Riots and Rapport

Mayday, Oxford Circus London | 2001

Riots and Rapport

Mayday Protests, Oxford Circus | 2001

It’s May day 2001 and the march has reached it’s end point. To avoid the violence of the previous year, Police section off the tens of thousands of marchers into small groups, and gradually drip-feed them out of central London. For the three-thousand people at Oxford Circus, walled in by four-deep lines of riot police, their wait lasted eight-hours. Over that time, a blend of small talk, rapport and a couple of molotov cocktails coloured the scene.

Riots and Rapport

 

Out of three-thousand people, just three or four youths sipping on Special Brew seemed intent on violence. They chucked a couple of molotov cocktails at Police – both failing to explode. Yet what was really interesting was the play of rapport, a function of our social brain. Conversations sparked-up in a few spots along the line between police and protestors; conversations that were calm, polite and dotted with small talk. And when the police were ordered to push-forward in to the crowd, you could hear them tell their newly met acquaintances, ‘relax, go with it, it’ll be alright’. Other places along the line – void of rapport – were less generous.

With investment and skill, this is the power of rapport, the effect of reducing strong emotional temperature and creating possibilities other than conflict.

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