My hometown Miami, Florida’s long history of riots has many locals wondering when the next one would be. After all, we consistently saw them in every decade since the '60s. Some even suggested we were long over due. Following the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict we have been seeing riots in many American cities to include New York, LA, Memphis, Baltimore and Houston. Miami, Trayvon Martin’s home town, and the logical epicenter for rioting, is suspiciously quiet. I suspect we’ll see civil unrest during the “Justice for Trayvon” protests this Saturday. The trend so far has been for rogue groups of mayhem seekers to splinter off from the main groups protesting peacefully. With hundreds of these protests scheduled for this Saturday across the country, I recommend that everybody be alert and stay sharp! Having lived through the Mc Duffy Riots of the '80s and the Lozano riots of the '90s I have some insight into this subject and have included some tips below I hope you find useful.
We can start by listening to the news. While it’s true the media is not totally trustworthy, it’s a start. Keep in mind that while lately they’ve been quite sensational, they may be instructed to under report if there truly is civil unrest. They often do this in order prevent further “copy cat” riots. A lot of information can be obtained off the traffic reports and news cast from stations outside the area. Avoid areas reporting congestion as rioters often block streets. We saw this during the Rodney King riots in LA in the '90s as rioters pulled Reginald Denny out of truck and nearly beat him to death. Under reporting was a strategy used by the local media in the aftermath of hurricane Andrew. We saw local broadcasts telling us to stay calm and that things weren’t so bad. This, while stations from other states were showing the incredible devastation and widespread looting! Reporter Geraldo Rivera took the cake, when he mentioned on the air that the local National Guard units weren’t issued bullets! Effectively getting most of them robbed. Some of the best information we got was from a police scanner where we heard everything that was truly happening.
Once you’ve heard something worth sharing, it is important to let those in your circle know. A very efficient way to do this is to make a bang list on your cell phone using the group-text feature enabling you to text-message your contacts as a group rather than individually. Attempting to call everyone is very time consuming and during high call traffic times it may actually be impossible to get through. Texts messages do have a greater probability of getting through, but be warned, they don't always make it; as I learned last New Years Eve. Although I seriously doubt things will get so out of hand, cell phone communications will be cut off keep in mind it IS in the realm of possibility. Don’t believe this is possible? Remember cell phones were shut down just minutes after the Boston Marathon bombing. How could rioting lead to this? The riots of the previous decades occurred prior to social media and smart phones. Roving "flash mob" riots can conceivably orchestrate attacks via mobile social media applications, overburdening local police and in turn triggering a shut down of cell phones. Having meeting places inside and outside your area are important as are having emergency contacts inside and outside your area. If your area suddenly gets crazy go to your meeting place outside the area. If you are unable to make a call within your area due to overwhelming phone traffic tying up the cell service, try calling your aunt in another city or state. Very often the call will get through and if it does now she can relay messages. HAM radio, cb’s and even the family type 2 way radios have their place, but keep in mind unless everyone in your group has one it’s pointless. They all have distance limits. HAM radio being the farthest reaching still is limited if the person on the other end only has a small low powered hand held unit. They may be able to receive but may not be able to broadcast.
The biggest threat during civil unrest is physical violence to you or your loved ones. As with all self defense situations your first line of defense is a commitment to awareness, avoidance and de-escalation. If you already gathered your intelligence from local and foreign broadcasts as well as communications with others, you should have a sense of where things are getting unstable and avoid them. Situational awareness is still the key though! Leave any area where you see questionable crowds gathering specially if there are large numbers of youths in them. Bad neighborhoods and large gathering areas such as malls and commercial areas should also be avoided. I clearly remember being bused out of school in the early 80’s during the Mc Duffy riots. My school at the time, because of it’s location and having a large number of youths readily fit the description of places I suggested you avoid during civil unrest. Adopting the grey man strategy of blending in is good if moving about, but may be impossible if you are of a completely different demographic than the mob. Acting like a sympathizer may help you get past the crowd. If you find yourself there try mimicking their chanting and adopt their general attitude and mannerisms till you get past the crowd. Once you’re out walk away as calmly as possible to avoid attracting their attention. Keep in mind even highways and freeways passing through affected areas are vulnerable to blockage, thrown debris and even gun fire.
Understand that fighting a mob is quite possibly the most dangerous thing you can do but if you must fight then you must bring the biggest most vicious fight you can muster! Certainly having the right tools would be helpful but only as far as your skills with those tools will take you. Guns would certainly be at the top of my list. I once witnessed a man back off a crowd by wielding a large machete and an even larger attitude. A friend of mine who frequently works in security details in Latin America, keeps a couple of happy sticks (33 round magazines) for his Glock, in the glove box of his car for when things get “interesting.” The large bear spray pepper gas cans may also have their place in riot defense as they can contaminate a pretty large area effectively taking the fight out of many a rioter. Many people victimized by rioters often get caught in their cars while trying to escape. In this case it is very important that you stay calm and remember a V8 beats .45acp any day. A few simple strategies can improve your odds while driving. First of all, once the alert has been sounded it is especially important to maintain situational awareness. In a car you do this by scanning ahead and using your mirrors often to check your sides and rear. Additionally leaving a good amount of space between you and the car in front of you is important in case evasive maneuvers are necessary. Being able to see the point where the tires of the car in front of you make contact with the road is a good guideline for that distance. On the highway the 2 second rule is what most experts recommend. Simply start your mental countdown, once the car in front of you clears an object such as a tree or pole, if your front bumper reaches there in two seconds that’s your bare minimum following distance. If a crowd tries to block your path push through them. When doing so make sure your doors are locked and don’t stop. If you must mow them over keep in mind people hit by cars often crane forward breaking your front windshield. Wearing protective glasses can help prevent shards of glass from hurting your eyes. Although this mostly happens when your windshield is shot.
Should you have to use any of the skills or tools we previously mentioned, keep in mind your goal is to escape from the situation. Don’t stick around to give a report! It’s doubtful the police will come since they’ll be tending to more important tasks at that moment. If you or a loved one is injured do not stay in the area to render aid. Keep in mind the mob will very likely be in a frenzy and likely show you no mercy. Specially if you injured or killed one them while escaping. Instead escape and render first aid as soon as possible or better yet have your passenger render it. You have been trained in first aid right? Knowing the area is very important so you can get to the nearest SAFE hospital as quickly as possible. Once safe, the smart thing to do is probably to shelter in place for the duration of the event. If the civil unrest is wide spread, local stores may close shop until order is restored. Here is where your emergency food and water stores will be important. Think of these as the same things you keep on hand for hurricanes or other natural disasters. Riots of course are disasters just man made ones.