Riots: Not Fun or Profit for the Rest of Us

Riots are not the answer to police abuse. The answer lies in making drastic reforms to how police agencies function, up to and including privatization. Contrary to the popular narrative, it's not just nonwhites who are in danger. We're all targets of the

Image Credits: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty.

Last Monday, May 25, George Floyd died in police custody after an arrest in Minneapolis.

Floyd had moved to Minneapolis trying to “start a new life” after a long prison sentence. According to one account, “Floyd was charged in 2007 with armed robbery in a home invasion in Houston and in 2009 was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal, according to court documents.”

On the night of his death, Floyd was arrested after a complaint he had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. He struggled with the police and, after he was put in a patrol car, he fell out of the car onto the pavement. At that point, Derek Chauvin, one of the arresting officers, left Floyd on the ground and restrained him by putting his knee on Floyd’s neck. He kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd lost consciousness and died about one hour later. Chauvin clearly used excessive force against Floyd.

I have so far left out the key fact that you need to know in order to understand what has happened since then. Floyd was black. Immediately after Floyd died, a hue and cry went up that claimed that Floyd’s death was just the latest in a long list of incidents in which police kill blacks.

Police have indeed killed many blacks, but they kill many whites as well. In fact, police kill more whites than blacks. According to the informative Ideas & Data blog,

In contemporary political discourse, there’s an awful lot written about black people being unfairly killed by police. Such writings are normally in response to a particular incident of this supposedly occurring. Of course, these are merely anecdotes and in a nation with 300 million people you can come up with a new anecdote every month for something that basically never happens. You can also create a general impression of racial bias if stories about white people being killed by police are less sensationalized than stories featuring black people.

If we turn from anecdotes to data, this narrative very quickly falls apart. Numerous organizations provide estimates of the rates at which black people are killed by police. Generally, these estimates are not too far off from each-other. For instance, The CDC says that around 27% of people killed by police are black. A sociologist used data from Killedbypolice.net to argue that number should be 30%. The FBI puts it at 32%.

By contrast, Black Americans account for 13% of the total population, 38% of violent criminals, and commit 53% of murders. Black people also account for 40% of those who murder police officers, and so probably instigate around 40% of potentially lethal confrontations with the police (FBI  2014).

Thus, black people are underrepresented among those killed by police relative to their representation among those who commit violent crimes, who commit murder, and who kill police officers.

If this is true, why do so many people think otherwise? The same writer has some good answers:

Of course, these things don’t only happen to black people, and another consistent pattern in media propaganda is the ignoring of whites who are the victims of crime or shot by police. The fact is that more whites than blacks are shot by police each year….And this lack of coverage isn’t for lack of stories. For instance, the media coverage of the Mike Brown shooting might have been matched by the police shooting of Daniel Shaver, an unarmed white man killed, on video, by police because he moved his hands towards his waistband after begging the police not to kill him.

Similarly, the case of Philando Castile could have been matched with that of Justine Damond. In 2016, Damond, a white woman, called the police to report that she heard a female nearby screaming and thought she might be in trouble. When Diamond came outside to talk to the officers she had called, she ‘startled’ police officer Mohamed Noor, a black male, and so he fatally shot her as she approached the vehicle.

But in reality nearly all big profile stories about police shootings are about black men being shot by police. Whites shot by police are relatively ignored. So are the whites who are killed by black citizens.

In the George Floyd case, no evidence has surfaced that Chauvin would have handled a white suspect differently. One news story quotes the former owner of a nightclub where he worked as a security guard as saying of him, “Santamaria described Chauvin as a ‘nice guy’ who was ‘always mellow’ around her, but said he was also ‘tightly wound.’”

As soon as Floyd died, black and left-wing organizations nevertheless claimed that the police once more had murdered someone because he was black. Riots since then have erupted in many cities, and they have spread to Europe as well.

Here are a few examples. In Minneapolis, “demonstrators have voiced their anger in chants and on placards. But the protests have also led to outbreaks of violence. Hundreds of businesses in the state’s Twin Cities—Minneapolis and St. Paul—were damaged or looted during four days of unrest.”

In Los Angeles,

National Guard troops arrived in the nation’s second-largest city overnight after a fourth day of protests Saturday saw demonstrators clash repeatedly with officers, torch police vehicles and pillage businesses.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for 500 to 700 members of the Guard to assist the 10,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers.

“The California National Guard is being deployed to Los Angeles overnight to support our local response to maintain peace and safety on the streets of our city,” said the mayor, who ordered a rare citywide curfew until Sunday morning.

Firefighters responded to dozens of fires, and scores of businesses were damaged. One of the hardest-hit areas was the area around the Grove, a popular high-end outdoor mall west of downtown where hundreds of protesters swarmed the area, showering police with rocks and other objects and vandalizing shops.

In Brooklyn, “About 3,000 protesters demonstrated in Brooklyn, and were pushed back by NYPD officers releasing chemical mace after the protests turned violent. A woman was arrested and charged with attempted murder after she threw a Molotov cocktail into an occupied police car, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Saturday morning.”

When whites die because of police misconduct, we don’t see violent protests that spread across the country that destroy lives and property. Here is one example: in Dallas in 2016, video showing a white man who died after being pinned down by police.

A report last year from the Dallas Morning News highlighted how Tony Timpa screamed and begged for help more than 30 times as Dallas law enforcement “pinned his shoulders, knees and neck to the ground.” Timpa bellowed, “You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!” After Timpa lost consciousness, the officers who handcuffed him thought he was asleep and didn’t bother to find out if he was breathing or had a pulse. The News added, “The officers pinned his handcuffed arms behind his back for nearly 14 minutes and zip-tied his legs together. By the time he was loaded onto a gurney and put into an ambulance, the 32-year-old was dead.”

No nationwide riots followed this sad event.  

Why are blacks different? In part, the answer is that terrorist groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, aided and abetted by their allies in the left-wing media, civil rights organizations, and radical politicians, incite violence. Andy Ngo comments in Spectator USA:

We are witnessing glimmers of the full insurrection the far-left has been working toward for decades. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was merely a pretext for radicals to push their ambitious insurgency. In a matter of hours, after the video of Floyd began circulating the internet, militant antifa cells across the country mobilized to Minnesota to aid Black Lives Matter rioters. Law enforcement and even the state National Guard have struggled to respond in Minnesota.

Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta are just some of the other cities waking up and finding smoldering ruins where businesses once operated. Nearly 30 other cities experienced some form of mass protest or violent rioting. At least three people have been killed so far.

Antifa, the extreme anarchist-communist movement, has rioting down to an art. The first broken window is the blood in the water for looters to move in. When the looting is done, those carrying flammable chemicals start fires to finish the job. Footage recorded in Minneapolis and other cities show militants dressed in black bloc—the antifa uniform—wielding weapons like hammers or sticks to smash windows. You see their graffiti daubed on smashed up buildings: FTP means “Fuck the Police”; ACAB stands for “All Cops Are Bastards”; 1312 is the numerical code for ACAB….At its core, BLM is a revolutionary Marxist ideology. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, BLM’s founders, are self-identified Marxists who make no secret of their worship of communist terrorists and fugitives, like Assata Shakur. They want the abolishment of law enforcement and capitalism. They want regime change and the end of the rule of law. Antifa has partnered with Black Lives Matter, for now, to help accelerate the break down of society.

But to grasp a major piece of the puzzle, we need to read the great book by the Harvard political scientist Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City, especially the chapter “Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit”:

Rather than political protests or rebellions, Banfield argued that riots were largely opportunistic displays of violence and theft. He broke down four types of riots: (1) rampages, where young men are simply looking for trouble and act out violently; (2) pillaging, where theft is the main focus, and the riot serves as a solution for a type of collective action problem for thieves; (3) righteous indignation, where people act against an insult against their community; and (4) demonstrations, which are neither spontaneous nor violent but instead designed for a specific political purpose. Banfield argued that the poor mainly engaged in the first two types of riots.

Steve Sailer, who posted on Banfield’s book, has a good example to illustrate Banfield’s thesis:

The Flight Club shoe store on Melrose Boulevard in West Hollywood got looted by The Protesters.

The Flight Club, in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, specializes in extremely expensive versions of sneakers, such as the “just dropped” $295 “AIR JORDAN 4 RETRO ‘COURT PURPLE’” and the $375 “YEEZY BOOST 700 MNVN ‘TRIPLE BLACK.’”

Mistreatment of blacks is of course wrong, just as mistreatment of anyone is wrong. But blacks do better in the United States than they do anywhere else in the world. We need to expose the left-wing campaign that blames “discrimination” for the problems that blacks have and in doing so encourages them to riot and loot. As the great black economist Walter Williams has said,

There’s another set of beneficiaries to racial hoaxes and racial strife. These alleged incidents are invariably seized upon by politicians and activists looking to feed a sacrosanct belief among liberals that discrimination and oppression are the main drivers of inequality. Jason Riley, writing in The Wall Street Journal says ‘In the mainstream media we hear almost constant talk about scary new forms of racism: “white privilege,” “cultural appropriation,” and “subtle bigotry.”Riley mentions the work of Dr. Wilfred Reilly, who is a professor of political science at Kentucky State University and author of a new book “Hate Crime Hoax,” that states “a huge percentage of the horrific hate crimes cited as evidence of contemporary bigotry are fakes.” Reilly put together a data set of more than 400 confirmed cases of fake allegations that were reported to authorities between 2010 and 2017. He says that the exact number of false reports is probably unknowable, but what can be said “with absolute confidence is that the actual number of hate crime hoaxes is indisputably large. We are not speaking here of just a few bad apples.” But Reilly has a larger point to make, writing, “The Smollett case isn’t an outlier. Increasingly, it’s the norm. And the media’s relative lack of interest in exposing hoaxes that don’t involve famous figures is a big part of the problem.”

But we shouldn’t let the police off the hook either. The police have become dangerously militarized. As John W, Whitehead points out:

In the American police state, police have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

In fact, police don’t usually need much incentive to shoot and kill members of the public.

Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages—many of them unarmed—for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety….Why do we have more than a million cops who have been fitted out in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon ‘every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making?’”

We need to privatize the police, making them responsible to private citizens, in order to prevent what happened to George Floyd and many others. Menlo Park, a community in Northern California, did not go this far, but just by ending military-style uniforms and ranks for their police force, they achieved a great deal:

In 1968, the police department in Menlo Park, California hired a new police chief. His name was Victor Cizanckas and his main goal was to reform the department, which had a strained relationship with the community at the time.

The 1960s had been a turbulent decade in Menlo Park, a small city with wide suburban streets and manicured lawns just south of San Francisco. There were big student-led, anti-war demonstrations at nearby Stanford University. Leaders in the African-American communities of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto were organizing to demand better treatment and services. After years of clashing with protesters, the police department didn’t have the best reputation.

Cizanckas wanted to rebuild trust with the community—and he made a number of changes to improve the department’s image. One of the most ground-breaking and controversial was the new blazer-style uniform he implemented.

For many years, the Menlo Park police had worn some variation of the traditional, pseudo-military, dark blue uniform. But Cizanckas thought that look was too intimidating and aggressive, so he traded it for slacks, dress shirts with ties, and a blazer. Guns and handcuffs remained hidden under the coat. Instead of a metal badge, the blazer sported an embroidered patch that looked a little like a coat of arms.

In their new blazer uniforms, the Menlo Park police looked more like preppy college students (or detectives) than traditional law enforcement officers. Some even sported pocket protectors with the Menlo Park police logo on them that would slide into the pocket of their dress shirts.

But the new look was only the most visible reform that Cizanckas introduced. He also hired new officers with higher levels of education and from non-traditional law enforcement backgrounds. Several of his recruits had attended the Jesuit seminary in Menlo Park. He emphasized community outreach and required beat officers to take on investigative duties that had traditionally been covered by detectives. He also changed the organizational language of the department, using corporate titles instead of military ones. “Sergeants” became “managers,” for example, and “lieutenants” became “directors.”

Even though the police have become militarized, the dangerous trend that pictures rioters and looters as victims has spread to them:

As rioting rampages through the Twin Cities in Minnesota, black store owners have had to themselves protect their stores. Some have tried with their bare hands, while others have used guns. For those who oppose private gun ownership, these riots show the need. From the Wall Street Journal: Minneapolis police have similarly taken a hands-off approach to this week’s rioting, which has destroyed roughly 130 local businesses, but the anger shows no sign of letting up. Downtown business owners—even those who stand against police brutality—have been fighting off looters with their bare hands. Some have taken up arms in defense of their establishments.

This needs to stop right now, whatever the left-wing agitators say. Everybody’s lives and property matter.



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