Many of the locations where I work are off grid. No cell service, no internet, no news. I often re-enter civilization and wonder what has happened while I was away and quarterback in my head what to do if I stepped out of the bush and into a civil unrest. There are angry, armed mobs, lawlessness, and no chance of slipping through the chaos without drawing attention. Sure, I am not a target, at least I am not on any side, but when human beings get this riled up about something, it doesn’t take much to set off a mob beat down.
I experienced this first hand in Detroit in 1992 while, innocently enough, traveling into Canada and happen to be passing through downtown the hour that the verdict was being handed to two police officers who were being charged beating Malice Green to death during an attempted narcotics transaction. Lucky for me, the officers were charged with homicide and the city didn’t burn, at least any more than it already was, so I made it through demonstrations of angry citizens unscathed. How do you protect yourself and maintain a neutral presence when escaping a situation like this?
People, even within our relatively peaceful culture, become nothing short of pack animals when a common agenda conflicts with that of a different group or societal norm. Social issues, politics, religion, you name it. Anything can set off anarchy. Angry mobs are capable of property damage, personal harm against anyone who may or may not agree with their agenda, aggressive sexual behavior and even a capability to commit murder.
There are a few courses of action to consider when planning to escape this situation. All of them are extremely hazardous and will combine many factors to create a successful exit. These options are listed in the order that I plan to use if caught within a riot. Any number of situations could alter this, such as injury or illness, a lesser capable travel companion, valuable property, family, or some other reason that would make you hide or fight rather than run. Something to keep in mind.
My go to option, hands down. People that keep moving away from a threat tend to have a greater chance of success with evading harm than those who stick around to see an outcome or conclusion to riots and civil unrest. In escape and evasion training, moving two or three terrain features away is optimal to maintain a safe distance from a threat, but this is based on an isolated service member behind enemy lines attempting to evade capture in a rural environment and link up with a friendly unit for rescue. What about in an urban environment? What if there is no rescue?
The first step would be to attempt to confirm the size of the unrest. How many blocks are affected? Can I move a few blocks away from the riots and be far away enough from danger? Who are the belligerents and what or why are they doing this? All questions that will help you decide how to proceed. If you have an operational smart phone, data, and some social media apps, (that are working) news feeds will provide some good intel. Next choice would be human intel. Store keepers, law enforcement, pretty much anybody that may be local that clearly does not have an agenda or side to fight for.
Once I have a general idea of the size of the unrest, I will choose a target, and move as quickly and safely as possible to reach it. Police station, airport, embassy, or even a home of a friend. Ideally, I’d like to put a mile between me and the unrest, but keep in mind that even quickstepping, a mile may take around 12-15 minutes based on your gate. You know where this is going… you must stay in shape. The excitement of the situation, your natural reactions to stress and boat loads of adrenaline coursing through your veins, running may be the final coffin nail in an already over loaded body. First line of defense is to stay active and take care of yourself.
24 to 48 hours. That is my estimation of how long you would have to hunker down before the crowds would dissipate enough to allow safe travel. That being said, The Rodney King riots lasted almost 7 days. You will have to be prepared to hide and not only stay hidden, but also consider that shelter, water and food will come into play. Something to consider when building your bug out bag for sure. While hiding may seem to offer a safe solution, it very well could be as risky as fighting your way out of the unrest. Finding access to a panic room in an upscale neighborhood residential may seem like a good idea, unless the building is on fire. So hiding to me, is very risky.
If you do choose to utilize your skills to remain “gray,” hide, and not draw attention, you need to consider the dynamics of a riot, and more importantly, who is rioting. If there is a lull in the activity, you will want to consider moving very early morning, maybe even just before first light. One thing that people can’t overcome is physiology. We all have circadian rhythms and sleep in cycles that are pretty repetitive. Those hours in the early morning, while the population is probably sleeping, would provide the best chance of clearing the danger area. It’s not a guarantee though, you are just as likely to find more organized groups working those hours because of those sleeping.
Worst idea ever. Okay, your backed into a gun store with a handful of responsible citizens just like you. Maybe some or all have military or combat experience to solidify your position to fight. Remember Custer? At the end of the fight, you are still backed into a corner that will burn. Most fights end in casualties. No matter how prepared, armed or trained you are, casualties happen to the most and least experienced equally. If a fight is coming, you have to be prepared to provide buddy aid to those around you as well as keeping your own bodily fluids inside rather than out.
With this, I highly recommend attending a first responder or combat casualty course to give you with the skills to provide basic first aid, not just for the fight, but for every aspect of your journey. The best way to win any fight is to have the capability, compassion and humility to provide aid to your injured brothers and sisters and keep you all alive and marching to your goal. But run, definitely run.