Mob Mentality…Escaping from Riots and Flash Mobs

by Greg Ellifritz, Tactical Response Training I’ve read some articles by various “tactical gurus” advising that if people get caught up in a riot or confronted by looters, they should start cutting throats and shooting everyone in the face with their 9mm pistols to facilitate escape. There’s certainly a time and place for such actions, but if you are smart, it will never come down to that. Let me share some of my experiences…. In addition to having dealt with some pretty unruly crowds at work, I’ve been caught up in a few riots during my third world travels. In Brazil, I was tear gassed by the police because I was in the middle of a huge fight and riot that broke out after a 600,000 person concert on the beach. In Peru I was even stuck in a riot where one of the rioters (a striking transportation worker) was shot by the military. There were others as well. I’ve seen some pretty crazy crowds. In each one of the bad spots I found myself in, it was relatively easy to get out without having to resort to violence myself. If a person uses some common sense and keeps a good situational awareness, he or she can usually get away before things get too bad. TACTICS 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. If, despite your best efforts to avoid problem areas, you find yourself surrounded by a flash mob or overtaken by a riot, quickly get your back to a wall. That way you won’t be surrounded and will only have to deal with a few people at a time. I’ve found this tactic works very well. If you fade back to a wall and stop moving, often the crowd will ignore you and pass right by. Once you get your back to a wall, organize yourself and plan your escape. If you are wearing a backpack, bag, or purse, swing it around to the front side of your body where it can serve as a shield (a panel from an old ballistic vest carried in the back pocket of your backpack will give you even more comfort). This also prevents thieves and looters from trying to take it from you. Take a look at the crowd. Look for gaps. Your goal is to look far enough ahead and move from gap to gap, exploiting the openings in the crowd. Holding both arms in front of you with your hands together in a wedge shape will help get you through the crowd. Move along walls if you can with your “wedge” out in front of you, deflecting people off to the side. Turning your shoulders will also help. If you are a larger or taller male the “swim” and “knife” technique you used on the defensive line playing football can also be used with great effect. 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. The knife might actually be the better tactical choice as it is harder to take away from you, won’t hit others in the crowd if the round misses or over penetrates, and won’t cause even more chaos in the already panicked mass of people. If you do choose to use a firearm, be very careful. It’s easy to lose a gun in a crowd. Learn how to make an inconspicuous draw, conceal your weapon in hand, and shoot from the retention position. 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. Continue Reading>>>

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