How to Stay Safe During Times of Civil Unrest
Wherever you are, at home or traveling abroad, riots and violent protests can break out at any time. The problem is that you never know when or where civil unrest will happen. As recent events have shown, one single incident can be the spark that ignites riots and looting right across the country.
Peaceful protest is an undisputed right in a free society. But even peaceful demonstrations can suddenly turn violent. And, sometimes, you might simply find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So, when tensions begin to rise and trouble is in the air, what can you do to stay safe during turbulent times? Here are some tips on how to stay safe during times of civil unrest.
1. Keep Your Eye on the News
Civil unrest is usually triggered by an event or a planned protest. So, the first thing you can do to avoid riots and violent demonstrations is to keep abreast of current affairs. Keep an eye on the national news for any events that could spark countrywide protests. And watch the local news broadcasts to find out if any demonstrations are planned in your area. Be aware also that unrest in one region or city can lead to copycat rioting in another area. The best way to stay safe during times of civil unrest is to know in advance when and where the trouble might start.
2. Stock Up on Supplies
Civil unrest usually only lasts for a few days at a time. Nevertheless, if rioting is likely in your area, you will not want to be going out shopping. So, if you do see signs that civil unrest might occur, stock up on emergency supplies, like food, so that you can survive a few days without going out.
3. Any Large-Scale Protest Can Get Out of Hand
Be aware that, when large numbers of people come together to protest, there is almost always a possibility that trouble will flare-up. Peaceful protests can be hijacked by militant groups, for example. Heavy-handed police tactics can sometimes trigger a violent reaction in even the most passive of people. The trigger for a peaceful protest turning violent could also be a small number of counter-protesters.
3. Avoid Flashpoint Areas
If you want to avoid getting caught up in civil unrest, then steer clear of the areas that are most likely to be the focal appoint for the disorder. Demonstrations usually occur in downtown areas. Rioting often breaks out in inner-city neighborhoods. Think about what the target of protesters’ anger may be as well. Anti-capitalist demonstrators might target banks and corporate headquarters. Animal rights activists are likely to target stores selling animal products or products that are known to have been tested on animals.
4. Look for Trouble Brewing
When you look at news footage of civil disturbances, you might get the impression that the violence explodes out of nowhere. The truth is, though, that you can usually see the warning signs that trouble is brewing. If you see gangs of people hiding their identity and brandishing weapons, for example, you should not need to be told what is likely to happen next.
Even in peaceful demonstrations that turn violent, there are usually warning signs, so stay alert. If there is a scuffle between one or two protesters and police officers, for example, that could quickly escalate into a full-on confrontation. If there is one group of people who are being particularly noisy and troublesome, then that is the group that you should avoid.
5. When the Trouble Starts – Back Up
The best time to leave a protest that is turning sour is the moment you spot the first sign of trouble. Move slowly, but determinedly away from anything that looks like it might be the start of something bigger. You might be wrong and find out later that nothing happened at all. But if you are right, and things do develop, it will be easier to step back from trouble if you do so before the disturbance gets out of control.
6. Stay Calm, Blend In, and Do Not Antagonize Anyone
The last thing that you want to do when there is civil unrest is to draw attention to yourself. So, look for a route that will take you away from trouble. But, try to stay calm and do your best to blend in with the people around you.
Do not take out a weapon or act aggressively towards anyone, or the crowd may turn on you. Do not go running towards police officers for help, or they may think that you are attacking them.
In other words, become a grey person who fades away into the background and makes their escape unnoticed.
7. If the Crowd in Moving, Go with The Flow
If you get trapped with a crowd of people marching down the street, you will not be able to walk in the opposite direction. You might, however, get a chance to escape that crowd by going down a side street. So, the best thing to do is to go in the general direction that the mob is but moving gradually to one side at the same time until you find an escape route.
8. Try Not to Look Like a Rioter
Do not expect any special treatment from the police because you are an innocent bystander. The police do not know who you are, and they will not have time to ask any questions. So, yes – you will be assumed guilty by association. That is not necessarily a failing on the part of the police. If you were toe-to-toe with an angry mob, you would not be able to pick out the one innocent person either.
The crucial thing to do in a riot is to do your best not to look like you are a threat to the police. As mentioned above, do not run towards the police. And do not show any signs of aggression towards the police. You should also avoid wearing face coverings, and do not pick up anything that might be mistaken for a weapon.
9. If You Get Arrested – Go Peacefully
Police brutality is wrong under any circumstances. Even so, police officers are human beings too, and they can get angry or scared, just like anyone else. If you are arrested by the police during a civil disturbance, the best thing to do is to cooperate and put up no resistance at all. You can argue your innocence when things have quietened down, and you are safely back at the police station.
10. Do Not Go Back!
When you do escape a violent protest, and assuming you have not been arrested, do not go back to the site of the demonstration. Riots are not a spectator sport, so stay well clear! When rioting and looting break out, there is no telling which way the crowds will go. So, when you escape a civil disturbance, go straight home, or go to a place that you know you will be safe.
Many thanks for reading our tips on how to stay safe during times of civil unrest. We hope that you never have to put them into practice!
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