As protests in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities over the police killing of George Floyd turned violent overnight, resulting in damage to some storefronts and buildings, complaints about "looting" sparked backlash from progressives who pointed to the billions in wealth accumulated by corporations and the super-rich in the past three months alone as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
"Americans know who the real looters are," progressive radio host Benjamin Dixon told Common Dreams. "It's the billionaires who plundered America for $434 billion during the pandemic while the essential workers keeping our country afloat make barely over minimum wage."
So-called riots exploded on the streets of Minneapolis on Wednesday during the second consecutive day of protests against the city's police department for killing Floyd, who died after Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for at least ten minutes despite Floyd's pleas that he couldn't breathe. Protests against the killing in Los Angeles and Memphis also resulted in violence; in Los Angeles the violence was precipitated by police officers driving their cars into demonstrators.
As It's Going Down News and Unicorn Riot reported, demonstrators "are fed up with this racist system" and see the movement as part of a broader, "organic uprising."
"This is just the start," tweeted It's Going Down News.
Mainstream media and right-wing commentators decried what they described as "looting" as some people poured into Target, AutoZone, and other stores, taking some items and leaving the buildings damaged.
Progressives pointed to the disconnect between condemnation of those acts and the lack of critical reaction to the country's richest people and corporations gaining billions in wealth since the beginning of the coronavirus. According to a recent Institute of Policy Studies report, U.S. billionaires have added $434 billion in wealth since the onset of the outbreak.
"Absolutely terrible to hear about all the looting happening right now," journalist Kate Aronoff tweeted Wednesday night, linking to a report of the billionaires' increase in wealth. "Someone should intervene."
Progressive activist Peter Daou chimed in, sarcastically invoking calls for no more looting to make a broader point about who is benefitting from the pandemic and putting Wednesday's events in context.
"I heard there was looting and I'm furious," said Daou. "Republicans and Democrats stealing from the poor to bail out the rich in a #pandemic. That kind of theft is unacceptable."
Other progressives on social media also made the distinction between demonstrators angry at decades of police brutality and the billionaire class adding obscene levels of wealth in the pandemic.
Dixon told Common Dreams that the people are wise to the real looting in America and that the movement is only just beginning.
"The ruling elite have used our own civility to control us while robbing America blind," said Dixon. "But we're hip to their game."