The past few months have underscored challenges in personal safety. From COVID-19 to economic stress to civil unrest, a lot of issues have introduced new questions about ways to stay safe. Protesting is a great way to exercise your Constitutional rights, yet it is important to be mindful of your safety when tempers flare and productive gatherings degrade into riots. Stories on the news have shown mobs charging cars, breaking windows, and attacking citizens. Several AG & AG members have asked for guidance, so let’s dive in.
Avoid and Evade
The first rule of safety is best quoted by instructor Varg Freeborn, who says, “Avoid mob violence by avoiding mobs.” Today’s challenges call for situational awareness on a grander scale. While you know to keep your head on a swivel and watch your immediate surroundings, now you must pay attention to your community at large.
Stay up-to-date about activities planned in your city. Visit the website of your local news channel to see if protests are planned. You can also visit www.rallylist.com to see upcoming protests and search by city or state. Knowing the time and location of planned protests can help you navigate your commute to avoid certain areas at certain times.
Rely on social media sites to give you real-time information. The Waze app will alert you to traffic congestion or road closures. You can also look at Reddit or Twitter for updates. A quick search of your city name will let you know what is happening.
Plan your drive, but always be ready to take an alternate route to avoid protest areas. “Be willing to be mildly inconvenienced in order keep your safety a priority,” says AG & AG Director of Training Tatiana Whitlock. If you need to make your commute 15 minutes longer to avoid downtown, or reschedule an appointment to a different day, then take those steps to avoid any potential conflict.
Further, make yourself available to others in your family to help them avoid being on the road. Because of COVID-19, many tasks have been supplemented with digital services to minimize contact with others, such as online bill pay, banking, grocery delivery, pharmacy delivery, virtual appointments, etc. Encourage your loved ones to use these services, so that they do not find themselves in a protest area at the wrong time.
If you do have business that cannot be done online or reschedule, plan responsibly. Keep a backpack in your vehicle that is stocked with supplies. If you are stuck in traffic for an extended time because of closed exits or police presence, you might need to have water and/or snacks on hand. If you see a situation arising a few blocks away and you are unable to drive, you may choose to bug out of your car. If you frequently wear dress shoes, keep a pair of sneakers in your vehicle, so you can grab your backpack and run to a safe place.
Your Go Bag should include a cellphone charging block/battery, pepper spray, face masks, med kit, water, and any other items you might need to get to safety and call for a ride home. You could consider a GPS monitor so your loved ones can follow your route. You might want to purchase a vehicle service (e.g., AAA) in case you need to abandon your car and have it towed home instead of being impounded.
Defensive Driving Strategies
If you are surrounded by a mob, you will need to find the fastest way out with the least resistance. In a situation where the mob is aggressive and trying to enter your vehicle, your primary issue is going to be mindset. You must know the rules of lethal force and deal with the legal and moral consequences of using a vehicle (or firearm) to get out of a crowd. You have to be mentally prepared for the actions that you might choose to take. Extricating yourself from a mob in a vehicle is both dynamic and extremely violent.
Prevent yourself from being cornered or surrounded by using your training. Avoid the middle lane so you are not boxed in. Adam Winch of Defenders-USA says, “Always be one wheel-turn away from getting out.” In other words, leave space between your vehicle and others so that you can turn your steering wheel one time and have enough room for your vehicle to leave the scene.
For more information on vehicle safety, check out Adam’s Vehicle Safety session. He reviews best practices of vehicle safety and reminds you that cars are not safe spaces; vehicles are the nexus of a vast majority of attacks. You will learn how to park your car, where to park your car, and how to walk to and from your car. He encourages students to develop safer habits so that you can reform your movements around your vehicle and prevent being a victim.