A peaceful protest can take a violent turn in a single flashpoint. If you look at how community members take to the streets to voice their outrage over perceived injustice or make a political point, few intend to do harm. But, on the other hand, agitators and people with ill intent tend to infiltrate groups and sway them into a kind of mob mentality when passion is high among the once peaceful crowd. When it escalades quickly, law enforcement has no other option than to protect the safety of those around them, as well as themselves.
When a peaceful protest turns into a full-blown riot, no one is safe. Not the protestors, community members, passers-by, and not people who form the thin blue line between order and chaos are free from harm. When this is the case, it’s important for law enforcement to rely on their protective gear as a measure of safety to the public, and to themselves.
A Protest that Changed the Course of History
One of the more infamous protests that recently went wrong was the 2018 Charlottesville, Virginia protest. Competing political groups showed up to confront those who secured a permit for a peaceful protest. This trend was escalating all over the country. Much of the heightened violence had been attributed to a loosely-knit group of so-called “counter-protestors” who would show up armed and masked. Their ability to conceal their identity and penchant for hurling objects at their opposition and police officers made them uniquely dangerous.
There were times when the only thing keeping officers upright was the helmets and protective panels in the riot suits. Otherwise, many of the men and women in blue would have spent time in the hospital. What law enforcement learned from this protest was that advanced intelligence, pre-emptive ordinances, and on-site surveillance rank among the best ways to prevent a group lawfully exercising their First Amendment right to intensify to an unruly group of rioters. These are critical changes and tactical advancements that came following those protests:
- Anti-Mask Regulations: Making masks illegal when groups gather or legitimate protests are conducted allows law enforcement to identify individuals, apprehend them, and see they are prosecuted. Antifa members, among others, became far less aggressive without the masks.
- Open Carry Restrictions: When local officials pass ordinances that make the carrying of edged weapons, firearms, and blunt-force weapons unlawful during a permitted protest, this allows officers to seize objects and make preemptive arrest. This can be done by apprehending those with malicious intent before they reach a crowd.
- Drones: Utilizing drones during the build-up and throughout a protest gives law enforcement eyes above the crowd and outlying areas. Knowing where a potential threat is located allows us to move quickly and head-off aggressive behavior.
Law Enforcement Hopes for the Best, Prepares for the Riot
When groups engage in permitted protests or citizens take to the streets over a perceived social injustice, officers are far more prepared than before Charlottesville. One of the key factors is that departments across the country continue to invest in state-of-the-art riot suits and necessary gear.
Outdated riot suits are heavy and difficult to move around in, making it more difficult for the officer to be mobile when getting around or in and out of a squad car or command center. Personal protective equipment must allow us to have full mobility, flexible movement in tight crowds, protect against sharp object punctures, and blunt force trauma.
Haven Gear provides lightweight, comfortable riot suits and gear for law enforcement and correctional agencies across the globe. Our riot suits, helmets, and accessories can all be equipped and fully prepared in seconds. Keep your officers hydrated and cooled under any circumstance with our hydration systems and cooling packs. There’s little doubt that Haven Gear has revolutionized riot gear and officers are safer and more prepared than ever before. For more information about these next-generation riot suits and how they can get your officers how safely, fill out a form on Haven Gear to learn more.