With the heightened political emotions in the United States right now, I thought knowing how to exit a large group of people would be good information to read up on. There have recently been several political protests, knowing how to leave safely could protect yourself, friends, and family.
- If you believe that a situation will be volatile don’t go to it. Certainly don’t take your children to it.
- If you are in a large group of people, try to stay near an exit or edges of the group. Perhaps a front row seat is nice, but forward tends to be a panicked person’s first direction.
- Know the area where the event is happening. If it’s occurring in an area that could be “bottle necked,” that is not safe. Do not go near walls, fences, and ally ways. This also helps you navigate thousands of people after the protest. Think of the traffic a protest would create!
- Carry pepper spray when attending a large group. Many areas will not allow it into the arena or event area, but when traveling around a city afterwards, it is a must. I have hid my purse with the pepper spray in a bush (just don’t leave any valuables or money in the purse), left it with a friend, paid a bar tender to watch it, etc.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to rallies, protests, and large venues. This will allow you to exit more easily.
- Consider carrying an extra phone (one in your purse, and one on your person).
- Set up an easily located, out of the way, meeting location incase you get separated from your group. This was a very common practice in the era before cell phones.
How do you know if a riot is starting?
First and foremost, you need to trust your “gut feeling.” Even when I am at a concert, leaving a sporting event, at a parade, etc., I try to be aware of my family nearby, the people around me, and where my purse is. If the people around me appear intoxicated, not acting normal, are coming too close to me, or are aggressive verbally or physically, I move away from them. This does not mean you need to be paranoid of everyone around you. It just means to be careful in large crowds.
A riot is defined as a “violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.” That includes just screaming at a concert all the way to . Any time things are becoming verbally or physically violent, you run the risk of creating a mob. A mob is defined as, “a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.” If you see people yelling aggressively at each other or at law enforcement, I would start to move away or leave immediately.
It becomes tempting to help people who are arguing or to watch the drama unfold. However, remember where you are. You’re surrounded by tons of other passionate people, probably in the middle of the city, and do not have shelter to get to immediately. You need to stay alert. Becoming trampled, pinned against the person in front of you, caught in a fight, pick-pocketed, and physically trapped, are real threats that happen in a large angry group of people.
How to leave a riot safely:
- Calm yourself by doing this: Take a second to look around you and see what’s happening. Take several deep breaths. Use self talk to tell yourself, “I can find a way out of here. I can be safe.”
- Blend in with the crowd. Looking like any random person will keep you from being targeted by police or members of the crowd. Getting noticed will not keep you safe. This means you need to be walking, keeping your head down, avoiding fights, and staying away from large scenes will help you.
- Link arms with anyone you came with. This can help reduce the risk of separation.
- Start moving towards the edge of the group. Ever notice that in a crowd you can squeeze through people if you are moving at the right pace? This is what you need to do. Do not run. You could trigger everyone to be alarmed and draw attention to yourself. Walk quickly in a diagonal towards the exit. If your body is slightly sideways you will one, be less likely to be pinned agains the person in front of you, and two, be able to use the flow of movement to help you move forward. Move away from walls and fences.
- Watch your feet while walking. Tripping and falling would be terrifying for me. It only takes a few people to seriously hurt and trample you.
- Attempt to get to a car or find a safe indoors area. If you can get to your car, try to drive away from everyone. If your car happens to be in the throng of people, leave it. It’s not worth trying to push through everyone in the area. If you are already in your car, try to carefully move through the crowd. Over aggressive driving may incite more violent behavior toward the car. If you’re on foot, find the first building away from the mob and get inside. Stay there until everyone has dispersed. Check for the exits right away incase trouble finds inside as well.
- If you are attacked… Try to get away as quickly as possible. Run away from them, if they grab you: twist your wrist down and away from their palm, kick them in the legs, etc. Do whatever you need to so that you can get away as quick as possible.
I also read that if you are willingly entering a heated protest, you may want to consider having things that will protect you from tear gas. A lemon juice soaked rag will work to help you breathe clearer.
Now hopefully this never happens to anyone, but those are the basics!