Every protest is different, but all have the potential to become violent. Travellers need to know how to avoid them, and how to handle the situation if they get caught in one.
Avoiding a protest is the best way to stay safe. Understanding the cause of the protest can help travellers assess security risk, as well as keeping an eye on the news for signs of unrest and possible hotspots.
Early warning signs
- Angry, extreme or violent views on news and social media sites
- Wide circulation of malicious propaganda
- Enhanced security around government sites and public gathering spaces
If unavoidable, reading the crowd can help travellers predict the safety of the situation.
Signs of potential danger
- Large numbers of people gathering in or moving toward public places
- Shouting, chanting and verbal threats
- People covering their faces
- Heavily-armed law enforcement
- Nightfall: a peaceful daytime protest may turn violent under cover of darkness
Knowing the area is key to avoiding a protest. If signs of trouble are brewing, walk away from potential gathering points: large public places, transit hubs and government buildings.
Try to avoid the bulk of the crowd by finding a side street or alternate route. Do NOT walk into an area with barricades. Try to move perpendicular to foot-traffic, not against it.
If this is impossible, try to blend in until there is a safe way to escape the crowd.
If a situation develops too quickly to avoid it
- Have a scarf handy to cover your face in case of tear gas
- Move to the edges of the protest, where crowds are thinner
- Don’t drive through a crowded street
- When approaching law-enforcement, keep your hands in plain sight and move slowly
- Be aware that crowd control officials may be as frightened as you are
Bunkering in place
If you can’t escape the situation completely, try to find shelter. Find a location that does not have anything to loot or burn. Expect to stay in place until the danger has passed. If possible, send your location details to relevant contacts.
Tips for bunkering
- Lock or barricade windows and doors, and move away from them
- Locate an alternate exit, in case of fire
- Make sure that you have adequate cover. Unlike the movies, bullets don’t stop for drywall or overturned tables
- Be quiet! Put your phone on silent mode
- Be inconspicuous! Put your phone on dark mode
- Save mobile battery life by closing open apps that you don’t need
- Alert authorities/relevant contacts of your location and that you are in need of assistance