‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts’: Behind the infamous phrase used by Trumpby Lia Eustachewich
The phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweeted by President Trump and accused of “glorifying violence” dates back to race riots during the 1960s, according to reports.
It was used by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967 and again the following year by segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace, NPR reported Friday.
Headley had been discussing his department’s “crackdown” on “slum hoodlums” in Miami, which he claimed hadn’t been affected by civil unrest because the message filtered down: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The comment, which appeared in a United Press International story in December 1967, drew criticism from civil rights leaders at the time.
Clarence Lusane, a professor at Howard University, told NPR that Headley, who was white, had a “long history of bigotry against the black community.”
“The NAACP and other black organizations had for years complained about the treatment of the black community by Miami police,” Lusane said.
“At this hearing, in discussing how he would deal with what he called crime and thugs and threats by young black people, he issued this statement that the reason Miami had not had any riots up to that point, was because of the message he had sent out that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.'”
Headley, the police chief for 20 years, said his “get tough” policy targeted “young hoodlums, from 15 to 21, who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”
“We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” he said at a 1967 press conference.
His use of the phrase is believed to have intensified Miami’s race riots in the late ’60s, according to the Washington Post.
Wallace, a Democrat who wanted to preserve segregation, then dropped the phrase to supporters during his 1968 campaign, NBC News said, citing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Twitter flagged a post by Trump early Friday related to the violent George Floyd protests across the country.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way,” the president wrote. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The post was flagged with the message: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Trump clarified his post on Friday.
“Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night — or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” he tweeted.
“It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!”
Protests have broken out across the country following the death of George Floyd, who was black. He died after a white Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, even as he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”