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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 ?
Musah pointed out that empowering vigilante groups was not undermining the capabilities of the conventional security agencies like the army, police force, DSS and Civil Defence, but vesting them with powers to be more involved in arresting herdsmen attacks and similar crimes in rural areas.
He called on well-meaning Nigerians not to believe the erroneous story that the vigilante was deliberately killed or an imaginary herdsman released.
One of the petitioners, in his plea, alleged that the vigilante groups have unleashed terror on the Minority and Dalit communities.
Human Rights Watch recently reported that there has been a surge in cow vigilante violence in India since 2015.
Legarda again clarified, 'Sinong source or government agency nitong figure ng alleged vigilante killings (Who is the source or government agency which gave out this figure of alleged vigilante killings)?
There won't be any problem of any communal angle in your service if you are a peace-promoting and multi-community vigilante group.
This secret war, however, won't last that long, as Kara will eventually find out that James is moonlighting as a vigilante.
This study opined that the public acceptability of the police and other state specialized security agents in Nigeria had reduced drastically therefore most communities had resulted in the alternative to state security which is the informal policing also known as vigilante.
Cleveland Police re-bailed the suspect twice as the force slammed vigilante groups for possibly "disrupting police investigations" with their busts.
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.
Others were the victim of mistaken identity, or an act of vigilante justice.