There you are, enjoying yourself and the vibe around you, showing your support or protesting an injustice. Suddenly, you hear angry shouts and see smoke. The entire group of people around you shifts to make room for whatever is happening. This isn’t what you signed up for and now all you really want is to get to safety.
Having the ability and freedom to voice your concerns or support a cause is one of the things that sets America apart from other countries. Yet no matter what your personal feelings or intentions, you can inadvertently end up in a riot atmosphere because of the actions of people around you. This is something you can prepare for in advance, and know what to do if you find yourself in such situations.
Prepare for Large Gatherings
If you’re going to a large gathering, you know where it’s at, which means you can also plan for the good and bad. Before the event, visit or research the location to look for the basics, like places to eat, public bathrooms and emergency aid stations. You might even make a map of the area and mark easy exits on a map as well as committing them to memory. Pack your own first aid kit, just in case you or someone else needs help.
Develop Surrounding Awareness
It only takes one person to get people revved up and turning to violence. Pay attention to your surroundings. Do you see people who may be wearing heavy layers of clothing or coats when the weather doesn’t call for it? Is there someone who seems to be instigating arguments or taking a stance that seems over the top? Do you see anyone carrying a large duffel bag, backpack or purse that looks like it could hold something more than the average supplies for such events?
Pay attention to the people around you and avoid being close to anyone who seems suspicious. Trust your instincts. If your gut tells you something amiss is about to happen, head for the nearest exit. There is no cause worth taking the risk of unnecessary violence or mayhem.
Stay to the Outskirts
You might be tempted to be right there in the middle of a crowd. However, you’re much safer on the outskirts. Those in the center of the crowd are more likely to be pushed in directions they might not want to go. They might also be trampled or otherwise injured.
Stay to the outskirts of the crowd so that if things do go badly, you have a better chance at making a safe exit. If you find yourself in the middle of a crowd, don’t try to cut through it. Instead, go with the flow and gradually make your way to the outskirts.
Become the Grey Man
When things start to look like they’re going downhill, as devoted to a cause as you might be, your devotion should now shift to your safety. This is when you become what’s known as the “grey man.” This persona agrees with the people around them in an effort to avoid violence. That doesn’t mean you cheer them on or join in the riot, but you do mirror their stance when approached so that they are under the impression you’re on their side. As quickly as you can, excuse yourself and walk away, but don’t engage in a debate.
You’re scared, and want to feel safe again. Your first instinct might be to approach the nearest police officer. But in times like these, the police have no idea who is with them and who is against them. On top of that, they really need to focus on those who are putting you and/or others in danger. At this point, just had for the nearest exit and let the police do their jobs without putting yourself at risk.
If you do have to approach the police, even if you’re just passing by, keep your hands in plain sight, preferably with palms out so they can see you are not a threat.
Remember, no matter how devoted to a cause you are, your safety comes first. Even a tame gathering can become a place of violence. Plan ahead and always keep in mind that any large gathering has the potential to turn into a riot.