How violent protests start: Learning from the Buffalo

Here we will examine the common processes that lead to violent processes across contexts and situations. Notice how it takes only one leader and a few followers, to get the many buffalo to attack the lions that are eating their friend. The same goes for human protests and movements.

In one of the most famous videos of wild life battles of all time (the Battle at Kruger; 25 million views), you can clearly see the group dynamic of leader and herd at play. Once the lead lion moves, they all do.

Once they get the buffalo out of the water, then you can see the lead buffalo lead the others and then see him go back against the lions. Once the others are there, the original leader steps back, and allows the other to take to initiative.

Soon enough, the whole group of normally timid buffalo are chasing the small group of lions. Then notice the young male at the end, standing up to them like he is tough. :p

This is the same basic process as how human movements and revolutions are made. We follow each other, we set the example for each other.

Having courage allows others to have courage, and makes it more likely for them to engage in their own positive action.

You can see similar developments, where one individual stands up and leads, then other people step up and start to protest themselves. You can also hear a sociologist talking about it  in a different way though. 😦

Above you see the classic TED example of how to start a dance movement.

Below you series of clips where protests turn violent. Note that it is one individual who take the first step, and then others follow. These are general principles which apply in all situations. 

Lead. Be a first follower. you ARE an example for others, and it is important you lead in the right ways (whatever that means for you). If you don’t believe that the buffalo should have attacked, you must lead the other way.


Maybe you have a better example of a protest turning violent? I had difficulty finding a great example for humans as they are so chopped up by the news corps.



  1. as I’ve said many times Momentum Allows Orchestration. Like you say, be that leader! Once Momentum is rolling it’s hard to stop. make sure your Momentum is taking you in the right direction. You said it so well, it takes Courage! thanks for the post!

    1. 100% agreed Mikey! I can see the momentum picking up in the herd as well! 😀 Do you have a favorite post where you talk about such things? I would guess you’ve done it better!


      1. no, I’ve not done it better at all. different time and different words, but just as TRUE as what you said. I talk a lot about Momentum. the video was amazing, I was the only one in world I think that hadn’t seen it yet. Thanks for the lead, I may have to use it someday… Keep up the inspirations…

  2. I don’t think it has anything to do with protests in particular. In the history of large gatherings of people with borderline-illegal activity (or activity that is technically legal but has a history of affecting your decision making), it is likely that violence will erupt on one side or the other. However, I seem to have found a trend. In the case of Project X Haren (, it was the alcohol in addition to mob mentality that led to poor decisions being made. In the protests in Ferguson, it was the combination of heightened emotional states with – again – mob mentality. It seems that all of these protests where protesters have gone violent had aspects of mob mentality in addition to some other judgement-altering factor. This might be why the Occupy movement was so lacking in violent protesters. Plans for lawful protest had been disseminated prior to events, and so the heightened emotions were kept in check, and while there was obviously mob mentality, it went into chanting words of dissent and collectively sitting down. In fact, perhaps the only reason that the protests got violent at all was because a) occasionally a sleeper anarchist would go and throw something or b) the police were getting annoyed by insults thrown (figuratively, of course) at them by protesters, and their emotional states got heightened. Along with the rest of their departments, they would begin to grow violent, though maybe not as a willing following-along of bad behavior but because, once a particularly bad member struck out, they would have to defend that member and, ultimately, cause a commotion.

    1. Hi Jarod,

      100% agreed, but this is the mob mentality. One individual goes a little further than someone else (maybe to prove that they are with the group), then someone else does it, and then further and further and further.

      Each person wants to win the approval of the others, and so go a little farther to show they care as much. But then the whole group goes farther than they intend. 🙂

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