Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Reading Someone The Riot Act

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 2, 2010

“Reading the riot act” used to be a literal event.

Before police in Britain could break up or arrest a crowd, they used to read a proclamation, known as the Riot Act of 1714. The Riot Act made it unlawful for a dozen or more people to gather for “riotous or illegal purposes” and  it was used in a fashion similar to the Miranda Rights in the U.S.

The police would approach the crowd, read the Riot Act aloud:  “Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons assembled immediately to disperse themselves and peacefully to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business.”

If the crowd did not disperse, they were arrested.

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One Response to “Reading Someone The Riot Act”

  1. […] The unrest was so bad that special constables were being sworn in, and it was reported that the Riot Act would undoubtedly have to be read to the Doukhobors.  As a Plan B measure, the government was […]

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