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Thursday, December 2, 2021


Joe Rosner
Joe Rosner is a freelance writer, pilot, martial artist and dog lover. He has either an unusually large number of eclectic interests or attention deficit disorder. He is the author of  “Keep Calm & Carry Pepper Spray: Strategies, Tactics & Techniques for Personal Safety & Self-Defense,” and other books.

From the US Capital to the Kenosha Courthouse, from Portland to Pittsburgh, at Black Friday Sales and at Black Lives Matter protests, frightening scenes of violent mobs are hard to avoid on social media and television.  Odds are you’ll never face a threatening mob, but as it could be catastrophic if you do, knowing the following strategies, tactics and techniques can help you survive.

You can’t be a victim of violence if you’re not at the scene of the crime. So, the best way to handle a violent situation is to avoid it entirely.  Many, but not all, potentially violent situations can be avoided by paying attention to news and social media reports. If you’re considering attending a protest, rally or other gathering, or if you live or work near such an event monitor the news for factors like; Warnings from local authorities; Are groups with a history of violence expected to attend? (1.) How big a crowd is anticipated? Will it be hot or cold?( Higher temperatures are a direct driver of violent behavior. 2. )

Even a peaceful protest, a happy celebration or other happy event can change into violent situation very quickly. Pay attention to and trust your instincts. Be aware of what’s happening around you.  Make sure to note two or more escape routes.

If a crowd’s mood starts to get angry it’s time to bug out. Many injuries (and arrests) at violent events could have been avoided. Resist the urge to stand around and watch the excitement.   You can go from bystander to victim in seconds.

When attending a peaceful protest, or other event, watch for signs of incipient violence. These include:

  • Conflicting groups getting close enough to each other.
  • Verbal threats and/or escalating insults.
  • Signs of physical aggression, such as making fists or exhibiting aggressive postures.
  • Objects being thrown.
  • Property being damaged.
  • Attempts to push through police barricades.
  • Growing numbers/level of intoxicated individual.

As the Capitol Police and members of Congress recently experienced, mob violence is hard to predict.  Even if you’re hyper aware, you can get caught up in an unexpected violent event.   Your best move is to move. Try to get to the perimeter or to where the crowd is thinnest and then to a safe location. Move quickly, but avoid running as it draws attention.  Protect your head by placing your hand over your ears and bring your elbows in front of your face. If knocked down, get up as fast as possible.  Keep away from large glass windows. Do not try and get past a line of police, it’s unlikely they’ll let you through, and getting caught between the cops and a hostile crowd puts you at greater risk. If you’re with others, form a line and hold each other’s belts. See if you can pass through a store or other building and escape out the back.   If you’re in a vehicle see if you can back up, U-turn or wait for the mob to pass.  Do NOT try to force your car through a crowd!

PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

If running away is not an option, sheltering in-place might be.  If outdoors, find a doorway, or place your back against a wall, pole or large object. Sheltering behind or underneath a car or truck may also offer protection. Indoors, find a room with a lockable door. If the door can’t be locked, try blocking it with furniture or placing a wedge under the door.  Sitting with your feet against the door and your knees locked uses body weight, not physical strength, and lowers your target profile in case shots are fired through the door.  Outward opening doors with elbow type closing devices may be secured by wrapping a cord, belt, tie or the like around and through the elbow. If protective shelter is not available find a place to hide out of sight.

Consider creating slip or trip zones if you’re indoors.  Littering a hallway or stairs with an abundance of objects, like chairs, desk items etc. or cover them with a slippery liquid like oil, soap or lotions may slow the crowd down so you have more time to escape.

Get help as soon as it is safe to do so.   Calling 911 is best, but in many jurisdictions you can text a message to 911.  Calling is preferred, but you may be able to text if you can’t get through or are unable to talk.  In either case, succinctly state the type of emergency and your location.  Don’t assume the 911 center will know your exact location. Tell them what landmark you’re near or floor and room you’re in. Example:  “There’s a group beating people up, we’re hiding behind the Walgreen’s.”   Let the dispatcher know if your or your companions are injured and to what extent.  Describe your appearance, such as color of clothing, to aid first responders in identifying you.

In a perfect world, law enforcement would always be helpful and always do the right thing.  But in this world police officers make bad decisions, especially if under the influence of an adrenaline dump.  So it is wise to act in a non-threatening manner and comply with an officer’s instructions.  Stay calm.  Keep your hands empty and visible. Follow instructions, promptly but slowly.  Don’t argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if they are violating your rights.  Let your lawyer deal with that later. Follow their instructions.  Move slowly and tell them what you are about to do, even if they just ordered you to do it.   Police: ”Show me your ID.”   You: “I’m going to take my wallet out of my jacket pocket now, okay?”

Awareness, avoidance and taking appropriate action are the keys to staying safe in any dangerous situation, including encounters with violent groups.    Keeping a mental loop running in your head: What might happen?  What can I do if it does?  What signs will let me know it’s time to act?  If appropriate, ask you companions to do this with you.

Today, tomorrow and everyday, the most important thing you will do is go home safely at the end of the day.

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