After watching the news for the past 3 years we have all seen an ongoing trend in the urban wing of society: street protests. And the favorite method of protesting among them seems to be blocking traffic. As a motorist you could be one hill, blind spot or bend away from finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a protest mass of thousands with no foreseeable way through and no way back. What do you do if you suddenly find your car and its passengers engulfed by angry (often it seems angry) protestors? You need to act very quick if protestors surround your car.
Its important to understand the self defense laws in your state. Anywhere in America you can use up to the amount of force necessary to defend yourself and your family. You can NOT use deadly physical force unless you feel there is an imminent threat of death or great physical harm. Your vehicle IS at times a weapon and should only be used as one to meet or match the threat imposed on you. You need to think quickly and address the threat level.
If protestors are doing noting more than merely blocking your way, you may still be able to use a reasonable amount of force to remove yourself from the situation, just understand that your actions are most likely being recorded and will be evaluated by at the very least local law enforcement agencies.
In New York State, the NYS penal code section 35 through 35-20 covers the use of force and deadly physical force.
A person may, subject to the provisions of subdivision two, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless:
(a) The latter’s conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or
(b) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or
(c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.
2. A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless:
(a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating.”
Call 911 immediately if you can do so safely. Local law enforcement agencies are most likely aware of the protest and have officers are on the roadways near by. If you let them know you are trapped in the midst of a large and angry crowd they might attempt to rescue by methods of crowd control, but its not guaranteed they will be able to disperse the crowd. You, or a loved one could be injured or killed while waiting for help.
In a nation where lawyers are always working, you would improve your legal defense by recording the actions of your incident. Obviously the cameras are rolling. Everyone wants to record dirty laundry. But don’t expect the camera of a street walker to work in your favor. If possible, have a passenger begin recording the incident as soon as you are obstructed. Remain quiet, your goal is to record audible sounds and words of the scene as well as verbiage and actions used by protestors.
Driving while recording film is very unsafe and not recommended. Your judgement is best when both eyes are on the road and processing what you must do to escape safely.
The first thing one should attempt would be to leave the area in reverse. If you can back up and go in the other direction, this should quell the disturbance. If you can not, slowly moving your vehicle through a group of protestors, as to push them as gently, should be seen as a very reasonable use of force. You are not injuring anyone at this point as your life is not presently being threatened.
Escaping should still be your 1st priority. If you have to drive on the shoulder, median or sidewalk to do so, do so. If things turn violent in ANY way your methods of escape NEED to escalate. If protestors surround your car and people start to hurl objects that strike your vehicle, pound their fists on your vehicle or rock it as to overturn it, you need to do something immediately. If the hair is standing up on your neck and you feel you may be drug out of your vehicle and inured, its time to up the level of force used.
Have your family lay down and duck. Instruct them to shield their eyes and cover their skin to project from hard objects being thrown, breaking glass or even fists, while covering up with what ever can be found. If the back seat can be pulled down and passengers have the option to retreat into the trunk they should take cover there.
Get the heck out of doge. Its dangerous! If you have to use your car to shove people out of the way or drive over those same people trying to stop you, then do it. Because most likely when they drag you out of the car you are going to get what you were fearful of from the get go, physical harm or great physical harm. If you feel you were in immediate danger and can articulate that, then your actions will be justified.
If your car becomes disabled or is permanently stationary…
If you cant go anywhere the crowd does not appear to be dangerous, your best option would just be to chill out and wait for things to quiet down. Police try and end these disturbances quickly. If things change, and the crowd appears to be hostile or dangerous you will find yourself in a real life threatening emergency. Can you effectively escape from your car and find a protected area on foot?
If the vehicle is no longer operable from a driving stand point you may need to move. If protestors are breaking the windows or attempting to enter your inoperable vehicle, then you’re getting drug out eventually, the clock is ticking. Might as well exit the vehicle on your own power.
How to begin with a plan to effectively make your way to safety? Fighting your way through a dangerous crowd on foot is probably one of the most terrifying and dangerous situations in the world. This is a LAST RESORT. And if you had loved ones with you? It could be a living nightmare. Try and stay calm. Think out your actions and attempt to reach an area of safety. If you are with family explain to them the need to stay together at all times. This reduces your speed and defensive/offensive options (more so with young children) but in a mob of aggressors your loved ones need to be accounted for at all times.
Make sure you take all important items with you if time permits. Keys, phones, identifications and above all else any weapons. If you do not carry a personal firearm, knives and weapons of impact become even more important.
Your family and safety comes first. If you feel with out a doubt that they are in danger, you have every right as a human being, to act for them.