American Survival Guide - - NEW PRODUCTS - BY LARRY SCHWARTZ

Al­though a few rea­sons im­me­di­ately come to mind, there are sev­eral rea­sons that ri­ots or mob vi­o­lence oc­cur. The first is straight from the evening news and stems from the chal­lenges peo­ple face in our ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments that in­volve so­cial and po­lit­i­cal is­sues, crime and poverty. The sec­ond is a sit­u­a­tion in which you might find your­self one day: The mood of a crowd you’re in has turned ugly, and some peo­ple be­gin to com­mit crim­i­nal or vi­o­lent ac­tions. Res­i­dents of San Fran­cisco, Van­cou­ver and Ohio State still vividly re­mem­ber the mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses sus­tained be­cause of “rev­el­ers” whose sports team ei­ther won or lost a big game dur­ing the past five years.

The third, and last, is a sce­nario that is unfortunately be­com­ing more and more com­mon: Peo­ple and groups come to­gether for the spe­cific pur­pose of protest­ing and show­ing their dis­con­tent with some so­cial or po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity through vi­o­lent ac­tion, de­struc­tion of prop­erty and dis­rup­tion of other peo­ple’s nor­mal daily ac­tiv­i­ties. Dis­or­derly and ag­gres­sive protests of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment are em­blem­atic of this type of group.


A protest, which some­times turns into a riot, is a com­plex, or­ganic, liv­ing thing made up of many in­ter­act­ing com­po­nents.

Pro­test­ers: These peo­ple come to­gether with the de­sire to ex­er­cise their First Amend­ment rights in a peace­ful man­ner.

Ri­ot­ers: These are peo­ple who de­stroy prop­erty, at­tack peo­ple and cause prob­lems for, and chal­lenge, au­thor­i­ties. They might have started out as peace­ful pro­test­ers but turn ag­gres­sive when some event oc­curs that pushes them out­side the bounds of ci­vil­ity. Al­ter­na­tively, they might have come with the spe­cific pur­pose of caus­ing may­hem, or they use the protest as an ex­cuse to steal and de­stroy the prop­erty of oth­ers.

Victims: These are the in­no­cent by­standers, busi­nesses, and prop­erty own­ers who are vic­tim­ized by the crowds that are block­ing law­ful ac­cess to—or ri­ot­ers de­stroy­ing or ran­sack­ing—their prop­erty or busi­ness.

Law en­force­ment: Law en­force­ment per­son­nel usu­ally try to main­tain or­der, pro­tect life and prop­erty, man­age the chaos that is un­fold­ing and limit its spread and es­ca­la­tion.

Me­dia: This group has his­tor­i­cally had the re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­port­ing the news ac­cu­rately and with­out bias. They are not sup­posed to make the news or fa­vor sides or agen­das.

Also, some me­dia out­lets tend to fil­ter or slant their cov­er­age to em­pha­size the out­let’s po­lit­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal be­liefs. With to­day’s in­stant “jour­nal­ism” fed by Twit­ter feeds, In­sta­gram videos and real-time Face­book videos, this re­port­ing can have an im­me­di­ate ef­fect on the un­fold­ing events by in­flam­ing the crowd. Unfortunately, the very pres­ence of the press can change the be­hav­ior of peo­ple, and phys­i­cal at­tacks on mem­bers of the me­dia have in­creased in re­cent years.



The best way to es­cape a riot or vi­o­lent protest is to avoid it in the first place.

You ac­com­plish this with a lit­tle ad­vance re­search and plan­ning and a healthy dose of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness.

Po­lit­i­cal and so­cial jus­tice ac­tivists make good use of the In­ter­net to let peo­ple know when they have some­thing planned, so a Web search will of­ten show you what is go­ing on out there. A call to the city hall or mayor’s of­fice for the city you are go­ing to will point you to the agency that man­ages per­mits for demon­stra­tions; you can then see if any for­mal demon­stra­tions are planned. If you are driv­ing, check the ma­jor cities along your travel route so you can avoid po­ten­tial traf­fic block­ades.

If you for­get to do this, or some­thing spon­ta­neous pops up, our old friend, “sit­u­a­tional aware­ness,” comes into play. Grow­ing crowds of peo­ple in a cer­tain area or in­ter­sec­tion; the sounds of po­lice or fire ve­hi­cles mov­ing in your direction or near you; and peo­ple with signs, masks or other things you as­so­ciate with protests are all in­di­ca­tors you should be switch­ing from “con­di­tion white” to “con­di­tion yel­low” or “or­ange.”

If you feel some­thing might hap­pen, take the ini­tia­tive—even if you feel silly about it—and take a new route around where you think the trou­ble might take place. If you are like me,

when I see traf­fic slow­ing down on my daily com­mute, I will check my GPS to see what might be caus­ing it and then take a new route the first chance I get to by­pass it. Do the same thing when walk­ing or driv­ing in the city.

An­other way to get news of trou­ble as soon as pos­si­ble is to use so­cial me­dia (Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram), through which peo­ple tend to share their lives and their world in their posts.


But where do you go? Re­search has shown that the best strat­egy is to move along con­nect­ing streets and safe al­ley­ways that run at right an­gles to the lo­ca­tion or direction of travel for the ri­ot­ing. Then move at least a few blocks away be­fore con­tin­u­ing on your way.

If you are stuck in the mid­dle of a block, look for large busi­nesses like ho­tels or of­fice build­ings. These of­ten have en­trances on more than one side of the build­ing so you can walk through them to get to the next street over.

If you have time be­fore you visit the area, you should look for pos­si­ble es­cape routes from the ar­eas you ex­pect to be in. You should also look for places that could turn into choke points that could slow your move­ment out of the area or which might be lo­ca­tions where pro­test­ers planned to block traf­fic.


If you have not done this be­fore­hand, and you have a smart­phone, use the map­ping or GPS func­tion to see what the road net­work looks like where you are. It can show you the roads and al­leys, but it can also show you where traf­fic is slowed down for some rea­son and where any ac­ci­dents are. You want to move away from those ar­eas of con­ges­tion if you can.

If you find your­self stuck in a mov­ing mass of hu­man­ity and you can’t get to a side street, you have an­other op­tion: In­stead of try­ing to move against the tide of peo­ple, slow your pace with smaller steps, and let it pass you by. Once clear of the crowd, move to the side streets you are try­ing to get to.



Ideally, you can move away from the trou­ble and con­tinue to your des­ti­na­tion with­out fur­ther issue. But, life isn’t ideal, and you might need to seek refuge from the grow­ing tur­moil around you.

Look for sturdy build­ings in which you can hide. Prefer­ably, they will have mul­ti­ple rooms so you can move away from the street­side rooms and their po­ten­tial dan­gers.

Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to watch what is go­ing on out­side to avoid any projectiles com­ing your way or show­ing the peo­ple out­side that there is some­one in­side. Also, look for an­other exit in case you have to leave in a hurry and the way you came in is blocked. If you can sense the ne­ces­sity, pre­pare to de­fend your­self by mak­ing bar­ri­cades. Find or make some­thing to use as a weapon, such as a club, staff or knife, in case some­one gets in and wants to harm you or take what you have.


The last thing you want to do is stick out or look as if you don’t agree with the pro­test­ers or ri­ot­ers. You want to be a “gray *Note: These prices are pro­vided for ref­er­ence only; all prices are man”—some­one who looks like ev­ery­one sub­ject to a broad range based on the par­tic­u­lars of the items else, blends in, doesn’t pose any threat se­lected. and doesn’t draw at­ten­tion to him­self by his look, cloth­ing or ac­tions.

If you can change your clothes to look like those around you, do it. Take off or cover any po­lit­i­cal slo­gans, team af­fil­i­a­tions or any­thing else that might say you dis­agree with what the protest is about.

Stay calm, don’t shout, don’t run, don’t in­ter­act with oth­ers you don’t need to, and don’t make eye con­tact un­less you are spo­ken to.


In­ter­ac­tion with law en­force­ment is the eas­i­est way to get into trou­ble if you don’t do it cor­rectly. But do­ing it cor­rectly isn’t that hard.

If you do in­ter­act with law en­force­ment, whether civil or mil­i­tary, do what you are told, don’t ar­gue (but you should be able to ask ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tions po­litely and re­spect­fully), don’t make any ag­gres­sive ac­tions, such as get­ting closer or tak­ing off your shirt or jacket, and move out of the area as quickly as you can with­out draw­ing at­ten­tion to your exit.

Re­mem­ber, law en­force­ment per­son­nel are there to help main­tain the peace and to keep you and ev­ery­one else safe. They also can’t tell a good guy from a bad guy by their ap­pear­ances so, if you are not co­op­er­a­tive, they will treat you as a po­ten­tial bad guy.

Your best bet is to avoid ar­eas where law en­force­ment per­son­nel are lo­cated. There will likely be prob­lems where pro­tes­tors and law en­force­ment in­ter­act, and you want to avoid prob­lems as you move away from the area where the protest or riot is hap­pen­ing. That is also an area you will most likely find riot-con­trol tech­niques— tear gas, wa­ter can­nons and crowd-con­trol ma­neu­vers—be­ing used.


Just be­cause you can use force does not mean that you should! Many might think that be­cause they are armed or have some form of weapon, they should use it when con­fronted with a ri­ot­ing or vi­o­lent mob sit­u­a­tion.

The best way to han­dle any fight is to avoid it if at all pos­si­ble. Es­ca­lat­ing a sit­u­a­tion is rarely a good idea. This is es­pe­cially true when you do not know what your op­po­nent’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties are or how many peo­ple you need to de­fend against.

The ri­ots in Ferguson, Mis­souri, and Bal­ti­more, Mary­land, demon­strated how quickly one or two loot­ers can grow into a few dozen loot­ers. They also showed how demon­stra­tions can quickly go from peace­ful to rocks and bot­tles be­ing thrown to po­lice cars be­ing burned.

Re­mem­ber: Stay within the law; don’t es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion.


Com­mon sense and a lit­tle proac­tive plan­ning will win the day if you find your­self in a vi­o­lent protest or riot sit­u­a­tion. Use your smart­phone or look at the street map at a bus stop to find roads that lead away from the trou­ble. If you can’t move out of the area, try to blend in—be the “gray man”— un­til you can find a safe haven. Avoid ar­eas where pro­test­ers and law en­force­ment might come into con­flict.

And, above all else, keep calm and use your brain be­fore you use your mouth or your brawn.

Spend some time now to think through what you might do in these sce­nar­ios so you don’t have to come up with a plan in the mid­dle of the ac­tion, when your adren­a­line is run­ning high. You might even con­sider study­ing videos of ri­ots to imag­ine how you would move and act if you were in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Above right: The pres­ence of the me­dia, in all its forms, can have both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ef­fects on a crowd. Some­times, me­dia pres­ence can make things hap­pen, be­cause or­ga­niz­ers were wait­ing for some­one to cover what they had planned to do....

Wa­ter can­nons, such as this one built into a wa­ter tanker, are new and ef­fec­tive non-lethal tools avail­able to law en­force­ment for con­trol­ling crowds in both open and con­fined spa­ces. (Photo: Wiki­me­dia. org)

If you see peo­ple with their faces cov­ered up or wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear to de­fend against projectiles such as bricks or from tear gas, you should turn around and leave the area, be­cause those peo­ple are pre­pared for vi­o­lent ac­tions. (Photo: Wiki­me­dia....

Burnt and up­ended cars are be­com­ing com­mon sights when protests turn vi­o­lent in coun­tries all across the globe. It speaks to what a mob can do and that it is not fol­low­ing the nor­mal rules of a peace­ful so­ci­ety.

Above: Protests are based on things that peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about. They of­ten end peace­fully, but some­times, they can turn vi­o­lent due to ac­tivists or out­side ag­i­ta­tors. (Photo: Wiki­me­ Left: Bean bag shot­guns (such as this one with or­ange...

Above: When protests turn vi­o­lent, peo­ple some­times take ad­van­tage of the con­fu­sion to take what they need or want; or they just take any­thing ... even a selfie. (Photo: Cmgdig­i­

Right: Ri­ot­ers stand atop a po­lice car that was at­tacked and dam­aged dur­ing the ri­ots in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. (Photo: Cmgdig­i­

Not all protests and ri­ots oc­cur in the in­ner city. This protest was held at a light rail sta­tion in a sub­ur­ban area, where the pro­tes­tors knew the ef­fect they would have and that the sit­u­a­tion would, there­fore, at­tract lo­cal me­dia. (Photo:...

Protests can hap­pen any­where and for a wide va­ri­ety of rea­sons. This protest oc­curred at an air­port and in­con­ve­nienced trav­el­ers as they passed through. (Photo: Wiki­me­

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