CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The term "mob rule" has been tossed around a lot since the toppling of the Confederate monument, Silent Sam, on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus Monday. But what does this phrase mean?

  • The term "mob rule" has been tossed around a lot since Silent Sam was pulled down by protesters.
  • Many are unsure of what the phrase means.
  • The term is also referred to as an "ochlocracy."

The Collins English Dictionary defines "mob rule" as "The fact or state of large groups of people acting without the consent of the government, authorities."

RELATED: A timeline and history of the Silent Sam controversy

In a joint statement from UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings, the pair responded to the destruction saying, "We are a nation of laws—and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.” 



Specifically in the incident regarding Silent Sam, a group of protesters worked together to achieve a goal while violating local and state laws. When government officials and lawmakers say "mob rule" will not be tolerated, what they're actually saying is that the official rule of law in this situation will not be overshadowed by the desires or actions of a mob. 

This type of rule is also commonly called an "ochlocracy," which Webster's Dictionary defines as "a government by the mob."