In May of 2020 and extending into June, there were several cities across the United States that experienced Civil Unrest. The cities may have started with a peaceful protest, but turned into riots, especially during the hours of darkness.
I used the term “Domestic Insurgents.” Because these riots occurred across our nation, the descriptor of domestic can be used. An insurgent is defined as rioters. In many of these cities, it is believed that professionals entered these cities to agitate and cause as much civil unrest, hate and destruction they could during the gathering.
There are at least four different groups that can be present at any scene of a protest, even if it is intended to be peaceful in nature:
1: Protestors who are there to voice their displeasure with a certain policy, event or circumstances that has occurred.
2:Criminals who are there to take advantage of a lawfully assembled crowd and who will use a mob mentality to engage in riotous behavior. That behavior will include assaulting targeted groups or individuals, breaking into stores and looting, etc.
3: Organized outside groups who travel from other geographical areas to a specific location. Once at the designated location, the organized groups will be there to continuously agitate the protestors and to whip up the emotions into a frenzy. This group will be largely responsible for the senseless destruction of property setting fires to cars, buildings, as well as instigating confrontations with authorities.
4: Innocent bystanders which I call looky-loos. These are people who may have been initially present for the protest or just to be there to personally be present to say they were there, but now are caught up in the moment of the mob mentality.
I was a rookie police officer in December of 1979. I had been assigned to the K-9 unit with my dog I aptly named “Kiai.” The hottest political issue at that time were the American Embassy in Iran that had been overrun by terrorist who capture and held fifty-two American hostages.
All K-9 units were assigned to work the New Year’s Eve celebration. Just after the stroke of midnight, the celebratory events ended abruptly when the crowd turned rowdy. The crowd broke apart a wooden street barricade and set in on fire in the middle of the very street the crowd was gathered. I, along with the K-9 unit responded and began moving the crowd back away from the burning street barricade. The command was given to disengage, and our unit reassembled at the intersection that was behind us approximately one-half block. As we held that position, I personally witnessed the crowd taunt the police who by now extended behind me for one half a block. I also watched the event unfold around me noticing that the crowd had people launch rocks and bottles as projectiles at us. Standing on the front line, I was not even prepared with the equipment I should have had. Someone gave me a riot helmet and face shield to which I promptly put on.
As we continued to stand in place, I noticed a large amount of people standing in front of us who appeared to be the people causing the most trouble. I also noticed the large groups of people who were peacefully standing on the sidewalks. Those people were witnessing the events unfold in front of them as if this were a movie they were watching.
Officers were re-deployed to roof tops to act as spotters to determine just who the agitators were. A team of officers were then sent into the crowd (in plain clothes) to take custody of the agitators.
As time went on, some of us were pulled away from our present assignments and sent to various areas of the city to answer emergency in progress calls. I was sent to the scene of a double fatal car crash in another area of the city. The riot was eventually quelled, but I gained a valuable experience from being on the front row of history.
As I continued with my career in law enforcement, I was exposed to much more training in riot control tactics, especially in my role as a Watch Commander. I know that protest crowds can grow unexpected and what to do in the way of police services to a community.
I also learned that law abiding citizens who might be part of a protest need to have situational awareness and take the appropriate actions should a peaceful protest change to a riot. Know when it’s time to leave once laws start to be broken, people are assaulted, police are confronted and property destroyed. That is the best time to expeditiously leave the immediate area and go to a safe place, preferably your residence.
With the May 2020 protest that were initiated by the death of Mr. Floyd, I saw numerous cities across our nation that started off with somewhat peaceful protest and transformed into full blown riots. In San Jose, California, there were people who attacked vehicle occupants who were somewhat trapped inside their vehicles. In one case, one man is seen attempting to break the driver’s side passenger window with a crowbar.
Know what actions you should take to avoid dangerous areas. Know when to leave an area and have sufficient information about the immediate vicinity that will allow you to have options for escape routes. Lastly, know what you would do should you need to protect yourself or your family should you end up with violent erupting around you.