Civil Disturbances

Media reports have zeroed in on incidents of intimidation following the recent election. At the same time, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting division released its annual "Hate Crime Statistics," which tracks the number of bias-motivated incidents reported in 2015, which were up by six percent. 

With billions of people glued to Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, and other popular services, social media has become an increasingly powerful cultural and political force. "Through this new technology, people are empowered to express their grievances and to follow people they see as echoing their grievances," Ian Bremmer, president of the Euroasia Group, was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article. As a result, over the last decade, movements po​wered by the web have sprung up around the world

For security professionals, this phenomenon poses significant risks to corporate property and personnel. The following resources provide a guide on ways to prepare for unexpected disruptions to normal business operations.

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Free Resources

(access to these materials requires creation of a free ASIS web account)

Responding When Your Company Is a National Target of Civil Unrest
Seminar Session 4309, September 2016
Speakers: LaNile Dalcour, Brookfield Office Properties, Victor Building
Bill Stennis, Brookfield Office Properties, Western Region

The speakers present a case study of civil unrest that occurred on or near outside facilities owned by Brookfield Office Properties. The initial incidents occurred after September 2011 at Zuccotti Park in New York City, which was a major gathering spot for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The park is a privately owned public space (POP), which by law must remain open 24/7. Therefore, neither Brookfield nor the police could evict the protesters, which grew to the size of a small city with a media center, library, kitchen, and an encampment.  Ultimately, similar protests moved west to Los Angeles, to other company property. The speakers relate their experiences and solutions, offering numerous points on infrastructure countermeasures, legal property rights, and security best practices, including the following:

  • Clearly identify the company's property lines and identify one primary protest location with appropriate signage.
  • Establish alternative egress routes for tenets, employees, suppliers, and guests.
  • Review use of force and shelter in place policies, and train security officers on how to deal with aggressive behavior.

Civil Disturbances—Trends, Tactics, and Mitigation for Private Security
Seminar Session 3311, September 2012
Speaker: Matthew Dimmick, Director, Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources, MSA Security

Labor strikes or disorders can easily turn into major civil disturbances that can harm or damage company property. While security officers may take the necessary steps to control the incident, they cannot leave the facility to pursue perpetrators.  To ensure the safety of all involved, security teams must have a plan before a strike occurs and consider how to assess the aftermath. Specifically,

  • Corporate security and law enforcement must be in constant communication on how each will support the other.
  • Company administration should establish clear policies on the need to shut down, set up barriers to prevent looters from entering company property, and define arrest policies.
  • The emergency procedures plan should include a contingency for hiring back-up contract security officers or other temporary personnel if necessary.
  • Criminal or civil wrongful acts may be perceived as litigious and will lead to legal action.

"Preparing for Protests"homelandSecurity-protests_web.jpg
Security Management, September 2015
Author: Lilly Chapa, Assistant Editor

During the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, global business leaders identified protests, civil unrest, and collective violence as the most significant risks facing governments and businesses in the years ahead.  Bill Schieder, the new head of physical security and fraud risk at T. Rowe Price, faced with those factors head on. Protests in Baltimore, MD, grew violent near the organization's global headquarters following the arrest Freddie Gray, who subsequently died while being transported via police van. The article details how Schieder dealt with the incidents and the aftermath.  Upon reflection, he makes the following points:

  • A security oversight committee of key strategic corporate leaders was invaluable in evaluating the needs of the firm as well as coordinating and sharing intelligence with external organizations, including law enforcement.
  • The best way to stay on top of protest-related information was through social media, but the information had to be vetted to ensure its veracity.
  • The company's enacted its continuity plan that gave nonessential employees the option of teleworking or working at an off-site office.

Scheider notes that the protests did not reflect the pulse of the entire Baltimore community. But "you never really let your guard down because peaceful rallies can turn ugly really quickly." 


"Domestic Terrorism Is on the Rise"Homegrown-Terrorism_web.jpg
Security Management, December 2015
Author: Lilly Chapa, Assistant Editor

he U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security held hearings recently in conjunction with the committee's approval of the Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2015, which received bipartisan support. In his testimony, J. Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, urged the policymakers to not allow resources to be inappropriately skewed toward the fight against terrorism. He cited the acts of Charleston, SC, shooter Dylann Roof, who he called the new face of domestic terrorism: "the extremist who acts alone after being radicalized and inspired by an extremist ideology."

The International Security Program, funded through organizational grants, has kept a database of homegrown extremist activity since 2001. Its database shows that jihadist terrorists have killed 26 victims while non-jihadist extremists have killed 48 victims. Another report notes that this latter group tends to target large buildings and infrastructure rather than individuals. The article cites other findings:

  • Attacks against police officers are difficult to classify as a crime or terrorism because the distinction lies in the details and the motivation of the attack.
  • Law enforcement agencies have noted that they consider antigovernment violent extremist to be the most severe threat they face.
  • A hallmark of domestic terrorism in the United States is the wide variety of ideologies behind them. Resulting patterns—or lack thereof—have stymied counterterrorism efforts.  

Recruitment and Radicalization Among U.S. Far-Right Terrorists
National Consortium for the Responses to Terrorism (START)
Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate,
U.S. Department of Homeland Security -November 2016
Simi, Pete, and Steven Windisch, Karyn Sporer. College Park, MD: START, 2016

This two-year study examines multiple aspects of recruitment and radicalization. The comprehensive report includes an Executive Summary, details on how the research was conducted, results, and four appendices. Most notable are the results, which are outlined in four reports that lay out the empirical analysis gleaned from the findings. The following key points are among the factors:

  • Motivation: non-ideological factors include acceptance from peers, attraction to the group's forbidden social image, personal significance, and protection from bullies at school or rival gangs.
  • Recruitment: The target groups are marginalized youth who are angry and looking for solutions to their problems. The most effective recruitment tool is extremist music that can expose recruits to extremist subcultures with decreased monitoring or formal social control.
  • Obstacles: the likelihood of mass casualty violence lessens when recruits exhibit a preference for interpersonal violence, become disillusioned with the movement and acts inconsistent with its doctrine, and are unable to justify the use of violence against large numbers of unknown victims.

Retail retail_loss.jpgCrime, Security, and Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference
Edited by Charles Sennewald, CPP and John Christman, CPP
Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier 2008
"Civil Disturbances:"
Reprinted with permission from Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, Copyright © 2008

This section of the larger book focuses on the do's and don'ts of how security professionals should respond to a civil disturbance, which may include a terrorist attack. Among the fifteen positive steps and five mistakes are the following:

  • Ensure that both store and operations managers carry a security radio at the first sign of a disturbance, the store command center is staffed at all times by responsible individuals, and use a portable radio to monitor local news.
  • Determine in advance whether a store in the immediate area of any riot of civil disturbance will be evacuated, who will order that evacuation (for insurance purposes), and whether lights will remain on or be turned off.
  • Establish a safe haven such as an office or dock to shelter customers and employees until order is restored.
  • Do not tie up phone lines by communicate directly with other stores. All communication should be restricted to a regional command center or local emergency services.

Retail Security: 150 Things You Should KnowRetail_Security_web1.jpg
Authors: Louis Tyska, CPP and Lawrence Fennelly, CPP
ASIS International 2002
Part V: Crowd Control Management

This chapter lays out a clear philosophy on crowd control and management in four sections, including the psychology of a crowd, what can go wrong, and self defense practices applicable to security professionals. It also discusses an appropriate security presence, peaceful interaction, the use of reasonable force, and the need to protect assets. During special events in a retail setting, such as a mall,   professional relations between security personnel and a client are key. The authors also define security's role in dealing with four types of crowds:

  • Acquisitive: Members are motivated by they desire to get something but can be dangerous when individuals panic.
  • Expressive: A group gathers to express their concerns or opinions about an issue, but the atmosphere can become emotional, and individuals can become agitated or abusive.
  • Spectator: Individuals who gather for a concert, show, or seminar can become agitated by inconsiderate behavior or the abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  • Hostile: Strikers, activists, or political demonstrators pose a high potential for violence. The best tactic to defuse the crowd is to remove the hostile leader.

Information Resources Center (IRC) Security Database & Library Catalog

Additional Resources are listed in the Resource Guide: Civil Disturbances available to ASIS members as a download from the ASIS website. Sign-in to the ASIS website is required.

The IRC Security Database & Library Catalog references books, Security Management articles, Annual Seminar recorded sessions, reports, white papers, and other documents.  Electronic versions of materials, accessible via the Internet, are linked within each catalog record. Print items are available for use onsite in the O.P. Norton Information Resources Center (IRC) by ASIS International members

To access more information on the subject of civil disturbances through the library catalog, sign-in to the ASIS website, then go to the library webpages to navigate to the Security Database & Library Catalog.  Use the Advanced Search feature to search the Subject field.  Type in the phrase "civil disturbances."

For more help and search suggestions, see "Search Tips" on the website, or email the librarians with questions