Riots occur when a crowd takes aggressive and illegal actions prompted by fear or anger. Thousands are killed in riots every year.
Experience of riots in many parts of Africa suggests that the fuel for a riot can build up over time. Whether ethnic hatred, police brutality, wealth inequality or religious intolerances are the cause, if society cannot see a way of improving its lot, the anger and frustration will grow stronger.
Once a situation is at breaking point, any number of incidents can be the trigger for a riot to erupt an act of brutality, drunkenness, a news article, even a sporting event. Yet, most riots are led by individuals. The majority in a riot are either bystanders or people caught up in the excitement. But, sometimes, riots are carefully planned and have the intention of provoking confrontation with the police.
As the police line moves forward, rioters are forced to move. If they do not, the police line continues to move forward and swallow s the resisting rioters by boxing them in. The arrests occur within this box. It is better that you are nowhere near this box, if stuck in a riot.
6 ways to protect yourself in a riot
- Conduct some local research of any urban area you find yourself in. Know the general layout of the roads and key points such as bridges, commuter hubs and government buildings.
- Remain attuned to the mood of the local population. Are street hawkers and stall owners locking up early? Have public messages been broadcast about crowd movements or protest marches? Can you see improvised weapons being stockpiled at locations? If so, avoid the area and stay indoors.
- Have an evacuation plan and brief others about the route out of your building. Most riots occur on the streets. But, if you are targeted, you might need to leave your building and relocate.
- Consider your options if in a vehicle. Abandon the vehicle or drive around the rioters honking the horn. Do not drive towards the police lines as this could be construed as a hostile act.
- If in a crowd, move in the same direction. Then, move diagonally across the pockets of people towards the sides and a point of exit.
- Do not be pushed by the crowd against walls, barricades or fences. The pressure from the crowd could suffocate or crush you.
H.E A.T. tip: Keep your hands up by your chest, like a boxer. You can move better and your arms will protect your chest.