Street fights may also occur during widespread labour unrest such as during a general strike. The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike resulted in the deputization by a committee of local companies opposed to the strike, of hundreds of men who were instructed to put down the disturbance at all costs. Street fighting was also a byproduct of the 1934 Minneapolis General Strike which saw confrontations between "workers defense brigades" set up by the Teamsters union and representatives of business owners as well as the police.

Sports RiotsEdit

Groups of sports fans sometimes riot in the streets or stands. This hooliganism may be an expression of loyalty, approval, anger, or celebration. Football (soccer) fans are infamous for drunken brawls in the stadiums (particularly after the Heysel Stadium disaster, in which 39 football fans were crushed to death in a battle between Liverpool F.C. and Juventus fans). Ice hockey fans have been known to riot in the streets (for example, the Richard Riot in Montreal, causing $500,000 of property damage, started in 1955 when Maurice Richard was suspended for deliberately injuring another player). Fans of the Vancouver Canucks rioted in 1994 after losing the Stanley Cup in game 7 to the New York Rangers. Some sports psychologists suggest that sports riots stem from cultural attitudes that support other types of violence in sports. Common injuries include deep wounds from broken glass and stab wounds.

See alsoEdit

fr:Violences urbaines ja:ストリートファイト

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