The past few weeks have seen a significant uptick in emails to me expressing concern about possible rioting as a result of the upcoming election, asking what the writer should do to protect themselves (a subject also being discussed on a number of online forums). If anything is a sad commentary on the current political situation, this certainly is.
Having said that, we don’t have a history of riots after elections in the U.S., even when we have had hotly contested results (Bush-Gore), but I do think the upcoming election has at least some potential for stimulating rioting due to a confluence of factors; unrealistic expectations, adverse media influence by way of so many rioting scenes from overseas (and feeding of unrealistic expectations) and provocateurs, domestic and foreign, who might seize on the opportunity, combined with the rise in social media and its influence which can be abused to inflame situations. The past is not always a predictor of the future, particularly when key elements have changed.
“Potential” certainly isn’t the same as “likely,” but like all prospective emergency situations, it pays to consider the possibilities and be prepared if your assessment is that it is a concern. You asked, and that’s my job.
Riots generally have relatively limited geographic impact in the U.S. Avoiding likely areas is your best defense. That is sometimes easier said than done, but should be possible for most folks for the short term of any likely trouble to arise.
By and large, riots don’t occur in affluent neighborhoods, bedroom communities, small towns or rural areas. Riots have historically been centered in densely populated urban areas in poorer neighborhoods. Adverse impacts such as fire may spread some beyond these areas, but it is rare.
It is the perverse nature of such things that rioters generally tend to make a mess of their own space to their own detriment, but there’s nothing rational about a riot, nor is that always the case. Get caught in the event and it matters not that you were just a passersby; you could become a victim.
It appears that some urban law-enforcement agencies may be taking the possibility of rioting after this election seriously, but it doesn’t appear to be a widespread concern. In such instances you might expect a strong presence on the street and very rapid and strong reaction should anything start up.
On the other hand, don’t assume law enforcement will be taking extra precautions or any at all; there are always those in leadership positions who either won’t consider potentially adverse situations or somehow think preparing for such a possibility will, itself, cause them too much political grief. Virtually all such organizations have plans for civil disturbances, but the key is how quickly they can implement them in an emergency.
Minutes, hours or days will make a huge difference in outcome. If you live or have a business in an area where the potential exists, meet with law enforcement ahead of time and ascertain if they are prepared and to what degree. Your response may key off what you find out, but I would not necessarily suggest sharing your response with them.
So, what to do if you are concerned and want to be prepared yourself? As noted above, avoid such areas if you can. If you work in such an area, I think I might consider taking a few days off starting November 6th.
If you have property in such an area you have two stark choices, beyond deciding that this is just paranoia. Flee or prepare to defend it.
As the Korean-Americans in the Rodney King Riots demonstrated, a strong armed presence and willingness to fight may dissuade rioters from attacking your property or, worst case, protect it from assault. This is, ideally, not something that should be thrown together at the last minute without significant preparation and planning, as was done in that instance.
First off, armed protection against a mob is much more effective if you have a group of defenders. A single person, or small family group, doesn’t stand much chance against a mob, even if armed. Remember, they may be armed as well, and as we saw in the Rodney King Riots, they may be perfectly willing to use their weapons. And, nothing much will protect you against a fire spreading.
Let me stress that as those Korean-Americans found out, just having a firearm won’t necessarily deter the mob. You may well have to use it. If you have no stomach for shooting someone to protect your property and self, don’t even try. And, be prepared to deal with the political and legal aftermath, which may not be pleasant.
If you decide to defend your property, be smart about it. Send the kids and anyone who would be a liability away to someplace safe. Either have defensive barricades and such in place or the ability to set them up very quickly. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least a few days and be prepared for dealing with traumatic injuries. Have alternate means of communications because wired and cell phones may not function.
This is, at best, just an overview of key issues. Work with your fellow property owners and develop a strategy. Always assume worst case and have tactics for dealing with those, including a tactical retreat. Your property is not worth dying over. It may not be worth killing over. Think hard about this. This won’t necessarily end like a Hollywood movie where only bad guys, and others you don’t care about, get hurt.
Again, this is not something to take lightly or without significant preparations. If you cannot do it right, if you are not prepared mentally to deal with the significant issues, or you decide the risk is not worth it (which is where I think many would find themselves after due consideration), then make sure your insurance is in good shape (check that it covers a riot) and get the hell out of there ahead of time with any irreplaceable belongings and records.
Then, if things go seriously bad, call your insurance company and tell them what happened to their property.
Hopefully, all this is an exercise in abundant caution. But, that’s how you end up not surprised by events.