In 1968, George Wallace Said, “When The Looting Starts, The Shooting Starts”


And now, in 2020, Trump said the same thing.

President Trump’s phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” was also said by George Wallace back in 1968.

  • In a tweet about the protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Trump called the protesters “THUGS [that] are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd” and added, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

  • Trump’s tweet was flagged by Twitter for violating rules about glorifying violence.

  • According to a Twitter thread posted by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, the phrase was also used by Wallace, who was a 1968 presidential candidate and had served as Alabama Governor (D) for four terms.

  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also confirmed this, writing about how “Wallace's gig at the Civic Arena was the creepy-crawly low point. ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts,’ Wallace told his frenzied devotees.”

Moreover, the phrase recently stated by Trump also came from Walter Headley during the peak of racial unrest in the 1960s, according to The New York Times.

  • Walter Headley, who was the Miami police chief in December 1967, also said the phrase “after he dispatched police officers carrying shotguns to patrol the center city during a wave of violent crime,” The Times stated.

  • According to reports from The Miami Herald and United Press International at the time, “Headley said the city had been spared major racial unrest and looting in a year of violence” because he had previously “let it be known that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts,’” The Times wrote.

“This is war,” Headley continued. “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality...They haven’t seen anything yet.”

  • Headley also repeated the phrase in August 1968 following the riots in the majority-black Liberty City neighborhood during the Republican National Convention which was being held in Miami that year. After receiving criticism for not returning from vacation to address the situation, he said that his officers “know what to do. When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

  • His statements came “at the peak of a yearslong wave of racial violence in American cities,” with more than 150 race riots between 1967 and 1968.

  • According to The Times, white authorities “blamed the outbreaks on so-called outside agitators or radical black political groups bent on fomenting violence.”

  • However, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders – which was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to study the riots’ causes – rejected that notion, saying white racism was the root of the problem.

Report on the riots warned that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.”

Read The New York Times report here.


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