Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

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6 Steps To Stay Safe During Riots

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Chaos erupted on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. when protesters clashed with anti-protesters.  One man protesting the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue took the already violent protests to a new level when he ran his vehicle through a crowd of anti-protesters. More and more, these protests are turning into dangerous riots and scenes of violence.

Vehicle used in 2017 Charlottesville, Va. riots

Photo Credit: 2017 Charlottesville ramming by Brennan Gilmore

This is just the most recent “group-mentality” attack to grip America.  Last year it was a series of anti-Trump protests that turned into riots.  The year before, it was the Baltimore riots.  In 2014 the Fergusson riots were the top news.  But none of these were lone events for the year.  In fact, a quick look at Wikipedia’s list of civil unrest in the U.S. alone shows an ever-growing number of riots year after year.

These riots are not only becoming more frequent, but also more dangerous.  Whenever possible, you should simply avoid protests and other events that have the potential of becoming dangerous.  However, some riots are unpredictable and you may find yourself caught in one.

So here’s how to make sure you make it back to your home safe and alive:

  1. Always carry some type of weapon on you. Most rioters are cowards. So if they approach your car and start rocking it or try to drag you out, you’ll want to be armed and prepared to preserve your life. My weapon of choice is a gun. Rioters attempting to carjack you will likely have a change of heart when they find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. It’s important to note you should draw your gun only if you are in fear for your life. But if 50 people were surrounding your car trying to drag you out, I’m pretty sure you would be.
  2. Pretend to agree with the protesters. I think it’s fair to say that rioters are punks. But it might save your life to pretend that you support their cause. Because the worst thing you can do is start mouthing off to a large crowd of rioters when you’re outnumbered 100-to-1. In the intelligence business, sometimes you have to work with the enemy to get to the boss who’s higher up the chain of command. I remember one time a buddy of mine working with a terrorist told me, “I would smile and agree with him, but I really wanted to put a bullet in his head.
  3. Don’t end up by yourself until it’s safe. When mob mentality takes over, the crowd tends to attack anyone who is alone. Why? Because — similar to what I discuss above — the pack assumes that a person who is by themselves is against them, or otherwise they’d be rioting too. So don’t immediately separate from the group… unless you’re sure you can get to safety.
  4. Keep a 72-hour kit in your trunk. You never know if you’ll have to leave your car or vacate your home and flee to a remote area. This is why I recommend that everyone have a simple 72-hour kit in their trunk. If you ever have to escape on short notice, you’ll have three days of food and water to live on while you get to safety.
  5. Don’t show your wealth. I’m a big believer in living below your means and not flaunting your wealth by showing off material possessions. I myself live in a modest house and drive a 2009 truck with 170,000 miles.
    Concealing your affluence is especially important if you ever find yourself in the middle of a social breakdown. People driving Ferraris or wearing Rolexes or showing any opulent sign of wealth will have huge targets on their back.
  6. Always have a paper map in your car. You and I both know we live in a world where most people are completely dependent on technology. In recent events, wireless devices have been rendered useless for a variety of reasons. During some events, the government has asked cell networks to shut down in an effort to keep the violence from spreading. In other cases, the system has simply become overwhelmed with people trying to call for help and others trying to live stream videos of the events. No matter the reason, the digital systems can go down and a physical map may be the only way to find a new route out of the situation.

Remember, every instance of rioting is different. In some cases, it might be appropriate to draw your gun to defend yourself. Sometimes, you may need to pretend to join the masses until you can get out of the crowd safely. And sometimes it makes more sense to just run.

No matter the situation, if you take a few of these simple precautions and keep a level head, you will be better prepared than most to stay out of harm’s way in this violently unpredictable — and increasingly common — situation.


  • Robert Hernandez says:

    Great! As usually your comments and inside are. I was amazed to see that many of your suggestions I have already applied in many situations I found myself in while other were new to me, but it makes sense to me. This is why I became one of your new member to the spy & survival briefing. Would like to learn more about the spy school, training courses and locations.

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