Peaceful protests are an essential part of democracy, but emotions can run high, and sometimes things can go south pretty quickly. If you ever find yourself wondering, “Am I a part of a violent and possibly illegal clash with police?” you can refer to these 5 signs that you might actually be a culpable participant in an angry mob. I recommend brushing up on these in advance if you’re planning on being in Ferguson, Missouri when the Darren Wilson Grand Jury verdict is announced.
1. MOLOTOV COCKTAILS:
Sometimes people get angry with authority, and take to the streets in protest. It’s all fun and games until someone puts down their picket sign – or more recently, pieces of paper with witty slogans designed for internet photo compilations – and pick up one of these bad boys.
You’ll be able to know that Molotovs – or Petrol Bombs if you’re European – are in play if you see the telltale fire that accompanies them. They’re often used against riot police when push comes to shove. If these things are being thrown around, your protest has probably turned into a riot.
2. ARMED ASSAULT AND ROBERY OF FELLOW PROTESTORS
Unity is key in a protest, especially if you want to keep things civil. If one group of protestors is selling T-shirts to spread awareness of your cause, this is a good! Signs and clothing are excellent ways of peacefully getting the word out about your plight.
But even something as innocent as a T-shirt sale could get dicey. If you’re part of a splinter-protest group that appears to be assaulting the T-shirt sellers and stealing their merchandise as result of a trade-mark dispute, you’re probably in an angry mob.
3. PILLAGING/LOOTING OF THE COMMUNITY
A public vigil is a great way to unite a community. Pillaging is a great way to divide it! There could be looting in progress if you see groups of people breaking through glass storefronts, or masked persons running from stores carrying merchandise – this one can be tricky, be sure you stop and ask to see if they have a receipt.
If the person does not have a receipt, they’re either forgetful, or a looter! This is a possible sign that the peaceful protest has deteriorated into an angry mob. If you are unable to get away from the mob, and absolutely have to participate in the looting, avoid places like gun stores, or ones that have NRA stickers on the windows. You’ll know a place is safe to rob if it has this sign either in the window, or on the property:
4. PUTTING OUT A PUBLIC BOUNTY FOR A POLICE OFFICER AND HIS FAMILY
If signs like this appear around your town, such as the ones that a group called RbG Black Rebels have plastered all over Ferguson, be alert!
While they provide an excellent opportunity for you and your friends to earn some easy cash, they’re also a decent indicator that a lynch mob of vigilantes (and not the good kind) is forming, and you should do your darnedest to stay away.
5. TORCHING OF BUILDINGS, RELATED OR UNRELATED TO YOUR GRIEVANCE
Arson is typically frowned upon by most, and has no place in a peaceful protest. One sign that arson is in progress is smoke coming from buildings.
There are a few buzzwords to listen for to make sure it really is mob-arson, such as: “Burn it down,” or “Burn that mother ****** down.”
Protests are important to America: it’s part of how we can exercise free speech, and make others aware of major issues. But opportunistic mob-violence tears apart communities, and distracts from the issues at hand.
By Cole Ellenbogen