Rising Up: Property damage vs the loss of life — the debate over looting

"I don’t consider property damage anywhere in the ballpark of the theft of life": The debate over looting.

LOS ANGELES - "I think it’s really important that when we talk about violence, that we not equate property damage to the theft of Black life, and it seemed that there was almost a deliberate attempt to kind of shift the story from the theft of Black life to property damage."

Last summer, following the killing of George Floyd, as many as 26 million Americans took to the streets to peacefully protest against police brutality, and for social justice.

Some though used the opportunity to loot and vandalize. In fact, estimates suggest that insurance claims across some 140 US cities totaled as much as $2B, which would make it the costliest civil disorder in US history.

For BLM Los Angeles co-found Melina Abdullah, that hefty price-tag pales in comparison to the loss of life at the hands of police officers.

"I don’t consider property damage anywhere in the ballpark of the theft of life, or even the brutality experienced by protesters who were protesting police brutality," Abdullah said. "I think we have a right to rage. We have a right to yell. We have a right to be in the streets. We have a sacred duty to shut down business as usual. And that doesn’t make us violent, that makes us freedom fighters."

Abdullah’s take is one of many diverse opinions on looting and protesting that is explored in FOX 11’s new five-part docuseries Rising Up.

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"If you’re talking about legitimizing the burning down of businesses to somehow show some form of legalized protest, I reject that argument," said Civil Rights Attorney Leo Terrell, responding to Abdullah. "The bad part of the George Floyd case… it was used, manipulated, exploited by groups that were only interested in profiteering, and I hate that."

Leo Terrell

Terrell wasn’t the only voice who expressed his distaste in the looting, so too did FOX News National Correspondent Bill Melugin, who, at the time of last year’s protests, was covering the protests for FOX 11.

Bill Melugin

"Go talk to those businesses, and go talk to the business owners, who had their places burned down, and tell them that their business isn’t their life," Melugin said. "I understand that property isn’t a human life, but to just downplay the burning, looting, and vandalizing of businesses as ‘it’s a building, insurance will cover it,’ it’s ridiculous."

Others though saw looting as a less clear-cut issue.

"I personally don’t condone tearing stuff up… but I understand," said Lora King, daughter of the late Rodney King. "I understand because if you’ve been muted for so long, and things are happening to you back-to-back, you can only yell so much."

Lora King

Similarly, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rev. Al Sharpton empathized with the frustration of looters but said that ultimately, the looting and property damage distracted from the larger cause, even hurting it.

Congresswoman Karen Bass

"One of the things that I’ve always said to a lot of activists," Sharpton advised. "is that you can’t get in the way of your message."

Reverend Al Sharpton

And for many, that core message of the movement was usurped in the initial days of the protest, especially as storefronts and businesses in Fairfax, Santa Monica, Long Beach, and other Southern California locales found themselves emptied and vandalized.

Eventually, through the evening of Saturday, May 30, and into Sunday, May 31, the National Guard was deployed across Los Angeles, and the looting began to not only subside, but essentially stop.

Some though were dismayed by the National Guard deployment, Abdullah saying, that "rather than address the fact that LAPD continues to kill and brutalize people… the Mayor chose to call for more police brutality."

But that’s another debate for another day.


Rising Up is a five-part docuseries produced by FOX 11 that examines the death of George Floyd, the protests that occurred in response, and the important, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations surrounding race, policing, activism, and the future of America, that have taken place since.

The series features interviews with Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), LAPD Chief Michel Moore, FOX 11 anchors Elex Michaelson and Christine Devine, and some two dozen other journalists, activists, academics, and protesters.

RELATED: Rising Up: Meet those featured in FOX 11's limited-edition documentary

Rising Up airs nightly at 6:00 PM PST from May 24 through May 28, and is also available anytime on Tubi, FOX Soul, NewsNow, FOXLA.com, and YouTube.

For more information and exclusive content, go to foxla.com/risingup.