by Anna Hunt, Offgrid Outpost
There’s no denying that a majority of Americans succumb to herd mentality, especially when they get fired up about something. People who can be easily influenced by their peers and adopt the behaviors of others are particularly dangerous when an event, such as a sporting or political event, creates mass discontent or passionate public response. These can quickly turn into riots and civil unrest. Then, the herd turns into a mob.
The 2016 Presidential Election has created division and social tensions among the American people. This is compounded with already growing conflict throughout American communities due to the perceived lack of racial equality and a streak of police violence. It seems the fire is ready for the stocking. These days, it’s not hard to expect a seemingly harmless event, such as a peaceful protest or well-publicized trial, to turn into a riot or wide-spread civil unrest. Take a look at what happened when thousands of peaceful protesters at Occupy Oakland are infiltrated by a small group of violent hooligans.
Recipe for Violence
It is easy to blame an event, certain individuals, and even social tensions when a riot breaks out. But let’s face it, many people in the United States seem fed up, angry or easily provoked. Any social leader or organization with an agenda can take advantage of this, especially if they understand mob mentality. They realize that when riled up, people will make rash decisions. They will go with the flow, even if violent, even if they don’t really know why they are rioting.
Then there’s the allure of being able to loot and pillage during a riot with a certain degree of anonymity. This attracts certain types of people who will take advantage of a situation, caring little if their actions create hostility among others. Herd mentality will once again come into play, as others start to engage in criminal activities and begin to feel that they are entitled to also materially benefit from the situation.
Law enforcement is also part of the equation. Numerous negative public encounters between the U.S. public and the police have placed law enforcement under much scrutiny. Some even question what side police officers are really on. Take the Standing Rock protests as an example. Militarized police in battle dress stormed peaceful protesters’ camps with LRAD sonic weapons, attack dogs, tear gas, tazers, and even live ammunition. The riot gear that is now the standard uniform when working during demonstrations and protests give the police a menacing and unapproachable appearance. This does not discourage violence and aggression. It almost makes it more likely to happen.
Put individuals with agendas, criminal opportunists and militarized police in once place, and you have a recipe for violence.
What To Do If You are Caught Up in a Riot
Respectable and non-violent people will want to continue participating in protests and organized events that might escalate tensions among groups of individuals. By all means, people should have the right to stand up for what they believe and make their voices heard. Yet, it is smart to be prepared if you happen to be attending an event that turns violent or are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what can an innocent bystander do when caught up in a riot?
If you are on the street where a riot has started:
- Be prepared to defend yourself. Stay alert
- If you are in a place that would attract looters, leave as soon as possible.
- If you are in a safe place inside a building, stay there. Locate the emergency exits in case you need to leave quickly.
- If you need to take refuge somewhere, make sure it will not attract looters and has more than one exit.
- Avoid looking like you have anything that someone would want.
- Take the first opportunity you can to leave and go home. If the police are involved, they will most often than not have at least one exit path for anyone wanting to run away.
If the riot is outside of your home, lock yourself in and prepare to shelter-in-place. Be prepared to bug out and, if possible, have an alternate exit in mind.If the riot is outside your home, or moving towards it.
- If you have received notice that a violent mob is headed towards your home, decide ahead of time what you would prefer to do: shelter-in-place or evacuate. This way you will have all the proper supplies on hand.
- If you stay in your home, be prepared to leave at any moment. Prepare a bug out bag.
- Have a quality fire extinguisher on hand.
- Be prepared to defend yourself/family/property. Have a plan.
- Connect with your neighbors and plan how you can mutually help each other. As a group, you are also more likely to be able to help out others who are more vulnerable, such as children and the elderly.
- Keep an adequate supply of emergency food (store at a minimum a 72 hour supply of food for your whole family) and a quality first aid kit. This is especially important if you live in a heavily populated urban area.
- Have a battery-powered radio available to keep you informed even if the power goes out due to vandalism.
If a riot escalates to wide-spread civil unrest.
- When you are forced to leave your home or your safe-house, make sure you have a plan in place for what to do in case you cannot return. This will keep your family and/or neighbors less worried.
- Check the local news or radio broadcast often, so you know if you need to stay clear of certain areas. Stay informed while you are out and about.
- Avoid going to public areas, heavily populated areas, such as malls and shopping centers, or parts of town where tensions are high.
- Don’t wear any flashy clothes or show off anything valuable.
Feel free to share your ideas of what else you can do to keep yourself and your family safe in case of a riot or civil unrest.