Anatomy of a Riot

Yes, I’ve been in a protest before. It started out as a “peaceful” protest and quickly deteriorated.

Feeling out the crowd

Why was I there? Third world country doing my job basically. The civil unrest wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, the people had risen above oppression and were protesting the poor living conditions. I didn’t blame them, but I still had a job to do and that was the safety of my people and our home away from home. I felt it was important we get a closer look as a tactical necessity. I ran my plan by my team leader an old school pipe hitter and he agreed. I threw my pistol in my pants, grabbed my knife and some OC. We then set an over-watch and ventured into the crowd. It was surreal for sure and here is what I learned.

Mission critical

If you don’t have sniper over-watch don’t go venturing too far. At first we stayed on the perimeter, but as we worked our way around to the opposite side where the major activity was taking place it got dicey. It really is an unpredictable and chaotic event, the term powder keg waiting to go off is damn accurate. I felt confident that if things went sideways our over-watch would help create some confusion that would allow us to beat feet. That was literally our plan, haul ass back to our perimeter. They provided incredible insight into what was going on, gave us real time intelligence on who the serious actors were in the crowd. Who were the ones instigating everything. I’m going to bet that most domestic protests will happen without the over-watch so unless you got it, consider not venturing.

Run the walls

The next thing we realized quickly was stay on the edge or run the walls. I know it seems pretty common sense and it is a tactic when dealing with multiple threats, well in this case we had a boatload of “unknowns”. While they were not the instigators we had identified it didn’t mean everyone in the crowd wasn’t prepared to take it up a notch. Most were there to truly send a message, but many were frustrated and upset. Staying on the fringe gave us access to a quick withdrawal if things went from bad to worse. One thing you need to understand is there are plenty of human emotions that are contagious; panic, fear and anger are big ones.

Fake tough guys

An other thing you need to realize is there is a lot of support courage present. If you were to take the same person and remove him from the scene, from the other instigators chances are their behavior would be very different. However, add support from the mob, the encouragement and it seems all civility is removed. It is almost as if there are no consequences so why not. That was probably the most dangerous scenario and we didn’t realize it until we were deep in the crowd.

Think it through

Lastly, have a plan. It should go without saying that avoidance is the absolute and most important tactic you can apply. Why the hell would you knowingly venture into a protest, mob or worse riot? There actually is a good reason, good people trying to protect their property, family and way of life. So, if you have to venture into this scene you better damn well have a plan. Consider how you will blend in, move into and out of the crowd and your “no-go” criteria along with where you will go. Even if that plan is to haul ass, it is better than nothing.

What we are witnessing is nothing new, just new to our generation. Avoidance is key, staying on the fringe a good idea, but having over-watch is awesome.

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