This week, President Biden announced sweeping executive orders to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or testing for a vast number of employers across the nation.
Following public health guidelines, previously an afterthought, has become a defining attribute of many people’s political and cultural identity. And the rhetoric among “sides” is turning violent.
We have already seen organized protests regarding public health measures. As we enter a contentious mid-term election, these flashpoints will only increase in frequency and intensity. Several states and advocacy groups have already announced plans to challenge these measures in court. Prominent political figures have openly called on citizens to “not comply.”
Preparing for the External Organizational Threat
We suggest our clients regularly monitor the “pulse” of local and regional groups for external organizational threats. This includes general civil unrest, demonstrations or protests by advocacy groups. It can be either physical (such as an on-site protest or an attempt by a group of individuals to breach security), or it can be virtual (such as a malicious social media campaign designed to harm a business’s reputation or a Zoom meeting takeover).
Sadly, we are seeing a significant rise in anti-government, grassroots organizations becoming more vocal, active and violent. They are vehement in their dislike of “medical tyranny” and “mandates” and advocate for “health freedom.”
t Could Happen to You Examples:
1) A large school district in San Diego County ended its most recent school board meeting early when a group of protesters forced their way into the district office, pushing past staff members, and refused to leave.
The leader of the protest released a video where he claims the board abandoned their jobs and his group brought along a “constitutionalist” who gave them approval to vote themselves into the jobs since they had a quorum.
“The board vacated their seats tonight,” the protest leader asserted before adding, “We then brought in a constitutionalist, we held a quorum and we voted in a new board and you are looking at the new president of the Poway Unified School District apparently.” –– San Diego Union-Tribune 9/9/2021
2) A prominent QAnon supporter and COVID-19 denier was hospitalized in Chicago and later died after contracting COVID-19. Prior to her death, supporters mounted an online and telephonic harassment campaign against the hospital demanding they treat her with horse de-wormer Ivermectin.
Conspiracy theorist attorney Lin Wood called the hospital after her death and threatened to charge the hospital and staff with her “murder.” Online harassment campaigns accused the hospital of “Medical Tyranny.” – Chicago Sun Times 09/13/2021
Tips to Get Started
How Will You Prepare?
- The first amendment protects the right to protest, but you should have a security plan if protesters breach your facility.
- Understand your threat environment. Know what groups are active in your community.
- Have a crisis communication plan. Develop and get messaging approved before it’s needed.
- Security must work closely with communications staff to plan for communication both internally and externally to ensure safety for all.
- Do not neglect internal messaging. Any internal statement about a protest should be brief, factual, and neutral. Do not enter into debate.
- You must assume that ANY communication you deliver internally will be shared with the protest group and the media.
- Avoid a rush to “counter message” or issue a rebuttal. Allow friendly media groups to play proxy to counter bad information.
- Develop succinct and easily accessible scripting (including reference to applicable policy or laws) for employees in “first contact” roles. This will prevent angry confrontations that could become “viral” for all the wrong reasons.
Need a Coach?
We can help. Our experienced team includes former federal criminal investigators, health care security professionals, and mental health experts who have the expertise necessary to develop detailed and comprehensive plans for any eventuality. We can help develop preemptive strategies as well as manage the eventual crisis every step of the way.