Culture

7 Safety Tips to Survive a Riot or Flash Mob

YouTube screenshot of the violent mob at Berkeley, protesting Milo Yiannopoulos' speech.

In the past several years rioting in the United States has almost become the norm, tragically. We have recently been treated to scenes from Berkley, Calif., of mobs of protesters burning, looting, and threatening the lives of others:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWsHxQxk6J0

On August 4, 2011, a mob of approximately 100 teenagers went rampaging through the Wisconsin State Fair, beating fairgoers and destroying property:

And I am sure you have heard of “flash mobs” suddenly striking shopping malls like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkme-oojuZI

So what should you do if YOU are suddenly in the middle of something like this? If you want to survive, follow these guidelines (and pray!):

1. Pay attention.

Duh. I say this in almost every article about self-defense. Situational awareness is key. Be alert. Flash mobs can take everyone off guard, but sometimes there are signals. If you are on social media (or your teenagers are) and you hear of a planned “flash mob” somewhere, maybe it would be a good idea to go to that mall another time.

As for protesters, especially in light of politics these days, Americans can generally figure out where the protests will be. They are often on college campuses or at political rallies. If I can avoid conflict, I will. If I absolutely have to be somewhere where trouble is possibly brewing, I had better pay close attention to the next several pieces of advice.

2. Make escape plans.

Have a back-up plan. OK, so if a fight breaks out and the crowd turns into a mob, what is “Plan B”? Do I have an escape plan? Seriously look at where you are going and map out alternate routes of how to “get the heck outta Dodge” if people become violent. You cannot fight off an angry, hysterical mob. You are not Superman. So have an escape plan. Or two. Or three.  It also would be a good idea to brief members of your family about what to do and where to meet up if separated.

3. Go with the flow.

If you find yourself actually IN the mob and everyone is heading in one direction, go with it. If you try to go the opposite direction, you will get trampled. Go with the crowd, but go with the idea of moving to the outside edge of the “stream” as quickly as possible. Move at a 45-degree angle toward the edge, “looking for daylight.” Look for openings in the crowd, use those openings, then get out of the crowd as soon as you can.

4. Avoid stores.

They are often targets of the mobs. Angry people who are protesting may not want to steal, but their ranks are often filled with people who will use any excuse to smash, burn, and plunder … as we have seen on American streets in the past few years. Get away from the crowd!

5. Avoid law enforcement.

I support the police. I really do. I know this piece of advice sounds strange, but in a riot, the police cannot always tell if you are one of the violent looters, or truly innocent. There may be tear gas, poor lighting, and lots of noise, blood, and confusion. And if you have a bandana wrapped around your face (because of tear gas), you look even more guilty.

If you must go to the police, look as compliant and non-threatening as possible. Keep your hands in plain sight at all times, and immediately obey all orders.

6. Keep driving.

If you are in a car and the rioters try to hem you in, do NOT get out of your car!! At least in the car you are surrounded by some kind of barrier. So what if they key your car or break a windshield? That is what insurance is for. I would, however, slowly keep driving. I do not want to run anyone over, but I also do not want to get my window smashed and pulled out of my car and beaten to death. Keep driving.

7. Fight!

Only, only, only if you are trapped and simply cannot get away. As far as I am concerned, this is a last-ditch option. If the protesters simply will not get out of my way and will not leave me alone, and the police are not coming or helping, then I must fight.  That being said, I don’t care how much “kung fu” you think you know, you and I are no match for the full fury of a mob. But if I absolutely have to fight, I want to have a weapon. Hopefully, if I “take out” the first one or two attackers it will adjust the attitude of the rest and they’ll go elsewhere. Hopefully.

Pepper spray is a good choice for many people. Here’s a good brand you can buy online. It is non-lethal, and works instantly. Spray the attacker(s) from ear to ear, then retreat as soon as you can. Don’t stand there and let them surround you.

Tasers and stun guns are good too. But they can be kinda bulky unless you have some kind of holster. I have seen the kind that is a flashlight that doubles as a taser. Great idea! Better make sure it is fully charged each time you carry it. It will definitely change the opinions of some of the people who get hit with it. Here’s a good one.

And here’s a combination flashlight/stun gun:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93mZ9sDqZRU

For others, a knife is a good weapon — if you know how to use one and have the guts to actually stab with it. It is a lethal weapon, so check with the laws of your state to make sure you are legal. And you cannot use lethal force unless you are convinced your life is on the line.  Whether you carry a fixed blade or folding knife is your call. Knives never run out of ammo, do not jam, and are easy to conceal. But against a mob? Again, it’s your call.

And some carry a concealed handgun. Fine, if you are properly trained and legal to carry. But how much ammo are you carrying? How fast can you reload? Are you REALLY going to shoot a mob of people? What about all the innocent people in the crowd who you think are out to kill you but are actually trying to get away also? Remember, the bullet you fire — if it misses — keeps right on going. And it may hit a totally innocent person.

And certain bullets (like a 9mm full metal jacket) can go right through a person and possibly hit someone else. (That’s why you should always use hollow points for defensive purposes.) You are responsible for each bullet that comes out of your gun. For me, drawing my pistol and pointing it … and firing it if need be … is a last-ditch effort in the last ditch. And I had better be accurate, and I had better be sure I was legally and morally justified to pull the trigger.

God help us. May our country calm down, may cooler heads prevail, may we learn to be civil again, and may we all stay safe out there.