How to Survive a Riot: What to do if you find yourself in the Middle of a Riot

Political Protests

We are living through a time of unprecedented violence, chaos, and social unrest. For the last couple of years, we have seen a huge uptick in the number of violent protests and riots. From the chaotic events and looting like what happened in Baltimore and Ferguson to the widespread chaos that’s sweeping throughout Europe and the Middle East, the world seems to have reached a boiling point where one little spark can cause things to go bad rather quickly.

And now, with so much chaos following the election of Donald Trump, groups throughout the world are looking to capitalize on this anger to help push their ideology of division and social unrest. Because social unrest and violent riots are among the top threats we face, you need to have a plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones from these types of problems. As we’ve witnessed over the last decade, these kinds of violent attacks can break out just about anywhere in the world, even in areas that were once thought to be peaceful.

Social Unrest is a real Threat

Civil disturbances are pretty common in areas of the world with histories of political instability, but up until recently, it wasn’t something that most Americans had to worry about. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in this country where the slightest perceived outrage can quickly escalate into a full-blown riot.

Female Protestor Shouting at a Police Officer

Tensions throughout this country have been high for some time now; between local police forces that look like mini-military units and groups of violent criminals seeking to spread their chaos through fake street demonstrations, these types of events are becoming far too common.

Some things to consider:

  • These events can happen anywhere; you must be prepared.
  • Situational Awareness and staying informed are both crucial to avoiding problems.
  • While some riots are unpredictable, most can be seen coming and will offer signs of impending danger. Street demonstrations, high-profile political rallies, and pending legal decisions on controversial cases are all things you need to watch.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown riot?

Police Trying to Stop a Riot

The first thing that you want to do is quickly assess the situation. These types of events can break out quickly, and over the last couple of years violent flash mobs have even started targeting malls, grocery stores, tourist attractions, and places where you would never expect a riot to break out.

  • Are you in immediate danger?
  • Where are the quickest routes of escape?
  • Is this beginning of something larger?

After assessing the situation, I advise you take the following steps:

If you have an easy way out, take it now

The last thing you want to do is get caught up in the middle of the storm. If you are near an escape route, get out as fast as possible. Also, keep in mind law enforcement has no idea if you are part of the threat, so be careful when approaching police officers.

Become a Grey Man: Look like part of the crowd

Activists in masks trying to start a riot

If you were not able to make a quick exit, the first thing you want to do is look like you are part of the crowd — something known as becoming a “gray man.”

Don’t do anything stupid that’s going to get you arrested, but you want to look like you are part of the crowd. Now is not the time to voice your opinion, or prove some political point. If someone tries engaging you in conversation, mirror what they are saying and let them think you are on their side.

By blending into the chaos, and not drawing direct attention to yourself, you’re less likely to become a target. Just remember, you are only doing this until you find a safe route out.

Avoid All Law Enforcement

Police Making Arrests during a Riot

Although this may seem counter-intuitive, you are going to want to avoid law enforcement. The police have absolutely no way of knowing whether you’re a threat or someone who just got caught up in the chaos.

Once the riot police show up, you need to realize that in their eyes you are probably a threat. Once things go bad, you could be hurt by either side, so you need to put space in between yourself and the police line and realize that going towards the police is probably not the best escape plan.

Be aware and ready for an attack

Innocent people being attacked during a protest that turned into a riot

Watch your surroundings and be ready for an attack. Watching the crowd’s body language can help you decide what your next move should be. Scan your surroundings and find the best route of escape. Read our article on defending yourself from multiple attackers.

Don’t get caught up in the chaos

How many times have you been stuck in traffic, only to find out the crash was on the other side? We see it every day, for some reason, people are drawn towards disasters. It’s human nature to want to look at the accident.

Don’t make that mistake during a riot situation. I don’t care how safe or protected you think you are when things start going bad your first priority is to make your way to safety. If you’re that curious about what happened, you can watch the action on the evening news.

Go with the flow

Think of the crowd as a large raging river. The best way to get out of a river is to swim with the current and slowly make your way to the edge. The same is true when stuck in the middle of a crowd.

Don’t try to cut through the crowd, as this could cause unwanted attention. Instead, go with the flow of the crowd and work your way to the edge. Then quietly and slowly slip away to safety — avoid running as it will attract unwanted attention from the crowd and the police who could see you as a threat.

A thought on using your firearm or a weapon: I think always being armed is a good thing, but pulling a gun out in the middle of a riot might not be the smartest idea. Unless you’re physically being attacked, it’s better to slip away unnoticed. Don’t try to scare the crowd away you’re your gun. That being said, if you are physically attacked or threatened with attack, all rules are out the window.

Shirts of Liberty

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  1. really good info. would you use pepper spray to fend off a few people in the crowed or could that back fire

    • Major back fire. Ever sprayed pepper spray outdoors? It goes everywhere. Quick way to piss off everybody around you and possibly immobilize yourself in the process by blinding yourself. Escape is your best option unless you have more bullets than rioters on your person.

  2. At least with the weapon you have the option. However if you have carry permit or not if you take a weapon to a political rally you may be detained by the police. After events like what happened in Arizona the law enforcement agencies will be watching political events closely. It is a fine line and comes down to personal choice, your best choice may be not to attend if you think there is a chance of things getting too far out of hand.

    • tank your comment is total bullshit!!! that guy didnt even break any laws in Arizona infact he was well within his rights and the law so stuff it!!! It wasn’t even an incident or event only headhunters like you were trying to make something out of it. man I’m sick of people like you trying to make a big deal out of something when it is within all legality. I could understand if he acted out of turn or broke a law or even tried something but all he did was stand where he was legally allowed in a manner allowed by must be either a damn democrat or a liberal!!!

      • Ha as if calling him a democrat is an insult…sigh what Ev just roll with what you feel is right and stop bullshitting all over other pals opinions John

  3. Tank

    Why go to the political rallies in the first place? They’re usually taped and will be on the news. Besides, they’re also usually political horse hockey

    • Good point. However, when I read this article, I immediately thought of the Rodney King riots in LA, where I grew up. Unfortunately, things may escalate to the point riots may not be avoided if you live in the affected area.

  4. Remember this when the riot comes, U.S. Code, Title 50, Chapter 32, Section 1520a.
    Notice the exceptions-
    (b) Exceptions Subject to subsections (c), (d), and (e) of this section, the prohibition in subsection
    (a) of this section does not apply to a test or experiment carried out for any of the following purposes:

    (1) Any peaceful purpose that is related to a medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity.
    (2) Any purpose that is directly related to protection against toxic chemicals or biological weapons and agents.
    (3) Any law enforcement purpose, including any purpose related to riot control. <—(right here)
    (c) Informed consent required
    The Secretary of Defense may conduct a test or experiment described in subsection
    (b) of this section only if informed consent to the testing was obtained from each human subject in advance of the testing on that subject.
    (d) Prior notice to Congress

    Its best to not to be caught up in a riot in the first place.

  5. I think that using guns should be avoided at all costs; the risk of hitting an innocent person is just too high. As soon as shots are fired, eveyone is going to go nuts and it would only escalate the situation. I wouldn’t even carry a gun in a crowded environment that could potentially break out into a riot. Guns plus large crowds of angry people equals bad news. If the worst happens and you are over powered by a large group of people or you get trampled and your gun gets taken by some lunatic, then you have a nightmare on your hands. Avoiding the situation completely is a much better bet. Mace or a knife is a better bet for self defense in a riot situation.

    • Mace is terrible. If you don’t end up effecting multiple people (read article you just read) you may trigger worse in the crowd. If there’s cops they’ve probably already maced people l.. they won’t like more of that. And there is never a bad time to legally carry a gun in my humble opinion. Now I don’t condone bring a shotgun or rifle to a riot, that’s dumb. Conceal a pistol and keep your head down, move out of the crowd asap. If you have to shoot somewon to stay alive do it, I’ve been in some bad places when people brought out the worst in humanity. If hadn’t shot I might not be here to pointlessly argue this on the internet.

      And no I don’t think your a liberal or whatever other excuse people have for calling you out and being rude

  6. there was no riot in madison wisconsin it was just a protest i live there i even got free food madison is a very laid back city and everyone got along with the officers just fine.

  7. riots just dont happen in a vacuum. an alert prepper would have known which way the wind was blowing and not visited the location in question. You are there because you made a decision to be vulnerable either through neglect or object no matter if it was cairo, tunisa, a european futball match, downtown seattle, or the capital of the people’s republic of wisconsin, madison.

  8. “Just a protest in Madison….”. I was there at The Tea Party….. the liberal mobs were out of control and frightening.

  9. Back in the day (late sixties/early seventies) a peaceful rally or a peaceful demonstration was a kind of celebration, not unlike a country fair. You could bring the kids and have a nice day listening to music and chatting with friends. What you see on old news about that time distorts the actual calm and genuine peacefulness of all but a very few of such gatherings. I Was There. And I have lived and worked through several riots. It is frightening and unpredictable. People who are with the group can go from participant to victim. The best place to be in a riot is somewhere else. I avoid large groups of people. I don’t trust professional sports events or entertainment events. It is too bad because I enjoyed crowds but not any more.

    • I agree, I was 8 months pregnant with a 2 year old in a stroller and got into a peace March. Very calm and my fiance, who was a 2nd Louie in Nam was fully supportive. Right now. My granddaughter is at a protest, and I don’t like it at all. She’s only 17 and probably clueless.

  10. I have officially/lawfully used Pepper/OC/Tear gas spray combination in protecting myself during a large crowd confrontation. It IS easily controllable when deployed, provided you know how/when to apply it, AND, directed at WHOM(needing it the most). No one got irate, they just fled away as fast as possible. Worked like a charm. The crowd itself turned on each other PRIOR to me deploying the spray, I took several wild lumps from morons that were attacking everybody including their pals they came to the riot with. OC/Pepper/tear gas combination spray IS an effective tool to have at your disposal. For the record, I no longer am at riot scenes having retired awhile ago. I avoid large crowds period, because nothing good happens after midnight,OR, in large crowds.That’s just MY subjective opinion, as always YMMV.

  11. When Boston’s Federal Court-mandated, large-scale, cross-city school busing edict took Boston by storm beginning in the mid-1970’s (a storm that lasted well over a decade), riots broke out in many of Boston’s white working-class ethnic enclaves that rivaled many of those that had taken place in the Southern part of the United States a decade before. Crowds thronged the sidewalks and the streets, and people stood on their doorsteps and hung out their windows, shouting all kinds of invective (racial and other wise) throwing rocks, bottles, bricks, and even bananas and other fruit at busloads of African-American students, and at the TPF (Tactical Patrol Force) policemen who were assigned to maintain order in the neighborhoods affected by the Federal Court ordered busing. Buses were damaged, and several blacks on the buses were injured by rocks and flying glass, and attacked physically by vicious mobs when they embarked off of the buses and into the schools in Boston’s white working-class ethnic neighborhoods, as well as when they were inside the schools, especially the high schools in those areas. The rhythmic racist chantings could be heard for miles around. Angry white mobs also took their anger out on the TPF patrolmen who’d been assigned to maintain order in the neighborhoods, throwing rocks, bottles, and other stuff at the police, insulting them, and overturning and setting fire to police cars.

    Racial tensions in Boston, which had already been quite high prior to the Federal court order being implemented, soared so far up over the boiling point that it would take a few decades before Boston could even start to really recover from it. Incidents in both white and black neighborhoods were a cyclical pattern, resulting in serious injury, and/or even death.

    Stabbings, beatings and shootings were not uncommon, and people who took a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong neighborhoods were often attacked, viciously. This was a very ugly and dangerous time for many people,

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