Journalist & Personal Security in Hostile Crowds
Over the years I have been caught up in several situations with crowds where things could have gone very bad, very quickly. Crowds are best avoided at all cost when providing close protection / bodyguard services but some clients’ want or need be at the center of the party or in the thick of the action, and they are paying the bills!
Below are two videos that are good examples of why crowds should be avoided and can be used for brain storming prior to your operational planning to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes. It’s easy to criticize others actions from a distance; we want to learn not criticize! I am sure everyone involved in the following videos did everything they possible could to try to stay alive and protect others in extreme situations.
The first video is from 1988 in Northern Ireland where two off-duty plan cloths soldiers drove into the funeral procession for a IRA terrorist. Why they were there we will never know, the theory is they were lost and came off a designated route or were site seeing.
I am sure many of you when watching the video were asking yourselves why they did not shoot their attackers. To start with these were not Infantry soldiers but signalers, also the rules of engagement in Northern Ireland were extremely strict. I am sure if they started to shoot their unarmed attackers and survived the situation they would still be in jail on murder charges. The terrorist’s lawyers would be screaming human rights violations with their media and American friends calling it an unjustified massacre. No win situation right so, avoid crowds!
So, if they took aggressive action they would have to deal with the legal consequences, plans for the aftermath of a use of force incident need to always be in place. At that time in Northern Ireland off duty troops only carried 10 rounds for their pistols, so would they have had enough ammunition to get out of the situation to start with?
This second video is from Tahrir Square, Egypt in 2011 where the CBS journalist Lara Logan was dragged into a crowd and sexually assaulted. I have worked with news crews and understand that a lot of times they need to take a risk to get the story they are after. This where the worst case scenario should always be assessed and prepared for. From a close protection point of view, the clients need to made aware of the threats, even if the ignore the warning (KYA).
Rule 1. The streets can go very bad, very quickly, wherever you are! What can we learn from this video and what could have been done differently? I think it’s clear their security man did everything he physically could possible but one man against a 100 has no chance, and in close quarters he was lucky not to be seriously injured, stabbed or killed himself. Many of these news agencies policy’s is that they don’t use armed security and he could not have legally had a firearm there anyway. Non-lethal or improvised maybe, pepper spray might have been an option but I doubt it would be available or legal. You also need to consider if your use of force will escalate the situation, a lot to consider right!
I have written about this many times before, just because someone is big and calls themselves a security guard, bodyguard etc. does not mean they know what they are doing or will risk getting hurt protecting you! I expect the two local guards the fixer arranged were just big friends of his who wanted to earn a few dollars, so I don’t blame them for disappearing then things went bad.
When things started to go bad they needed to get to their vehicles ASAP but I take it the evacuation route to the vehicles was blocked and the vehicles were too far away. I had this happen to me once before in bad part of Haiti due to the clients heading in one direction and the local drivers heading in the other… The drivers had more common sense than the clients…
One thing that could have been done would have been to hire a couple of local police or military personnel, well ask for a favor… But if this could have been done would be down to budget and the news agencies policies on working with police etc. as they are generally trying to stay neutral in a situation.
Hopefully this article with give you a few things to think about and in a perfect world it’s best to avoid crowds but in reality it’s nearly impossible. I have given two extreme examples here but be it a sports event, street carnival or political event remember rule 1. The streets can go very bad, very quickly!