Planning Against Terrorism in Protests

Planning Against Terrorism in Protests
by Susan Basko, esq.
On August 12, 2017, a man named James Alex Fields drove his car at a fast speed through a large group of protesters, as seen in the short video above.  The video is credited to Brennan Gilmore, who was present at the protest live streaming video. Mr. Fields has been arrested and charged with murder and other counts.  The protest and terror act took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Let's talk about protest planning and how to lessen the opportunities for similar terrorist acts.  People engaging in such violent acts are usually mentally unstable, and their acts in turn inspire other mentally unstable people.  Monkey see, monkey do.  If you are planning a protest now, you need to plan with major safety consideration in mind.

First, notice how the street in the video above is narrow, with low sidewalks and buildings closely lining each side. This bowling alley type set-up gives a driver intent on mowing down people an ideal set up.  The people are condensed and concentrated in the narrow street, with very few places to escape the car racing up from behind.

Plan your location and route in advance of your protest.  Actually go out in person, or use google street view if you cannot go in person.  Look for protective barriers. When you plan a protest, look for such things as:

  • Barriers before a street, to make it more difficult for a driver to enter.
  • High curbs.
  • On a bridge, barriers of at least one foot between the road and sidewalk.
  • Large cement planters and other large objects that can blockade a vehicle.
  • Places to escape to, such as courtyards, other streets, large buildings that are open, parks, beaches, etc. The route should have many escape routes.  
  • Avoid marches and rallies near any multi-story parking garages. These can be accessed by anyone and can be used by a sniper.

Consider asking for a police escort, so that the rear of your march is somewhat protected. However, note that in Charlottesville, the attack car plowed through the crowd of people and then smashed into another vehicle, which then smashed into a third vehicle.  Some of the worst injuries occurred to people sandwiched between the vehicles.  It may be that an attacker is less likely to drive into a marked police vehicle. It depends how brazen the attacker is.  Many such attackers plan to die as part of their attack and they may be attracted to encounters with police.

If you are holding a rally, look for a place that has protective barriers.  Most federal buildings have barriers designed specifically to prevent a car attack.  Let's look at some examples.

Federal Building, Chicago
This picture shows a Federal Building in Chicago.  Notice the large barriers.  Barriers like this should prevent most vehicles from getting past.  However, the barriers here protect only the building and the small adjacent plaza area. There are not such barriers to protect the large plaza area by the Post Office next door, which is where most protests and other public gatherings take place.  

This photo shows another Federal Building across the street.  Notice the barriers.

Plaza outside Post Office in downtown Chicago
This is the adjacent public plaza, in front of the Post Office.  This plaza lacks protection.  This is where many protest rallies are held in Chicago.  Maybe barriers should be erected?  If you hold a protest here, be aware of the dangerous layout. 

Daley Plaza, Chicago
This is Daley Plaza in Chicago, where many protest rallies are held.  Notice how the edges of the plaza are unprotected -- low curb, no barriers.  The center of the plaza is protected by a barrier of concrete benches and planters.  These are probably enough to stop or disable a vehicle.

Daley Plaza, Chicago 

Notice that the plaza center has a variety of types of barriers: concrete benches, concrete planters, steel fencing for a subway staircase, cement barrier walls for the subway, and posts.

STREET MEDICS. Another Safety Planning consideration is to be sure your protest group has trained medics in the crowd, carrying supplies.  At this article, you can see a picture of a terribly injured woman, and a second photo of her after she has been given First Aid by a Street Medic.  This street medic did an amazing job of getting this woman cleaned up and her head bandaged.  In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, having medics on hand to give First Aid while awaiting ambulances and EMTs gave crucial and probably life-saving support.  Don't expect your medics to pay for their own supplies. That should be an expense undertaken by the group.

What to Put in your Street Medic First Aid Kit:

Street Medic Guide:

High quality, experienced live streamers can provide a measure of safety because they can see and identify trouble while it is brewing.  Their videos also provide excellent witness immediately and later during any trial.  At the Charlottesville terrorist attack, live streamers provided clear views of the attack, as well as the color, make and model of the car, and a clear view of the license plate number.  This allowed for certainty in identifying and apprehending the attacker.  People of the Internet had posted the ownership and sales records of the car within minutes of the attack.  Shortly after, there was a whole history of the suspect posted online.  Shortly after, reporters visited his stunned mother.  No doubt, the videos helped shape the criminal charges and will influence any further charges.

  1. Safety First.  Know when to cancel.
  2. Rallies: Look for safety factors in any rally location: barriers, escape routes, lack of multi-story parking lots.
  3. March Routes: Look for high curbs, barriers on bridges between street and sidewalks, avoid narrow, closed-in streets, look for plenty of escape routes, consider asking for police escort.
  4. Street Medics: Recruit well-trained street medics carrying supplies.
  5. Cameras: Invite experienced live streamers and photographers.