The behavior of rioters echoes the fluid collective responses of the animal world

THE LIVING WORLD turns chaos into order by making large structures out of small units. The sublime coordination of a flock of birds or a school of fish—built iteratively from the twitches and bumps of single individuals—turns instinctive behaviors into something vast and graceful. It’s not just for show. A lone gazelle can’t evade a fast-moving lion anywhere near as well as a slippery, undulating herd.

With that in mind, take a look at this video of a truck barreling through protesters in Minneapolis in May. The densely packed protesters swirl out of the truck’s path, then close ranks back around it when the truck stops. For a few moments, the movements of the protesters look very much like a murmuration of starlings responding to an attacking falcon, or maybe little fish to a shark—parting like water in front of a boat, swirling in eddies around the invader, regrouping behind it. The protesters respond as a collective….

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