Surviving a Riot

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With today's uncertain times, the prospect of civil unrest is rearing its head. Here are a few things to keep in mind if this beast ever comes back to the United States.

What, me worry?

Today we see amazing footage on our televisions and mobile devices of frightening riots but these are in exotic far off lands such as Turkey, Egypt, and Greece. We say to ourselves, this could never happen here. However, it has in our near past. Even if you forget the madness of the more recent 1992 LA Riots, all you have to do is Google the 1967 Detroit Riots in which 467 were injured or the Newark riots of the same year to see this is very, very possible here.

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The National Guard only put down the 1967 Newark riots after the liberal use of force. In a weeklong bout of civil unrest, the New Jersey State Police reported firing 2,905 rounds; the National Guard fired 10,414.

While many of these came about from racial tensions, some riots, such as the 1999 Seattle WTO events, in which 157 anarchist protestors where arrested, can be blamed on anything from political unrest or simple crimes of opportunity as after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 New Orleans.

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(For the first couple of days in a large scale civil unrest event, the police and National Guard may only be there to wish you the best of luck)

During the LA Riots, the vaunted LAPD abandoned entire areas of the city until National Guard forces could be mobilized and sent to restore order. This could be several days. The established start of the LA Riot was at about 5:30 PM on April 29, 1992 when, at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues beer cans were thrown by crowds at passing motorists. This soon ballooned out of control and evolved into a full-blown riot with huge parts of the city totally lawless. It wasn't until the afternoon of the next day that the first National Guard units were deployed to the city. An estimated 12,000 US Marines and California National Guard then fought what some have called the Battle of LA for four days until relative peace was returned to the city although a curfew and armed military patrols continued for some time.

New race riots?

While the majority of Americans are sane, rational, folk, an element is itching to light things on fire and run amok. A whole generation of disaffected youth, too young to remember LA in 1992, or Newark in 1967, is waiting for an excuse to burn their cities down. A chilling example of this is the Zimmerman Trial. While we here at Firearms Talk are not weighing in on the arguments of this case, it should be noted that there are groups actively organizing through social media that plan to riot if the verdict/punishment for Zimmerman does not meet their approval.

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One facebook page group called 'Riot for Trayvon' announced "They don't think we will tear this mutha ***** up! LIKE IF YOU READY TO RIDE! LETS FLEX OUR MUSCLE! WHAT, YOU SCARED?"

It was pulled by facebook after it had more than 300 likes in just a few days.

A growing divide in the country

With sharp left/right splits over gun control, social issues, and how to fix the economy, the nation is breaking into two defined political groups. Increasingly these groups are at odds with each other and a friction point is developing. The Fairleigh Dickinson University's Public Mind found that 44% of Republican respondents agreed that an "armed revolution" might be needed in the next few years to defend liberties. This in itself is cause for alarm.

What can you do?

In a period of civil unrest, every home and business is a target of opportunity. If possible, it may the best idea to leave the area for a safer location out of the affected area, especially if you are an urban dweller. Do this once the first signs of a riot start. If you wait until there is a full-blown state of emergency and flames in the street, you have waited too long to relocate and need to instead shelter in place.

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(The military and police have long understood the advantages of controlling areas from rooftops.)

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(In 1992, Korean shop owners refused to give up their businesses without a fight. Even such seemingly foolhardy a tactical move as taking cover behind a stack of lettuce with a double-barreled trap gun is better than watching it burn)

Barricade your home, keeping a line of fallback and retreat/escape if worse comes to worse, and stay inside of it. There is no guarantee that utility services will stay on so maintain a one-week supply of non-perishable ready to eat food, enough water for drinking and bathing, and flashlights and battery powered radios.


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Collect and make sure that all of your fire extinguishers are in working condition in case your home is firebombed. Soaking towels and blankets in sinks and bathtubs then placing them in buckets and other locations near windows and doors can help provide additional response to incendiaries. Soak your roof, exterior walls, and overhangs every few hours with your garden hose as further protection from fire. If possible, set up an observation post on your roof with a mattress, flashlights, and a firearm from which you can dissuade would-be rioters from picking your home as a target. It has been documented that a strong show of force can be powerful deterrent to looters and mobs. You are your own last line of defense.

Neighborhood defense



Korean Shop owners during 1992 LA Riots from South LA Mid-Wilshire to Koreatown armed themselves with shotguns and semi-automatic weapons to successfully protect against looters and firebombing. They had to as the LAPD had vanished.

Of course, if you can unite with your neighbors then the odds just got better for your family. The time to work out a neighborhood watch plan to prevent violence from coming to your block, neighborhood or town, is before the violence starts. Talk to your neighbor and find out where they stand. Then together go and talk to their neighbor, and their neighbor, and so forth. By working together, you can turn your quiet street from a collection of a dozen individual targets of opportunity to a tough nut to crack.


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After wide spread natural disasters such as hurricanes, neighborhoods often band together, throw up barricades, and keep their homes safe as an island in a sea of looters and lawlessness.

While it is not 100% assured that you can present enough of a united front to keep the largest and strongest bands of anarchist mobs from your neighborhood, you can rest assured that if no one makes a stand even the smallest groups will come in and rob, burn, and vandalize. It was with this frame of mind that Koreatown in Los Angeles survived the riots intact.

Hopefully this is all academic and the United States has evolved to the point that we will never see a return to 1992 LA, or 1967 Newark, but I have an impressive supply of batteries, fire extinguishers, an alternate location, and a full gun safe....just in case.

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