The ongoing protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have produced demonstrations and sometimes mob violence in cities all across the country. This has resulted in confrontations with, and sometimes attacks on, innocent bystanders and passersby. A recent incident in St. Louis demonstrates the dangers.
The incident happened around 8 p.m. [on December 3rd, 2014], after about 75 protesters gathered in Maryland Plaza and were beginning to lay down for a “die-in” in the street.
As they did, a man driving a Town and Country minivan drove through the intersection and accelerated through the crowd. One woman was seen crouching on the hood of the minivan as the van continued forward. She fell off as the vehicle rounded a curve.
Protesters chased and then surrounded the minivan, and the driver waved a black handgun at them. At one point, protesters broke out the van’s back window. The van was dented, and police recovered a rock from the back seat. Police took the driver, a 57-year-old man, into custody.
. . .
Police detained the man Wednesday night but later released him. Police did not identify him. Police are still investigating "due to contradicting statements from the driver and individuals at the scene."
There's more at the link.
Note that the police almost immediately released the driver of the minivan. Clearly he wasn't suspected of any crime, otherwise they'd never have let him go. It looks to me like they arrested him just to keep him safe, and perhaps to 'show willing' to the demonstrators as well. However, of greater importance to me is the question of why the motorist was in the area at all. If he knew that such mobs were forming, why would he have driven anywhere near them? That makes no sense.
I wrote some years ago about the changing urban self-defense environment. The advice I gave in that article still seems sound to me. If you haven't already read it, I urge you to do so and consider the options available to you. In particular, I repeat the advice of John Farnam (which I've previously quoted). He gave some of the wisest counsel I've ever heard about staying out of trouble.
The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else. Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. This is the advice I give to all students of defensive firearms. Winning a gunfight, or any other potentially injurious encounter, is financially and emotionally burdensome. The aftermath will become your full-time job for weeks or months afterward, and you will quickly grow weary of writing checks to lawyer(s). It is, of course, better than being dead or suffering a permanently disfiguring or disabling injury, but the “penalty” for successfully fighting for your life is still formidable.
Crowds of any kind, particularly those with an agenda, such as political rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, etc are good examples of “stupid places.” Any crowd with a high collective energy level harbors potential catastrophe. To a lesser degree, bank buildings, hospital emergency rooms, airports, government buildings, and bars (particularly crowded ones) fall into the same category. All should be avoided. When they can’t be avoided, we should make it a practice to spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out.
“A superior gunman is best defined as one who uses his superior judgment in order to keep himself out of situations that would require the use of his superior skills.”
If you find yourself unable to avoid situations like this, there are things you can do to get out of them with minimal risk and/or damage. Greg Ellifritz offers some sound advice. 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.
. . .
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.
Again, more at the link.
We live in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world. It behooves all of us to be prepared.