London Riots: What You Must Do To Protect Yourself & Your Family!

Monday, August 08, 2011


For many reasons (struggling world economy, highly charged political rallies, demonstrations/marches/protests/celebrations-fireworks and even sporting events) riots are becoming more and more commonplace in our world.  Famous incidents of the past and recent past include:

  • The 1968 Chicago Riots        
  • Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989
  • 1992 Los Angeles Riots
  • 2011 Egyptian Revolution
  • 1994 & 2011 Vancouver Hockey Riots

While over 850 people were reported to have been killed in the Egyptian Revolution, many riots are not deadly, but all are highly dangerous.  Most result in many millions and some even billions of dollars in damages!

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with a person well experienced in riot situations and civil disorder.  Sgt. Clive Milligan of the Vancouver Police Department helped to restore order in both the 1994 and 2011 Vancouver Hockey Riots and has trained extensively to prepare for these types of incidents and other large scale public events.


According to Sgt. Milligan, in these large gatherings, the crowd is made up of several components: Passive participants, Active participants and Active Agitators. Due to the euphoria surrounding the event, it sometimes only takes a few agitators to sway others and turn the gatherings into a violent, destructive and highly dangerous situation. 

Milligan also introduces French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon’s theories on herd behavior and crowd psychology into his explanation.  Le Bon claimed that “during an angry mob situation, people descend two rungs on the ladder of civilization”.  In fact, Le Bon stated “in a crowd, one can become a barbarian, a creature acting by instinct, possessing spontaneity and violence”.

Quite often humans (especially highly emotionally charged or intoxicated ones) can act like wolves if in a pack. A feeding frenzy often occurs where a person is targeted (some of the crowd may not even know why) and the victim is spontaneously surrounded and assaulted (sometimes with fatal consequences).



  • Know Your Escape Route: Access in and out for your family should be thought of before going to the area as opposed to trying to map a way out during the stress of it all.


  • Trust Your Gut: Humans should have faith in their natural instinct of being fearful. “Don’t be afraid of fear” but use it to guide your preservation. Leave immediately when you see or “feel” the tide turning potentially violent. It can be as subtle as a “tone of the crowd “  e.i. “Jeers instead of Cheers” or even seeing or hearing unusual behavior beginning to appear (pushing shoving, breaking bottles, police/fire/ambulance sirens in the distance). Some suspects will begin to wear t-shirts or bandanas as masks before fighting/looting etc. to prevent ID from witnesses.


  • Looting: Protect yourself & your family, not property. Although valiant it is to stand and protect a storefront, you now become the doorway to dollars or the doorway to freedom depending on the suspect’s location! If anything, you could video the crime but again, the T.V. is likely well-insured...are you?


    • Communication: Keep your families and friends numbers on speed dial in case you get separated. Texting may work better than phoning during a large scale event as lines are often “jammed”. Have a meeting place pre-designated for your family to meet at in case you get separated (hotel, restaurant, hospital). People tend not to riot in hospital grounds because of all the police and EMS activity usually associated to them!



    Follow the above guidelines to protect yourself and your family should you be caught in the middle!