Protests in your city could be a positive force of meaningful social change, a mindless destructive force, or something in between. Wherever they lie on the spectrum, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of property damage, keep your family safe and healthy, and overall make the city safer.
If you hear of a major protest coming up, or if there are a wave of protests unfolding in your general area, it’s important to be proactive and prepare for the situation. These are some of the best strategies you can employ.
Protect Your Physical Property
Even if you completely agree with protestors and believe in their motivations to remain peaceful throughout the duration of the demonstration, mass gatherings of people can become chaotic fast. It’s therefore important to invest in the protection of your physical property, assuming it’s in or near the protest area.
As a first line of defense, you can double check your property insurance policy, and make sure it will cover losses you may sustain due to damage and/or looting. Not all policies will provide comprehensive protection, so this may be a good time to upgrade.
If you’re especially concerned about the damage your business might sustain, you can invest in additional layers of protection. For example, you may physically reinforce your doors and windows with barriers, bars, or wooden structures.
If you intend to occupy the building during the protests, it’s also a good idea to invest in a firearm for personal protection. If you do this, you may also want to take a training course on firearm safety and proper use; you can hope you’ll never have to use your firearm, but if you need it, you’ll need to be confident on how to use it.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Political Involvement
Many people have historically responded to major protests with a show of support or a wall of silence. Others have spoken out against protests that become violent, or against specific causes or philosophies.
There are pros and cons to taking a public stance. For example:
- Winning the support of protestors. If you speak out in favor of the protests or somehow win the loyalty of the cause, it could work out in your favor. For starters, your property will be less likely to be targeted in the event that protests turn into riots. But more importantly, you could improve your reputation in the public eye.
- Stoking disagreement and/or boycotts. If you take too firm a stance, however, you may stoke disagreement, violent actions, or boycotts from the people who disagree with you. This is why it’s exceedingly rare for business owners to speak out against protests that are happening in their city; they don’t want to incite the rage of the crowd.
- Inviting criticism from neutrality. Of course, there’s also an issue in remaining completely silent or neutral on the topic—especially if protestors view silence as implicit favoritism to the other side. Don’t think you can escape all forms of criticism by remaining completely neutral.
Carefully Consider Your Social Media Responses
If you have a social media presence, it may attract significant commentary from protestors in your city or relevant to your organization. These may range from harsh criticism to glowing praise; wherever these comments fall on the spectrum, it’s important to consider your responses carefully. No matter what your opinions are, it’s important to remain polite and respectful; it’s also a good idea to err on the side of neutrality, using calculated language to avoid taking too strong or adversarial a position.
If you’re not actively joining the protests, it’s best to remain indoors and monitor the situation carefully. Heading to a protest as a protestor, counterprotestor, or even just an observer can put you and your family in the middle of the chaos. There are ways to show support for your favorite causes that are much safer, such as voting for your favorite political candidates, donating to organizations you trust, and volunteering for good causes in your neighborhood.
Even after weighing all the options and knowing your own personal stance, it can be difficult to come to a firm decision about how to handle protests in your city. To make matters worse, you may be working with a limited timeframe—with protests planned in the coming days. Hedge your bets with as much protection as possible, and carefully adjust your approach as you become more familiar with the circumstances.