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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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
Danjuma said vigilante groups from Kanji village, Mahuta district, Fakai Local Government Area of the state, arrested two men - Muhammad Dankarami and Muhammadu Buda of Maidangwami village, alleged to be kidnappers.
An FIR has been filed against the two men for allegedly transporting beef in two mini-trucks by a cow vigilante.
A Wishaw man has been challenged by an online vigilante group for allegedly sending inappropriate messages to an underage girl.
Detective Dirty Harry Callahan in the Clint Eastwood starrer "Magnum Force" (1973) was able to bust the vigilante crew in 124 minutes.
The young men, identified as Noor Mohammad and Shakeel Quraishi, were carrying beef on their bike to supply in the local Akorhi Gola market when a group of cow vigilantes caught them and assaulted them badly.
class="MsoNormalHaki Yetu director Gabriel Dolan who is also a resident in the sub-county said failure by the police to tame insecurity has seen the formation of the vigilante groups.
Last month, a group of cow vigilantes badly assaulted the driver and cleaner of a vehicle in Bihar's Bhojpur district on the suspicion of carrying beef.
And fellow vigilante group Dark Justice warned those using handcuffs must be trained, regulated and insured.
Shadow Vigilantes: How Distrust in the Justice System Breeds a New Kind of Lawlessness is recommended for social issues and legal collections alike, and identifies a pervasive problem in our current justice system which is eroding community confidence in law enforcement processes.
The group, Birnin-Gwari Vanguards for Security and Good Governance, said 45 bodies were recovered by vigilantes and volunteers with the assistance of soldiers on Sunday afternoon.
By shadow vigilantes, the Robinsons refer to people who are disillusioned with the justice system to the point that as witnesses they do not report crime or help investigators, as jurors refuse to indict or convict, as law enforcement officers they bend rules they consider unreliable, and others similarly undermining the justice system in small ways.