The year 2020 by any measure has been a challenging one, beginning with the coronavirus pandemic that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, shut down our economy, and upended tens of thousands of businesses and key industry segments. Amid the pandemic, protests took place across the country demanding police reform in the wake of several African-American deaths. Along with these protests, looting and civil unrest also took place in parts of the country. Now we are looking at the upcoming presidential election on November 3 with the potential for civil unrest to rear its ugly head.
Businesses, Cities, States Brace for Civil Unrest
Businesses, city governments, and federal and local law enforcement across the country are already making plans to deal with the possibility of political instability, civil unrest, and violence around the upcoming presidential election. Concerns stem as a result of the violent confrontations between extremists and the widespread property damage we witnessed during recent protests. If the outcome of the election remains unresolved or is hotly disputed for weeks or months, security consultants along with police officials and local leaders feel we could see major disruption and violence in the streets across American cities.
The FBI, in fact, over the last several months has been leading discussions with sheriffs and local police who would be responsible for keeping order in protests involving disputed election results, according to U.S. law enforcement officials. Among the FBI’s concerns are armed extremists who may try to interfere with or stop vote counting done by local canvassing boards. Groups ranging from right-wing activists and white supremacists to Antifa and left-wing anarchists have been active in recent months amid the many George Floyd-related and other protests.
In the meantime, banks, big corporations, national retailers, and other businesses are working with security consultants to identify measures they should take to minimize potential disruption to their operations and protect their employees, property and assets. Among these measures is having an emergency action plan in place and communicating the plan to employees. Also, important is to ensure employees have an escape route, and that they know they are free to go home if they feel unsafe. Employees should know they should not attempt in any way to interfere with looters or put themselves in harm’s way. Businesses may want to board up their storefronts.
Americans Stockpiling Food & Other Essentials
Americans who already stocked up on food, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, etc. during the initial phase of the coronavirus in March and April are once again looking at wiping out grocery shelves for fear of a surge in the virus and renewed business restrictions, and the potential of civil unrest in the wake of the upcoming election.
A recent poll by YouGov shared by USA Today shows a significant number of Americans harbor deep reservations about the election results weeks before Election Day and are concerned about what actions people might resort to as a consequence. The YouGov poll of 1,999 registered voters found that almost half – 47% – disagree with the idea that the election “is likely to be fair and honest.” Slightly more than half – 51% – won’t “generally agree on who is the legitimately elected president of the United States.” Sadly, 56% of respondents say they expect to see “an increase in violence as a result of the election.” These are challenging times, but as Americans we have lived through other tough and divisive periods and have risen above our differences. We trust that this election season will be no different.