After a riot act is read by a magistrate and rioters are ordered to disperse, or an officer is called upon those present to assist in suppressing the riot, no one can maintain the status of innocent bystander. If one thereafter remains at the scene of the riot and lends no aid in suppressing it, he will himself be deemed a rioter; but up to that time one can be held guilty of riot only by his own act or deed. His conduct does not have to be turbulent nor his language violent to constitute him a rioter. But some word or gesture indicating at least a willingness to assist the rioters must be manifested before one can be held to be a rioter. Mere presence at the scene of the riot is not sufficient. Persons merely present at a riot who neither do nor say anything in the furtherance of the offense are not rioters.
A group of unemployed people gathered together in support of a demand for a greater allowance of flour than had been made by a relief committee. Defendants were among the group. The group made a demand on the committee's chairman in his office, and the chairman told that the group that it was impossible to comply with the demand. The group left the office and proceeded to a store where many helped themselves to groceries without paying for them. Defendants were in the store during the time the groceries were taken. One defendant was clearly a bystander and did not participate in the offenses. Defendants were convicted of grand larceny and theft.
Is mere presence at the scene of a riot sufficient to hold someone guilty of being a rioter?
The court affirmed the convictions on appeal with respect to all defendants except one defendant, who was a bystander. The court reasoned that there was ample positive evidence of participation in the offenses and that each person was responsible for the acts of the others done in furtherance of the common purpose. The court found no error in the refusal to admit the conditions of poverty and want among the unemployed as a defense. The court also held that the prosecutor did not commit prejudicial misconduct in his closing argument.