Protection During a Protest: Tips For Staying Safe

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Protests are not a new topic here in South Africa; such is also the case for most countries

around the world. With the rise of social media and access to information at an all-time high, it has become easier to organise and carry out large-scale protests concerning collective issues. These protests range in concerns over service delivery to worker compensation. Over 70 protests took place in South Africa during the first four months of 2016 – working out to about one every second day.

How Do Protests Affect Executives/Businessmen?

While you may not think you could be personally affected by the rise of protest action, recent events say otherwise. Protests carry out onto South Africa’s major roads and highways on an almost daily basis. The problems for commuting executives are obvious; if you can’t access the road, you can’t get to where you are going. This can negatively affect the productivity of both the employee and overall business. But the real danger in protesting is far more concerning than the loss of business value. It poses a physical threat to anyone that happens to get near.

Why is Protest Action Dangerous?

The real danger? Violence. An increasing number of protests have become particularly violent over the past few years. Innocent passersby have been the biggest victims in the protest mix. Protestors hurl stones at drivers and have set tires and cars alight in the middle of the street. People on foot are threatened and assaulted. Shops, schools and homes are vandalised and burnt. Recently, a South African hospital was damaged due to protest action and the incident was so bad that staff and patients had to lock themselves in toilets and rooms to avoid the danger. Unfortunately, this is the best solution you can have to protect yourself during times of protest – avoidance at all costs.

How Can You Avoid a Protest?

We can’t all stay inside every day for fear of “what ifs”. Travel is also inevitable for working executives. Whether it’s your daily commute, a business trip, or even just running errands, your path might lead you to encounter a protest. There are, however, ways that you can effectively avoid a protest and keep yourself safe:

  1. Before you leave the house, check your route. Waze is a community informed navigation app that lets members warn each other of hazards on the road.

  2. Social media is your friend in this one. Use it to stay up to date with what is happening in the area.

  3. Listen to the radio in the car. Traffic updates and news stories will inform you if anything blocks your route.

  4. Check the road in front of you for hazards so that if you do see protest action, you can avoid it before it’s at your window.

The key is always to take measures to stay informed. The more you know, the less your chance of landing up in trouble. But what do you do if you find yourself stuck during a protest?

What If You Get Caught In the Middle of a Protest?

If you are caught up in the conflict, remember to remain calm. The best way to handle the situation and get out safely is not to panic.

  1. Stay in your vehicle for as long as possible, but keep your seatbelt off in case you need to make a fast exit.

  2. Look for escape routes but don’t aggravate or harm protestors when looking for them

  3. Do not engage with protestors

  4. Seek assistance from authorities or police in the area

With proper planning and organisation, you can avoid the dangers of protest altogether – ensuring your safety as well as your productivity as you proceed with your day as per usual without any interruptions.

Ensuring your own safety while remaining as productive as possible may sound like an impossible task. Your best interest should always be your own safety, but life tends to get in the way. Unfortunately, when something actually does happen, it’s too late to make the change.

Do you feel that you are taking all the necessary precautions to protect yourself from such violence and interruptions to your daily routine?

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