After police shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Black Lives Matter activists took to the streets, engaging in acts of vandalism, looting, and arson at night. According to a new report on the extent of the damage, the riots disproportionately harmed minority-owned businesses, ravaging the very black community the activists meant to defend.
“While Kenosha’s population is 79.5% white and 11.5% Black, according to census data, locals say the Uptown neighborhood is one of the city’s most diverse areas, with a majority of minority-owned businesses,” The Wall Street Journal‘s Erin Ailworth reported. The riots damaged or destroyed at least 56 businesses and the mayor estimated a grand total of $50 million in damage.
“I always think that people have the right to protest—to peacefully protest—but this goes beyond that,” Abel Alejo, owner of the La Estrella Supermarket and an immigrant from Mexico, told the Journal. “They were destroying the neighborhoods that they want to protect.”
Clyde McLemore, the founder of the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter, warned that the riots detracted from his organization’s message. He said he urged BLM protesters to obey the city’s curfew and he does not think they perpetrated any of the destruction.
“We’re not into doing anything to damage our community,” McLemore said. “It waters down our message.”
Jan Michalski, the Kenosha alderman who represents Uptown, told the Journal that the riots “put us a generation back. After the unrest and rioting, half the buildings in the Uptown area are either badly damaged or completely unusable.”
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian requested $30 million in state funding to help cover the property damage and other destruction, which his office attributed to “violent demonstrators and rioters, led largely by people from outside the city.”
‘Like a Scene Out of Hell’: Armed BLM Rioters Loot, Pillage, and Burn Kenosha Following Police Shooting
While the rioters and their allies in antifa and Black Lives Matter justify looting and arson by claiming that businesses have insurance, not every business does have insurance and many insurance plans do not cover the entire extent of the damage. Even when insurance does cover the damage, such claims often increase insurance premiums in the area, driving up the cost of business.
Insurance also cannot address the psychological damage of looting, arson, and wanton destruction. Business owners put years of care and effort into their establishments, and rioters set a torch to all their hard work. Residents see their neighborhoods on fire. Some observers described the riot-plagued Kenosha as “a scene out of hell,” for good reason.
As Brad Polumbo wrote over at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), “the destruction in Kenosha and its disproportionate impact on urban, minority communities reminds us of a timeless lesson: Property rights are the fundamental basis of a market economy. Yet, despite how critics often portray them, property rights are not simply a matter of protecting the wealthy and big corporations. The protection of private property is what ensures immigrants, minorities, and poor people are not derailed on their climb up the economic ladder in pursuit of the American dream.”
“Callous disregard of property rights creates long-term instability that scares away business investment and reduces economic opportunity. Often, this manifests itself in the form of lower property values, higher insurance rates passed on to consumers,reduced tax revenue, and fewer jobs in an area,” Polumbo added. “You don’t have to just take my word for it. Studies examining the long-term economic impact of the 1960s Civil Rights Era riots and the 1990s Los Angeles Rodney King riots document these exact effects.”
Kenosha is not the only city where riots inspired by the Black Lives Matter message have disproportionately harmed minority communities. The riots also disproportionately hit the black community in Minneapolis and Chicago. The riots have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
For these and other reasons, many black leaders have denounced the official Black Lives Matter movement, the founders of which have described themselves as “trained Marxists.” Over 100 black pastors recently condemned the Black Lives Matter movement and urged Nike to distance itself from it.
McLemore’s stance against post-curfew activities is admirable, but it seems the broader movement encourages this kind of violence, excusing it as “peaceful protest.” Left-leaning journalists and Democratic politicians like Joe Biden have long carried water for the riots by overlooking the very real violence. As President Trump said, Biden “has given moral aid and comfort” to the rioters by calling their wanton destruction “peaceful protests.” While Biden has sporadically condemned the violence, he has singled out “right-wing militias” without mentioning antifa or Black Lives Matter.
The riots are causing concrete harm to America’s black communities, harm that cannot easily be excused by pointing to insurance. It is utterly shameful that many on the Left have excused or downplayed the violence plaguing minority communities in the name of Black Lives Matter.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.