U.S. Capitol Riot Aftermath: Bolster Your Campus Civil Unrest Plans Now

Here are some resources that will help you prevent, respond and mitigate events that might happen on or around your campus.

U.S. Capitol Riot Aftermath: Bolster Your Campus Civil Unrest Plans Now

UPDATE JANUARY 8, 2021: Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, 42, has died from the injuries he sustained when he responded to Wednesday’s attack on the National Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. His death is being investigated by the FBI and  the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.


As the U.S. recovers from Wednesday’s swarming and desecration of our National Capitol by hundreds of pro-Trump rioters, many are asking how the insurgents were able to breach Capitol security.

In total, four people died and more than 50 police officers were injured during the siege, and the Senate chamber was evacuated and locked down for 3.5 hours. Two live pipe bombs that could have caused “great harm” were also discovered. One was outside the Republican National Committee headquarters and one was outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Fortunately, bomb technicians were able to disable both explosive devices.

The breach in security has many experts asking how the rioters were able to force their way inside the Capitol. Experts also are questioning if there were enough law enforcement officers present before the riot began, especially considering there were many threats of violence posted on social media for days before the siege.

Additionally, others are comparing the level of police response to Wednesday’s riot to what appears to be a much higher level of law enforcement intervention in this summer’s largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.

Although I will hold off on making any judgement until the circumstances regarding law enforcement’s response to the Trump riot are fully investigated, this situation calls for all campus public safety departments to immediately review their policies, procedures, staffing and mutual aid agreements on handling protests and civil disturbances.

One good article to review is 10 Steps to Mitigating Possible Election-Related Unrest on Campus. The article covers many promising practices, including:

  • Identifying potential campus protest scenarios and preparing your relevant contingencies
  • Identifying resources needed vs. available, and taking steps to ensure self-sufficiency and redundancy
  • Planning and adjusting your manpower accordingly

In July, both at our Summer Campus Safety Online Summit and in Tips for Refining Your Campus’ Controversial Speaker Policy, UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett shared the valuable lessons her department and institution learned from hosting controversial speakers and subsequent protests and demonstrations.  I highly recommend you watch her Online Summit presentation and read the article, which outline’s UC Berkeley’s experience with these issues.

I also recommend you review Managing Controversial Speakers on Campus, which reviews how U.S. institutions of higher education are attempting to address the security challenges surrounding controversial speakers and protests.

Considering the current state of our nation’s political climate, it would be wise to conduct this review immediately.

The FBI is seeking information that will assist in identifying individuals who participated in Wednesday’s riots. To submit information, click here.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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