Protests have been very common in the headlines over the last year. It would seem that news agencies reserve a special section for “Protests” in their daily content, nestled between “Sports” and “Finances”. With increasing frequency, peaceful protests are escalating to become full-on riots.
This is an interesting topic, as riots tend to be emotionally charged and very polarizing. On both social media and in personal conversation, we feel compelled to choose a side, as neutrality is not an option.
Mass Rioting most often begin as peaceful protests. We’ve all seen the videos of people marching with signs and chanting for a worthy cause. Inevitably, police presence increases to protect property and maintain order and stability. Tensions rise as battle lines are drawn. Then, like a match to a powder keg, violence erupts as a line is crossed. As we know, violence begets violence. The cascading effect of the escalation of force draws more combatants to the front lines, and frenzied destruction overtakes the crowd.
Quick statistics about mass rioting
Let’s take a look at some recent statistics on the subject (based on publically available information).
Number of American riots since 2010: 35
Total Number of rioting arrests (est): 1800
Number of rioting deaths: 7
Estimated Number of rioting hospitalizations: 100
Most riots by state: CA, MO, NY
Percentage of riots in urban area: 95%
Most common causes: Race-related law enforcement
Average police staffing (as percentage of total population): 0.2%
Based on this brief look, urban riots are 20% likely to cause at least one fatality, and nearly 100% likely to cause at least one hospitalization. The casualty population might surprise you: journalists, medical responders, and innocent bystanders have all fallen victim to collateral damage.
Does the size of a protest matter?
The size of a protest is also an interesting factor. Across the country, on average, the civilian population outnumbers the police by 500:1. In a city of 100,000 people, it is likely to require only 200 rioters to outnumber the police! No wonder the governor activates the National Guard as a preventative measure; this unfortunately also gives the perception of raising the stakes, which is returned in kind.
With this information, how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from rampaging violence on our own streets? The single best way is simply to stay away. In the heat of battle, there are no non-combatants.
If you live in a rural area, then the odds are in your favor—only two riots have occurred away from cities, both related to heated land-rights disputes.
If you live in an urban or suburban area with a population greater than 300,000, then you are at higher risk. Your home might be in harm’s way, regardless of where you stand on the issue. Should you choose to participate in a protest, be very wary of escalating tensions around you. Attempt to de-escalate a bad situation if you can. At the first sign of violence, get away!
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If your home becomes threatened, lock down or get out! Close the curtains, lock the doors, stay away from doors and windows, and protect yourself from shattering glass. Hopefully, you have an egress kit and an exit strategy that avoids main thoroughfares and circumvents hotspots.
I need to reinforce this point: if you choose to participate in a non-peaceful protest, you will not be a hero—you will be a statistic. Instead of shooting a gun, shoot a camera. The most powerful weapon we have is information.