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How to Survive a Riot: What to do if you find yourself in the Middle of a Riot

We are living through a time of unprecedented violence, chaos, and social unrest. For the last couple of years, we have seen a huge uptick in the number of violent protests and riots. From the chaos and looting in Baltimore and Ferguson to the widespread chaos that’s sweeping throughout Europe and the Middle East, the world seems to have reached a boiling point where one little spark can cause things to go bad rather quickly.

And now, with so much chaos following the latest Presidential cycle, groups throughout the world are looking to capitalize on this anger to help push their ideology of division and social unrest. Because social unrest and violent riots are among top threats we face, you need to have a plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones from these types of problems. As we’ve witnessed recently, these kinds of violent attacks can break out just about anywhere in the world, even in areas that were once thought to be peaceful.

Social Unrest is a real Threat

Civil disturbances are pretty common in areas of the world with histories of political instability, but up until recently, it wasn’t something that most Americans had to worry about. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in this country where the slightest perceived outrage can quickly escalate into a full-blown riot.

Tensions throughout this country have been high for some time now; between local police forces that look like mini-military units and groups of violent criminals seeking to spread their chaos through fake street demonstrations, these types of events are becoming far too common.

Some things to consider:

  • These events can happen anywhere; you must be prepared.
  • Situational Awareness and staying informed are both crucial to avoiding problems.
  • While some riots are unpredictable, most can be seen coming and will offer signs of impending danger. Street demonstrations, high-profile political rallies, and pending legal decisions on controversial cases are all things you need to watch.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown riot?

The first thing that you want to do is quickly assess the situation. These types of events can break out quickly, and over the last couple of years violent flash mobs have even started targeting malls, grocery stores, tourist attractions, and places where you would never expect a riot to break out.

  • Are you in immediate danger?
  • Where are the quickest routes of escape?
  • Is this beginning of something larger?

After assessing the situation, I advise you take the following steps:

If you have an easy way out, take it now

The last thing you want to do is get caught up in the middle of the storm. If you are near an escape route, get out as fast as possible. Also, keep in mind law enforcement has no idea if you are part of the threat, so be careful when approaching police officers.

Become a Grey Man: Look like part of the crowd

If you were not able to make a quick exit, the first thing you want to do is look like you are part of the crowd — something known as becoming a “gray man.”

Don’t do anything stupid that’s going to get you arrested, but you want to look like you are part of the crowd. Now is not the time to voice your opinion, or prove some political point. If someone tries engaging you in conversation, mirror what they are saying and let them think you are on their side.

By blending into the chaos, and not drawing direct attention to yourself, you’re less likely to become a target. Just remember, you are only doing this until you find a safe route out.

Avoid All Law Enforcement

Although this may seem counter-intuitive, you are going to want to avoid law enforcement. The police have absolutely no way of knowing whether you’re a threat or someone who just got caught up in the chaos.

Once the riot police show up, you need to realize that in their eyes you are probably a threat. Once things go bad, you could be hurt by either side, so you need to put space in between yourself and the police line and realize that going towards the police is probably not the best escape plan.

Be aware and ready for an attack

Watch your surroundings and be ready for an attack. Watching the crowd’s body language can help you decide what your next move should be. Scan your surroundings and find the best route of escape. Read our article on defending yourself from multiple attackers.

Don’t get caught up in the chaos

How many times have you been stuck in traffic, only to find out the crash was on the other side? We see it every day, for some reason, people are drawn towards disasters. It’s human nature to want to look at the accident.

Don’t make that mistake during a riot situation. I don’t care how safe or protected you think you are when things start going bad your first priority is to make your way to safety. If you’re that curious about what happened, you can watch the action on the evening news.

Go with the flow

Think of the crowd as a large raging river. The best way to get out of a river is to swim with the current and slowly make your way to the edge. The same is true when stuck in the middle of a crowd.

Don’t try to cut through the crowd, as this could cause unwanted attention. Instead, go with the flow of the crowd and work your way to the edge. Then quietly and slowly slip away to safety — avoid running as it will attract unwanted attention from the crowd and the police who could see you as a threat.

A thought on using your firearm or a weapon: I think always being armed is a good thing, but pulling a gun out in the middle of a riot might not be the smartest idea. Unless you’re physically being attacked, it’s better to slip away unnoticed. Don’t try to scare the crowd away you’re your gun. That being said, if you are physically attacked or threatened with attack, all rules are out the window.

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