Recently, I was sitting at the headquarter office of a large high rise building with a client when over 200 people converged on the building. About 50% of individuals were protesting  against the company and the other 50% were protesting on behalf of the company. Fortunately, their corporate security had already implemented a process for dealing with opposition activities which minimized the impact on the business operation and safety of the employees/clients. In North America, we have the freedoms to express ourselves and opinions. Freedom of speech and the right to protest is one of many protections afforded to our society. The problem occurs when a select few decide to go outside of the law with acts of vandalism, injury to others and unlawful impediment resulting in monetary loss to companies and individuals.

What is Opposition

Opposition can be defined as “a person or group of people opposing, criticizing, or protesting something, someone, or another group.” In 1969, we had the protest of Moratorium to end the War in Vietnam. In 1993, there was the march on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. World protests in Hong Kong, Iran and other countries have shown the dangers that can result when things get out of control. Today in North America, we see many protest activities ranging from political opposition to climate activists against energy companies. Protest opposition doesn’t have to be large in number to have a significant impact on your business or the safety of your employees.

Proactive vs. Reactive

Law Enforcement Contacts

You should regularly update your local and Federal law enforcement contact information. Networking ahead of time with your government stakeholders can be extremely beneficial when you need them. They know you and you know them. Invite them to your office buildings so they can become familiar with your process and layout. If that is not feasible, provide them a layout of your building (s), emergency plans, etc., so law enforcement knows what they are walking into. It always best to contact your law enforcement ahead of time should you receive any prior notification of possible protest activity.

Social Media Intelligence

We live in a world where everything is communicated through social media. The advantage to that is we can identify and monitor threats to businesses focused on client intelligence. This can allow companies to prepare for an appropriate response based on the level of the perceived threat. There are several social media software companies that provide monitoring and threat detection (some of the software’s I found to be comprehensive are Awario, Agorapulse and Brand24). Some may choose to hire a company to do all of their social media intelligence and provide weekly reports and alerts There are several companies that offer these service (My preferences are Welund, Recorded Future and ThreatConnect).

Contract Security

Many large companies hire contract security guard services to provide physical protection for their assets and employees. Having a national contract account in place with a guard service can mean the difference between your company getting the needed resources in an emergency situation vs. someone else. Companies that do not have any contract security can still have a national contract contingency agreement in place should the need arise.

Physical Security Measures

There are hundreds of companies offering physical security solutions to help mitigate risk by providing technology that will deter or stop threats. Some of these may include video surveillance, drones, card access, turnstiles, panic alarms, and more.  Budget and resources may restrict what you can implement but it is worth exploring the latest in security technology.

Communication Plan

Having a communication plan in place ahead of time is critical in distributing crucial information to individuals during a protest situation. Most companies have a communications department that can quickly disseminate information to advise of pending threats or areas to avoid during a protest incident. Several software companies offer the ability to send alerts to company computers and cell phones as emergency situations occur.

In summary, creating and updating your incident response plan is the first step in risk mitigation involving opposition activity. Training exercises and annual LMS trainings can also prove effective in keeping everyone informed, alert and prepared!