On Looting

The media keep running stories about and photos of looters taking advantage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Certainly, I'd say that many of the instances they point to -- people taking televisions from electronics stores, for example -- qualify as looting. It's well within the media's right to report the situation as such. But so many of the examples of "looting" we're seeing are people raiding grocery and convenience stores for food. In the eyes of the media, how can this really be judged as criminal?

Both Atrios and Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing have posted examples of photo captions in which a black person is identified as "looting" goods while white people are "finding" them. Aside from the obvious racial stereotyping, I would argue that none of them were guilty of a crime.

Yesterday on NPR, an older woman was interviewed after taking part in the "looting" of a store for food. After giving her full name, she expressed a great deal of remorse for what she was doing, saying that every time she'd ever seen looters on television, she'd been extremely upset by it and never thought she'd be in their shoes. Well, shame on anyone who would make these people -- who are in the middle of a literal hell on Earth -- feel as if scavenging for bread and clean water from flooded and abandoned stores is somehow wrong or shameful.

Tens of billions of dollars are going to be spent on aid, reconstruction, and redevelopment in the areas hit hardest by Katrina. But right now, stealing a few loaves of Wonder Bread is a matter of survival, not a violation of the eighth commandment.

Tags: Media (all tags)



and interview of a 37 year old white financial services fellow at a hotel on Bourbon street said he looted a store for food and water. His comments showed no remorse but a common sense attitude about it. The focus on looting is just stupid. Anyone looting electronics and such is displaying stupidity too.

The only thing that matters now is getting people, looters and finders included, out of there and getting those damn levee's rebuilt!

by Andrew C White 2005-08-31 09:05AM | 0 recs
Legal Protection...
At least in Mississippi, "looting" for survival (ie. groceries) at a time like this is a reasonable defense from prosecution and imprisonment.

Bad looting (televisions and such) is punishable to up to 15 years in prison.


by Tim Tagaris 2005-08-31 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Legal Protection...
That's good news. Still looting, but good news.

At least someone has finally come up with two photos from the same source, one of which mentions looting when the subject of the photo is black, and the other of which does not, when the photo includes a white person. Of course, that second photo also includes a black man, who stands similarly unaccused of looting.

Anyway, bottom line is that while we may lament the use of the loaded term, it's still looting. A good idea under the circumstances, to be sure. And were I there, I may have been forced to be right there with them. But the word for it would still be looting.

As sensitive as the French press agency thinks it's being, nobody "found" that bread.

by Kagro X 2005-08-31 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Legal Protection...
Tell me where are they suppose to "buy" food...
by Parker 2005-08-31 10:49AM | 0 recs
by Parker 2005-08-31 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: it's still looting...
Wouldn't be nice if the President of the United states of America went on the TV and said that taking food from stores iun the disaster area was Ok, and that the people of America would reimburse the store owners for lost food and water and other survival essentials as necessary and that the police and national guard should devote themselves to saving lives.

please raise my taxes so America can protect it's people, thank you.

by David in Burbank 2005-08-31 08:22PM | 0 recs
From WWLTV site

11:40 - (AP) Roving bands of looters are breaking into stores in Carrollton area to get food and supplies. They've also stolen guns and armed themselves.

11:33 A.M. - Director Walter Maestri: We have no food or water for the evacuees. Says emergency workers have seized the food and water and drinks from Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and other groceries for evacuees, but he said that is all gone. Says water supply is gone. More water expected, but its not there right now. Says evacuees are getting upset and harried.

So now emergency workers are looting too. Wonder if we have "roving bands" of emergency workers.

by Andrew C White 2005-08-31 09:09AM | 0 recs
Who is "selling" food today?
It is outrageous!!!

No one mentioned "looting" during the Tsunami and of course people "scavenged".

What... should the food just rot on the shelf while people die of starvation.

by Parker 2005-08-31 09:30AM | 0 recs
How many of these people are going to be without jobs for the forseeable future, and without any means to pay their credit card debt (and probably incurring more debtjust to get by)?  When they go to file bankruptcy in six months, the new bankruptcy legislation will make it impossible for them to get a fresh start. Economic looting by credit card companies.
Some Democratic senator whould take the bull by the horns and introduce a Gulf Coast Patriot Act for the protection of the people facing economic ruin because of this natural, national disaster, a Gulf Coast Patriot Act that includes debt relief, economic investment, and enviromentally sound reconstruction, such as providing emergency loans to assist in the rebuilding of the Biloxi casinos on high ground, instead of on barges, and to do the environmental clean up that will be necessary in New Orleans and these other places. We need to do this right, and the Bush White House is not capable of doing it on their own.
by nascardem 2005-08-31 09:39AM | 0 recs
Problem with Video at Wal-Mart New Orleans
I agree with most of the posts. While it is upsetting to watch, regardless of your opinion, looting is looting.

I have a comment about the video shown last night on all of cable news was the video from a New Orleans Wal-Mart. You saw an African-American woman in a yellow tank top pushing a cart through the store.

Here is the problem, every light was on in the store.

Last I checked there is no electricity in any stores in the New Orleans area.

I believe that video is from another state or further north from New Orleans.

God Bless everyone in the Gulf region.

by ArousedNewsJulienDavid 2005-08-31 09:40AM | 0 recs
Not just issues color
This is about poor people in trouble.  Who will help?  How long will they help?  What happens when you don't own a house--what help will you qualify for?

Its going get interesting.  In my experience this country does not like to help poor black people.

Now they need it and they are front and center on the TV.  The Houston Astrodome is a ludicrous solution but then again as poor as the deep south is there weren't alot of choices.

This could go very bad.

Watch the gentrification of New Orleans after its rebuilt---then where do the poor people go?

by aiko 2005-08-31 09:46AM | 0 recs
AP's Racist double standard

AP - Tue Aug 30, 8:10 PM ET As one person looks through their shopping bag, left, another jumps through a broken window, while leaving a convenience store on the I-10 service road south, in Metairie, La., Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane

AP - Tue Aug 30,11:31 AM ET A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

by Parker 2005-08-31 09:46AM | 0 recs
AFPRacist double standard also

Looters hit a drug store in the French Quarter district of New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina. Fresh floods, fires and looting rode in the destructive wake of Hurricane Katrina, deepening a humanitarian crisis that left hundreds feared dead and sections of New Orleans submerged to the rooftops.(AFP/James Nielsen)

AFP/Getty Images - Tue Aug 30, 3:47 AM ET Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

by Parker 2005-08-31 10:42AM | 0 recs
Why are they there?
What strikes me more than the looting is the utter lack of attention paid to the need to protect the poor from this kind of catastrophy! Why wasn't there plans to provide free public transportation out of the city? Why weren't there public staging areas to provide help for the poor to find ways to evacuate and find shelters for them when they were taken out of the city? There should be some serious questions put to those in power. From the President to Fema to the Governor down to the Mayor and all in positions they should be held accountable. I don't think incompentance is considered an act of god!
by eddieb 2005-08-31 10:03AM | 0 recs
Looters Suck
I am from NO (in Houston now)and already know what appliances, clothes, etc. I had to leave behind that survived the storm are gone. It is a given we live with in the murder capital of the world.  If going back right now did not mean the potential for contracting cholera, typhoid, dysenterry, West Nile Virus, etc. I would go back with a gun and kill anyone in my house or my neighbor's.  
As far as, why they are there.  These are the poorest N'awlins has to offer.  They don't have tv or radio, they cannot read the paper, and they don't have the means to leave the city and get a hotel or stay with family.  As far as bussing them out from staging areas, where would you put them?  We see how the Superdome worked, and no other governor would have taken them til this happened.
by artvandelay 2005-08-31 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
Where to put the poor? In the same place you redneck white folks with wheels go! The poor arn't poor by choice, man. You seem to place your "STUFF" above peoples lives! If you Grandmother happend to be poor and black would you speak about her as it she were just poor Nawlins trash and where we goina put trash like her? Shame on you! I hope some one takes aim at you when you get back for stepping near their stuff.
by eddieb 2005-08-31 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
Everyone is affected by this disaster. Interestingly it is the wealthy who have these homes on the banks of the river and lake, their homes are gone. The great casinos where people waist their hard-earned money are demolished, moved, or in real need of repair.

Most all people, people I repeat, regardless of race, age, sex will have a tough time over the next few weeks. True the wealthy can more easily escape, wait it out, get medical attention, and rebuild. But again, this is a city system and area that is affected at all levels.

Finally, people who take other people's property are committing a crime by biblical standards and 21st century law.

by ArousedNewsJulienDavid 2005-08-31 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
EVERYONE lost stuff.  In my home and others they are taking NOT JUST food, but tvs, radios, stereos, computers, and stuff THAT IS NOT THERES!!!  Stuff that you do not NEED to SURVIVE.  Food is one thing.  Take it if you need it to live.  
As far as where we are putting them is a realistic logistical problem.  We had less than 48 hours to evacuate 1.6 + million people just from the NO Metro area.  What buses can handle this?  
And you can sit on your righteous high horse but there is no easy answer and no reason for the name calling.  New Orleans WAS my home.
by artvandelay 2005-08-31 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
God Bless You and protect you! I hope that part of my donations are going to you, your family and others like you.

No other city in history has had this horrific of an event occur to it, be it Earth quake, WTC and so on. The logistics of moving this many people is nightmarish. Bush should release everything we have to offer help to you and your family. Not Shock and Awe, but Help and Caring.



by ArousedNewsJulienDavid 2005-08-31 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
its material crap  all of it which is now blocking the roads.

Get over your stuff and be thankful you are alive.

by goplies 2005-08-31 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Looters Suck
Sure many do choose to be poor. They choose not to do anything with their lives, live in roach infested homes, with trash everywhere. They choose to live in high crime areas prominent with drugs and illegal activity. It's easier for them to give up than be responsible. I'm only 22 years old, I get up every single morning and go to work because I have to. I pay my way, because it's the right thing to do. I will never degrade myself by relying on others or the government to give me money. This is reality, no one owes you anything! I'm not talking about the TRUELY disabled or elderly. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
by LootersSuck 2005-09-05 11:52AM | 0 recs
How much manpower was wasted protecing watches which may or may not have an owner.

There was definitely a concerted effort on the MSM to focus on this aspect.

This is one more example of how George Bush can not act when under pressure.

It's like 9-11 all over again.

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.
-George Carlin

by goplies 2005-08-31 12:04PM | 0 recs
this is point on!
Scott Shield's comments on what is/isn't damnable looting is exactly right. All reasonable "looting" should be provisionally decriminalized immediately so the media can't run file footage demonizing the city's poor for the next week. Protect the pharmacies and gun shops, but let people take decent shoes.
by shakedown 2005-08-31 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: this is point on!
Just saw on NBC Nightly News a lady with several pairs of shoes.  The reporter is heard saying "You know that's wrong".  Her reply was that yes she knew it was wrong but since she and her family would have to walk out through the flooding they couldn't do it without shoes to wear without getting hurt.  So your point is absolutely correct.
by Demo Dan in Dayton 2005-08-31 03:25PM | 0 recs
NO mayor knows it is not all "looting"
From WLTV:

Mayor Ray Nagin said. "It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much. Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that."

by janinsanfran 2005-08-31 03:42PM | 0 recs
Food is not looting
Neither is diapers, or (arguably) clothing.

Big screens/Ipods/jewerly is.

by Geotpf 2005-08-31 03:54PM | 0 recs
Well said
Tens of billions of dollars are going to be spent on aid, reconstruction, and redevelopment in the areas hit hardest by Katrina. But right now, stealing a few loaves of Wonder Bread is a matter of survival, not a violation of the eighth commandment.

Thomas Aquinas couldn't have said it better.

Ah, but Emporer Popeltine could beg to differ ...

by Sizemore 2005-08-31 10:44PM | 0 recs
Next time, get outta Dodge!
 The city of New Orleans was not prepared, it's own leaders failed, and that's the President's fault?

The way the people acted the very FIRST day was a disgrace to the United States of America, a disgrace to their own city. They started looting because they realized they overpowered the police, when they realized there was no control. That is not the right way to act. When we talk about looting we are talking about those breaking into homes and businesses and stealing things other than for survival purposes ONLY. Stop trying to justify their actions by saying "oh they needed shoes and oh they needed this and that". They were OUT OF CONTROL and have NO respect for themselves. I saw many running out of stores with big 'ol smiles on their faces, full of greed, not afraid for their lives.

It was tragic what happened and we have donated alot of money to the Relief, but their Cities and the States affected need to step up to the plate. Chaos and panic might not have happened if they would have listened to the warnings a few days prior and told to evacuate to the Superdome and bring with them food and clothes for a few days. Next time they say get outta Dodge! You better get outta Dodge! The sick, old and children, even pregnant women were sure able to get to the Superdome...they should have been able to leave the city in time too. Stop the blame game and lose the race card, it's getting old.

by LootersSuck 2005-09-05 11:49AM | 0 recs


Advertise Blogads