Self-Defense During Civil Unrest?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
10 Aug 2009


I remember back to when the LA riots occurred after the Rodney King beating caught on film. That was a scary time in Los Angeles because all of societies rules and laws were seemingly suspended. The National Guard had to be deployed on the streets of an American city! This is not without precident starting back to the days of the American Revolution (or American Rebellion if you were educated in Great Britain).


The reason I have been thinking about this is because of the IFC movie “Beyond the Gates” I watched over the weekend. This film is about the Rwanda genocide that occurred in the mid-nineties. In this post I’ll examine what self-defense options people might have to consider if they are unlucky enough to live in a nation undergoing some civil unrest (or civil war as the case might be). If you get a chance – watch Beyond the Gates or Shooting Dogs, as it is known internationally. Here is a video clip.


Rwanda became embroiled in a genocide as this movie (and several others) depicted that meant that every person had to fend for him or herself! Without going into the politics of this, I will link to the Wikipedia page for those of you wanting more information here. Before we move on I was struck by the lack of response from the UN and world at large! I remember when I heard about this in 1994 I was wondering why the UN did not act.

Let us move beyond the, “It won’t ever happen to me” syndrome. Now what would you do if you discovered bands of murderous people where taking over your town? Here is what I suggest must go into your thought processes.

  • Recognize the threat
  • Find your loved ones
  • Inventory your weapons
  • Take stock of the local political climate
  • Take stock of your escape options
  • Inventory your supplies

Here is the deal, civil unrest can happen at any time and often happens unexpectedly. To use the Rodney King riots as an example, Angelos were on their own for a few days in the hardest hit areas. Cops would not come in at first because the mobs were too unpredictable. Here is an overview clip I found.

Did you notice that some shop keepers decided to arm themselves and keep the looters away? They were among the few businesses that did not get looted. I am however more concerned with you and your loved one’s personal safety.

If you start noticing everything going haywire, start finding your loved ones. They might not appreciate the danger but it is better safe then sorry. Start formulating a what if secinaro with this so you can work out a refuge or escape plan in case things do degenerate.

With any luck some members of your family will have some martial arts (read Western or Eastern) and/or military training. Use these people as resources for the “what if the worst happens!”  I have always said fighting is fighting is fighting but I am not so naive to assume just because I know hand to hand combat – that I will be any good with guns! Use your family and friends with expert knowledge.

Is there a right plan? NO!!! But it will beat no plan at all! Unfortunately in life, it is not always fair. I mean you can live your life according to your religion and still end up in a massive bank robbery – held at gun point!

One good thing about martial arts training, it is a lot like the Cub Scouts were of my youth. You always have to be prepared. While this does not mean you are invincible and it does not even mean you even have a good chance (like the case of the Rwandan Genocide) but if you plan well – your chances will increase!

Now what would I do? Exactly as I have outlined. If all of society broke down in my area – I would figure out a relatively short-term safety plan and take as many of my loved ones with me. Knowing me and the mild Southern Californian climate – I would head to the hills and play possum for as long as it took.

As a closing thought I would like you to remember that bad things can happen to good people but you can lessen its impact by some proactive planning.

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2 Responses to “Self-Defense During Civil Unrest?”

  1. Ikigai Says:

    well said. we all benefit if we accept the fact that it could actually happen, and that we don’t live in a caccoon.

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Matt,

    I almost experienced the LA riots as I had a job obtaining medical records for insurance companies and attorneys and was working in those same neighborhoods 2 weeks before…