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(vĭjĭlăn`tēz), members of a vigilance committee. Such committees were formed in U.S. frontier communities to enforce law and order before a regularly constituted government could be established or have real authority. They were most common in mining communities, but were also known in cow towns and in farming settlements. The extreme penalty inflicted by the vigilantes was lynchinglynching,
unlawfully hanging or otherwise killing a person by mob action. The term is derived from the older term lynch law, which is most likely named after either Capt. William Lynch (1742–1820), of Pittsylvania co., Va., or Col.
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. Among the most famous of the vigilante groups were those formed in San Francisco in 1851 and reorganized in 1856 to bring order to the notorious Barbary CoastBarbary Coast
, waterfront area of San Francisco, Calif., in the years after the 1849 gold rush. Gamblers, gangsters, prostitutes, and confidence men flourished, and the brothels, saloons, and disreputable boardinghouses made the Barbary Coast—named after the pirate coast
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. Measures taken by vigilance committees were at best extralegal. When such committees were formed in a community with a well-constituted government and a police force, they were strictly illegal and usually were merely the expression of mob violence.


See W. Gard, Frontier Justice (1949, repr. 1968); S. A. Coblentz, Villains and Vigilantes (rev. ed. 1957); A. C. Valentine, Vigilante Justice (1956); J. H. Jones, The Minutemen (1968); A. Madison, Vigilantism in America (1973).

References in periodicals archive ?
The body was taken to the nearest police station and was later identified as a vigilante member.
Human Rights Watch recently reported that there has been a surge in cow vigilante violence in India since 2015.
Can you expose the chain from the peon to the highest functionary through your vigilante group?
To juxtapose the various notions of informal policing, community policing, vigilantes, private armies, private policing whichever name it wants to take means a special watch which is personal and informal, not in the law of the country as oppose to the formal police force but in vogue for obvious reasons of high crime and insecurity rate in the state coupled with negligence of duties or incompetence in terms of training, equipments and welfare of the formal police force.
The PM himself had said that most gau rakshaks are antisocials, and since cow vigilantism is a challenge to rule of law , law and order, and Constitution, he must impose a nation- wide ban on all cow vigilante groups just like a ban was imposed on terror groups like SIMI, failing which, I shall be constrained to approach the Supreme Court," Poonawalla said.
Whilst police investigate information supplied by vigilante groups we cannot condone such actions," said a force spokesperson.
Dongel had stated that, The vigilantes had already been contacted to provide surveillance in all schools.
The vigilantes have changed the dynamic of Mexico's ongoing drug war.
MEXICO CITY -- After months of tacit cooperation with rural vigilantes trying to drive out a cult-like drug cartel, the Mexican government is seeking to permanently solve one of its toughest security problems with a plan to legalize the growing movement and bring it under the army's control.
The twin announcements may help the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto find a way out of an embarrassing situation in the western state of Michoacan, where vigilantes began rising up last February against the Knights Templar's reign of terror and extortion after police and troops failed to stop the abuses.
Mexico: Mexican federal forces launched an offensive Tuesday to take over security in a violence-torn western state, clashing with vigilantes who refused to disarm.