Angry Mob Surrounds You in Washington: Legally What Can You Do?
You think it will never happen to you until it suddenly does. Are you prepared?
Washington State: How to Protect Yourself from Angry Protesters
The increase in protests over the Israel/Hamas conflict in Washington State could suddenly land you surrounded by an angry mob. What can you legally do then to protect yourself or your family? The answer is much more complicated than you would think, so you better be prepared. Luckily, one Washington State lawyer has already seen the trend and produced an informative video explaining your rights and how to protect yourself legally in Washington. The video was produced by Washington Gun Law President, William Kirk, and explains the important concepts you need to be aware of to protect yourself legally if you are attacked by an angry mob blocking a roadway.
What Can You Do if a Washington Angry Mob Surrounds Your Car?
Since 2021, both Washington State and Oregon have fallen victim to large protests for many different reasons. You could easily find yourself suddenly surrounded by an angry mob blocking your way or even attacking your vehicle. Attacks like these are happening all over the country, and Kirk uses a recent example from Minneapolis to illustrate what you "can and cannot" do legally if found in a similar situation. In the example video, a driver can be seen approaching a mob blocking a major street when he stops and gets out of his car to confront them. The mob immediately starts banging on the man's car as he quickly gets back inside and tries to drive away.
Protestors Trapped the Man & Beat on His Car
The man is trapped both by the crowd attacking the outside of his vehicle and by two cars in front. Eventually, one of the cars backs up to make room and the driver slowly pushes forward until he is clear of the people around him. The problem is that now ahead of him, the road was also blocked by protesters trapping him in as protesters caught up and continued to attack the car. Eventually, the man managed to avoid protesters and get away as the angry mob yelled for the man to be arrested. The interesting thing is that the man never did anything illegal and actually handled the situation almost perfectly. William Kirk explains exactly that if this had happened in Washington State, the man acted within the law.
Washington State Law: Self-Defense in General
In Washington State, you can use self-defense under certain circumstances. Three things you need to remember in Washington State are the force you use needs to be reasonable (both objectively and subjectively), necessary, and proportional to the attack you are experiencing. You can also not use lethal or deadly force unless: you or someone with you are in imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, or if a felony is being committed on you or inside your home. Washington State Law 9A.16.010 defines deadly force as "the intentional application of force through the use of firearms or any other means reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury." If your car is being attacked and you step on the gas hard to get out of there, that would definitely qualify as using lethal or deadly force. Another important fact you need to understand is that lethal force is not allowed if you are only protecting or defending property.
Lethal Force was NOT Legal in the Example Video
In the example video (I posted below), the protestors only bang on the car and never break windows or try to pull the man out of the car. Even when they completely surround the man, he is still not legally allowed to use lethal force and needs to act proportionally according to the law. That means slowly driving to avoid the crowd until the car is clear and in a safe location, and carefully pushing protestors that might be blocking your legal exit from the situation. Reasonable force is okay, but lethal force would not be legal under these circumstances. Make sure no person is at risk of being run over but continue moving forward as part of your duty to retreat legally.
Smashing Windows or Trying to Pull You Out: Lethal Force Justified?
If the situation escalates or the angry mob breaks your windows or tries to pull you out of your car, the situation could call for lethal force. Flying broken glass or objects thrown through them could cause serious bodily harm or injury making it justified for a proportional increase in force to protect yourself. If it escalates further and the mob tries to pull you out through the broken windows, the use of lethal force would most likely be completely justified, including driving away in a hurry even if people are in the way. So, remember if you are in this situation and only the car or your property is being damaged, you can not use lethal force and must find a way to drive away relatively safely. If the mob tries to reach in and pull you out after breaking your windows, you are justified to protect yourself and the people who might be caught with you. The two Washington State statutes that apply to these situations are RCW 9A.16.020 and RCW 9A.16.050. Also, always check with local authorities for differences between municipalities. The video explaining the situation including the example protest video is posted directly below.