“You’re accusing a captive population who has been robbed of everything of looting. I think it’s obscene.”

-James Baldwin

Currently, the debate around looting has sparked due to protests erupting after the death of George Floyd at the hand of the police. Many believe it to be a new tactic, however, historically, looting has been present in agitating for rights in the United States of America.

It was a major part of riots in the 1960s. The Detroit riots of 1967 were one of the worst riots in American history, with some 14,000 buildings being burned. Riots occuring in 1965, and 1968 followed the same pattern, as well as riots in Miami in the 1980s. The 1992 LA Riots that occurred after the beating of Rodney King by the police were one of the most studied acts of looting, and multiple instances of looting followed throughout the 2000s.

For movements, looting is a form of protest against a higher capitalist structure that exploits minorities. This includes housing systems that give lesser options to African-Americans, and corporations that benefit off of minorities in prisons. It also arises from a degree of frustration that minorities have with the narrative of peaceful protest, sentiments that were in the mainstream even during the Civil Rights Movement from prominent figures such as Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael.