It's SF, and I read it in the late seventies, or (at the very outside) the early eighties. It was probably a Gollancz book, because I borrowed it from the local mobile library, and the distinctive yellow hardback covers were a shibboleth of good SF. It was an epic book, and the part I remember (though the book was not just about this incident) was the construction of one or possibly two massive spaceships, possibly arc ships for planetary evacuation. This construction took years, perhaps generations, and then public panic and hysteria led to the ship (ships?) being stormed by mobs while they were on the launch pads. Thousands of people died and the ship (ships?) was (were?) destroyed.
Anybody got any clue what that might have been?