How to stay safe during political violence

Professional journalist groups give advice on preparing for and keeping safe during the inauguration next Wednesday.

After the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, police and military forces are gearing up for what is expected to be even more upheaval when Joe Biden is inaugurated next week.

Already, the FBI is warning of plans by armed insurgents to rally in the capitols of all 50 states and Washington D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration on January 20. Bridge Michigan reports that several militia groups plan rallies in Lansing beginning on Sunday.

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That chaos could also conceivably filter down to other cities and towns including Kalamazoo. So, how can you stay safe during what is likely to be a tumultuous week?

Professional journalism organizations are prepping their members for those sorts of scenarios and they provide good advice for anyone who might be caught in an unsafe situation.

Stay Home
The first and best advice is to stay away from downtown Lansing next week if at all possible. The same could be said for central gathering places in any city. In Kalamazoo, Bronson Park and Arcadia Festival Place are the likeliest locations for any unrest.

If you have to be at the Capitol next week (or choose to be), there are things you can do to prepare yourself. The Committee to Protect Journalists has a full page of suggestions.

  • Dress for safety
    That means wear a warm coat and comfortable shoes
    If you anticipate violence, it’s also a good idea to wear safety goggles and/or a helmet
  • Wear a face mask
    Due to COVID-19, an N95 or KN95 mask is recommended
  • Know the area
    Learn the layout of the area before you go

Best Practices
A workshop held by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative in December had several recommendations for staying safe at the scene of protest.

  • The buddy system – Travel with someone else, especially after dark
  • Don’t keep valuables on you
  • Go early to get a lay of the land

Situational Awareness
It’s important to keep your wits about you when confronted with an angry group of protesters or police forces.

  • Pick a place to meet up with the people you travel with in case you get separated
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you
  • Avoid crowds, stay on the sidelines
  • Gauge the mood of the crowd
  • Keep an eye on police and protesters so you know if something dangerous is about to happen

With any luck, inauguration day will go off safely and peacefully. But if not, it’s a good idea to be prepared.

You can read more about being prepared for unrest here.

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