Following yesterday's article about 'Lessons from the Charlotte riots', a few readers have asked what they should do if they find themselves caught up in a mob situation. It's all very well to say, "Get out of there before the trouble gets too bad", but what if you can't?
A couple of years ago I quoted Greg Ellifritz's advice in such situations. It remains good common sense, and very practical, so I'm going to refer you again to his article, 'Mob Mentality ... Escaping from Riots and Flash Mobs'. Here's an excerpt.
The first piece of advice I can give you is to pay attention to your surroundings and have an escape plan everywhere you go. When you see things starting to go bad (massing police, masked looters, people setting fires) GET OUT! Implement your escape plan! Don’t stick around and become a target for police batons, gangs of teen looters, or panicked crowds. Usually the people who get hurt or killed in these events are the people who aren’t paying attention or who want to stand around and be a spectator.
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Having some sort of less lethal weaponry will help. Many of the criminals who are caught up in the spirit of the riot are not very dedicated or motivated. A quick blast of pepper spray will usually make them look for easier targets.
If you are attacked and you don’t have any spray (or the spray doesn’t work), you must act decisively. Don’t get caught in the middle of two or more attackers. If possible, keep moving to the outside of the group of attackers to “stack” them, or line them up so you only have to fight one at a time. If you do get surrounded, violently attack one of the gang and either use him as a temporary shield or blast through him to make your escape. Don’t just blindly run away, you may be running into an area where there are more problems. Instead of running AWAY from the criminals, run TOWARD safety. And remember that “safety” in this case may not be the band of police in their riot gear with batons out and ready!
Even if you are attacked by unarmed rioters, you still may be justified in using deadly force to protect yourself. Multiple attackers using their fists and feet can constitute a reasonable perception of the risk of “serious physical harm or death”. In that case, you may be justified in using your firearm or knife to protect yourself . . . Also beware that the police may have posted snipers who could shoot you if they see you have a gun. As bad as it may sound, police often won’t differentiate between a criminal and a legally armed citizen trying to protect himself in a situation like this. Everyone who is in the riot is thought of as a criminal. “Criminals” shooting guns get shot by the police.
If you are in your car and are surrounded by rioting criminals, KEEP MOVING! Don’t stop and allow them to open your doors or break your windows to drag you out. I wouldn’t intentionally run someone over (unless that person posed a lethal force threat to me), but I wouldn’t stop either. Pick a route (over the curb if necessary) and slowly drive through the crowd. Your car will likely be damaged, but you will be out of the mess soon.
Don’t get in the habit of knowing only one route in to or out of a place to which you commonly drive. Flexibility in these situations is paramount. Keep your situational awareness up and be prepared to alter your route if you encounter throngs of people or roadblocks.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading, particularly for all threatened by such situations.
Bear in mind, too, that your actions will almost certainly become the subject of 'Monday morning quarterbacking' by the authorities, the news media, and pressure groups such as BLM, the ACLU, etc. They'll be scrutinizing every available surveillance video, news broadcast, etc., trying to find evidence against everyone except their people.
- Did you strike a rioter with your vehicle as you attempted to avoid a mob? That may be portrayed as a deliberate attempt to murder someone (particularly if they were of a different race to yours).
- Did you shout back at the crowd as they threatened you? You may be accused of racism, threatening behavior, or anything else that can be construed as negative or lawless.
- Did you brandish a firearm, or fire one or more shots, to clear a space of rioters so you could get out? No matter how legally justified you may think you were, there will be those who'll seek to portray your actions as the criminal misuse of a firearm.
Remember, legal justification or otherwise will ultimately be determined in a court of law - and the side that enlists the greatest number of witnesses (who may or may not be entirely truthful) is likely to get the result it wants. You're going to face, in court, witnesses drawn from among rioters who want to portray your actions in the worst possible light. Good luck with that. You're going to need it.
What's more, any surveillance or other video of your actions may well be subject to editing by those with their own agenda. They're unlikely to be on your side, particularly if you might make a useful scapegoat to get the authorities off the hook. "We tried to control the violence peacefully, but people like that racist driver made the situation so much worse that we lost control! It wasn't our fault! It was his fault!" That's you they're pointing at, right there.
Even if you win in court, you're going to face a lifetime of ostracism at best. It may be a lot worse than that. George Zimmerman will probably never be able to live a normal life again, because most black people regard him as a murderer even though he was found not guilty. Officer Darren Wilson was exonerated after Ferguson, but he'll never be able to work in law enforcement again, and will always have to guard himself and his family against those seeking revenge. If you think I'm wrong about either man, I have this bridge in New York City that I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills.
I repeat what I've said before: in a riot situation, you may not be able to win for losing. Therefore, get out ahead of the riot if at all possible. If you can't, and you're trapped in it, do the best you can . . . but realize right from the start that your options are going to be limited, and the odds of getting away clean (including the aftermath) aren't good. That's the reality of your situation. Choose your actions carefully with that in mind.
Finally, I wouldn't necessarily try to avoid surveillance or other camera coverage. If you try to do that, it's pretty obvious (looking around for cameras, pointing at them, ducking away from them, trying to hide your face, etc.). That might be considered incriminating behavior. Camera coverage may hurt you, but it might also help to prove you did only what you had to do, and acted legally. It's a two-edged sword.