Urban riots predictable after lockdown?

Loyal readers of this blog (i.e., both of you!) will recall that I have regularly asked whether the lockdown cure is worse than the coronavirus disease. I anticipated deaths in the U.S. due to the shutdown of health care for non-Covid issues, due to poverty and unemployment, due to the shutdown of clinical trials for new/improved medicines, and due to the shutdown of clinical training for medical doctors (post). I anticipated a vast number of deaths in poor countries that were our trading partners.

I did not anticipate civil unrest and the destruction of American cities, but of course in hindsight it seems obvious that locking the poorest Americans into their crummy tiny urban apartments for months, while taking away jobs from most of those who formerly worked, would lead to them eventually emerging and entertaining themselves in ways that wouldn’t be entertaining for the mansion-dwelling governors who ordered the lockdowns. (see “Your lockdown may vary”)

Police departments in the U.S. murder citizens on a regular basis (and why not, since they are generally immune from being fired). The typical police murder does not bother too many Americans or even make the news. This one was unusually disturbing and unusually thoroughly documented on video, of course, but I still don’t think it would have been enough to trigger nationwide riots back in, say, 2019.

In addition to the lockdown itself having put non-mansion-dwelling Americans into a bad mood, I wonder if the lockdown created a general environment of lawlessness. Unlike in Sweden, for example, Americans were told that everything had changed due to the killer virus and therefore their Constitutional rights were inoperative. Since the old laws didn’t apply to the government, maybe the old laws against looting didn’t apply to the subjects?

Is it fair to say that a lot of Americans actually did anticipate this kind of breakdown of society? There was a huge run on guns and ammo back in March, right? I discovered that several of my friends had become new gun owners. These included female physicians in their 40s, for example, living alone in cities. I scoffed at them, saying that the militarized U.S. police state would keep the ghetto-dwellers quietly imprisoned, watching TV while consuming alcohol and opioids purchased via Medicaid.

Readers: Were these riots easy to foresee?

Bonus: Some pictures from a recent helicopter trip over Dover, Massachusetts. #WeAreAllinThisTogether #StayHomeSaveLives

(The house is at 36 Farm Street. Trulia says that the annual property tax is $141,000 per year, i.e., not enough to pay the pension for one retired senior police officer or school administrator. It may belong to Kevin Rollins, former CEO of Dell.)


45 thoughts on “Urban riots predictable after lockdown?

  1. I’ve consistently thought we would have riots and need to call in the National Guard and/or the military under the Insurrection Act although I didn’t use the term at the time, going back to nearly the beginning of this. When de Blasio first called for the President to “mobilize the military” to build hospitals back on March 18th, for example, I thought he’d eventually need them to quell riots in New York City. And I thought it would happen just because of the lockdowns and what would inevitably transpire because of them. Meaning: the enforcement was going to lead to even more friction between the cops and the public. I expected it to happen in a larger city than Minneapolis, like New York or Chicago or LA.

    My rationale (such as it was) at the time was based on summer arriving, people being locked down, unemployment spiking, teens with no school and nothing else to do and nowhere legal to go, families running out of money, and the fact that all the major professional sports were also canceled. I didn’t foresee the Minneapolis PD killing a black man in such a horrific way, on camera, apparently without any regard for his life or the consequences of taking it, but in hindsight it was bound to happen at some point. If it hadn’t been George Floyd, someone else would have been shot or killed by a white cop and that would have been the trigger.

    Also the racial tension was also amped up several dozen decibels by Aubrey’s killing in Georgia. That got the Black Panthers out with their weapons, and then you knew things were going to blow up.

    • I think the lockdowns and the economic fallout created an environment of desparation and despair, particularly among African-Americans. With the virus hitting them very hard, then the jobs disappearing and everyone who already didn’t trust the police under even more pressure from law enforcement, it was a powder keg.

      The people who wanted to buy guns and ammo. have been prepared to do that since the day the lockdowns were ordered, and many of them prior to that. There were people I know who were worried (and still are) that the food supply was going to buckle and/or the power grid would blink out under the wild fluctuations in demand, either of which would lead to more lawlessness. I don’t think many of them anticipated the racial aspect – they figured it would be basically criminals of every race, color and creed who would take advantage of the situation to burglarize, carjack, home-invade, etc.

      Finally, hurricane season is here. FEMA and all the state agencies and police departments will be stretched thin and people in the path of hurricanes are going to be facing a very difficult time. A lot of them are going to be protecting themselves because there isn’t anybody else doing it.

    • By the way, I thought the Aubrey’s case in Georgia was even less “justified” than George Floyd’s. Those two assholes chasing someone out for a jog in their pickup truck with the shotguns and so forth, on a public road, especially when he wasn’t threatening anyone, was criminal, vigilante insanity. Then the way the police handled it was even worse. I halfway wanted to get out there with the Black Panthers and tell them: “I’m with you on this one.”

  2. Peter Turchin predicted violent disturbances in 2020 in his book “Ages of Discord”.

    There he lists three major factors as causal in the order of importance: elite overproduction resulting in intraelite competition and thus society instability, popular immiseration (in particular due to labor oversupply caused by immigration), fiscal crisis of the state. His modelling attempt looked rather convincing.

    For a dumb down intro see:

  3. I suspect that the breakdown in civil order than people were anticipating was different in nature to what we have experienced the past few days. There was a concern that the system for providing essential goods and services might break down – that there would be hoarding and looting due to the ensuing scarcity. For a period in March we did have long lines and shelves were bare or thin for many products. But by now most of that scarcity has long passed. I haven’t seen any predications in advance of anything resembling the current situation, and I would be very interested if there were any.

  4. (I am not an American.)
    I understand the protests, but why looting & riots?
    From what I have been reading on social media is that once Antifa[?] thugs got involved, it all got out of hand. Also, the protest across the country looks all very well organized & planned at some level.
    Sorry, but this doesn’t seem like ‘lockdown effect’ as philg alludes to. It looks much more sinister & semi-planned to some extent. maybe they were waiting for some event to happen …?
    The original trigger of all this, the sad death of that person seems to have been put on a backburner in all this chaos…

    • @disevad: The protests are well-organized. This is Black Lives Matter and their affiliates, who claim to be peaceful, and for the most part are. The anarchists, looters and rioters opportunistically piggybacked onto the protests for all their own reasons. These people have nothing to do but raise hell. We’ve seen it before (Google WTO protests) for example: but not on this scale recently. They can blend in with the crowds during the day, figure out where the police are, and then at night as the crowds are dispersing they can march through a lot of these cities – knowing where the police are and how they are reacting – with impunity. Everybody’s got a phone with text messaging now. It’s hard to say whether there are more far-left or far-right subversives involved because each group is, to some extent, pretending to be the other. With so many cities involved, anybody’s crazies only have a short drive from place to place causing the maximum amount of chaos and damage.

      Then there are just the local criminals who want some free stuff and figure “now’s a great time to go shopping.”

      And then you have people who know better but for ideological reasons think they should burn it all down, like these two proud examples of the American higher educational system:

      Molotov cocktail-tossing lawyers tried to pass out firebombs to protesters: feds


      Mattis, a graduate of Princeton University and the New York University School of Law, is an associate at corporate Manhattan firm Pryor Cashman. Brooklyn Community Board 5 in East New York lists Mattis as one of its members.

      Rahman is also registered as an attorney in New York state, who was admitted to the bar in June 2019 after graduating from Fordham University School of Law.

  5. I’ve been saying the same thing since the government decided to turn us into North Korea:

    If you turn the country into a prison, expect prison riots.

  6. #Bellevue Mall is being looted. I watched it unfold. Well-organized white men with walkie talkies broke windows and breeched the mall. Others went in and took stuff. By the time the media arrived, the only thing they saw was the taking of stuff. They did not see who started it.

    Look up umbrella man, and the twitter video about a conveniently deposited pallet of bricks. These are not organic riots. Race riot part is fake. There are subversive elements taking advantage of the disadvantaged. Subversive agents probably just angry because everybody was enjoying their coronacation instead of suffering in self inflicted home prison.

  7. disevad, most of the videos of looting I’ve seen involve the type of young people you can see hanging around in many poor neighborhoods in America (I’m American). It appears spontaneous and opportunistic, organized at the level of “hey man, let’s go to the mall, we might be able to get some free sneakers today”. There are a couple of videos of sinister appearing individuals which don’t fall into that category. But if you search for looting on twitter and youtube, the vast majority of participants seem to fall into the opportunistic category, to me.

  8. Seems obviously predictable that if you lock up young men outside of a prison for months for no clear reason that they will eventually run amok.

  9. “I did not anticipate civil unrest and the destruction of American cities, but of course in hindsight it seems obvious”

    If Greenspun couldn’t predict it, it’s not predictable. Rioting was a daily event, during the Obama years. Rising civil unrest goes back at least 60 years. There are many reasons.

    • 1920, another Turchin’s year. Apparently the then elites possessed some modicum of sanity and fear for theirs and their children future to try and reverse the country possible collapse a la imperial Russia:

      “According to Turchin, U.S. elites came to fear revolutionary violence in the period 1900–1920 and began to advocate reforms that increased the incomes of the working class. During the Progressive Era and New Deal period, a series of reforms, including strong restrictions on immigration, improved the welfare of the working class. The Great Depression trimmed the fortunes of the many in the elite class. ”


      What passes for “elites” today in this country seems to be devoid of any kind of sanity needed to react in a similar way. The current riots are merely proxies for insane elites’ disputes, therefore. As the saying goes: “паны дерутся, а у холопов чубы трещат” or loosely “when masters fight it’s the servants who get their heads cracked”.

    • @Ivan: >What passes for “elites” today in this country seems to be devoid of any kind of sanity needed to react in a similar way. The current riots are merely proxies for insane elites’ disputes, therefore.

      Oh, I think there are enough insane elites in the United States to go much further. The elites in this country have been completely ideologically subverted, especially the media and academics. You may be talking about some of the people with ultra-high net worths being unable or unwilling to surrender their assets, but the intellectuals and the media are ready to go. And for the most part they’ve accomplished it themselves. Their entire program now consists of how far left they think they can go, how fast. We’re going to find out very soon. Jeanne Kirkpatrick said it:


      “You don’t understand.” she scolded “It’s too late.”

      That was 35 years ago and she was correct.

      Now, in response to the protests and riots, we’re talking $14 Trillion in reparations for slavery or I guess we just watch all the cities burn. If there are 45 million African-Americans in the United States, that works out to $311,111 per person. “Now is the time to go big!” That’s on top of all the money we still haven’t spent yet on coronavirus.

      Inflection points:


  10. > Is it fair to say that a lot of Americans actually did anticipate this kind of breakdown of society?

    Early this month, a radio station based in Liberty, Missouri, signed a three-year deal to broadcast Radio Sputnik across Kansas City.


    Russia, China and Iran all have big disinformation campaigns running full steam at various levels of sophistication across many media, with the full and active participation of many Americans. They’re well aware of how destabilized the United States is becoming. It’s been going on a long time, too. The Chinese know our homeless better than we do.


    “They’ll start with an appetizer of sesame-seed-encrusted tuna and Asian vegetable slaw, followed by a main entree of beef filet with horseradish-roasted potatoes.

    The meal will be completed with a dessert of seasonal berries with crème fraîche.”

    • WZHF has been broadcasting Russian propaganda in Washington, DC since 2011 and Radio Sputnik since 2017. Read about the evolution of their programming:


      “RM Broadcasting, LLC registered as a foreign agent with the DOJ on June 21, 2019.[47][48] In DOJ filings, the Florida-based company acknowledged that they were paid $1,427,016.29, from November 24, 2017 to June 2019, by the “Federal State Unitary Enterprise International Information Agency”.[47][48] Rossiya Segodnya is the owner of Radio Sputnik, itself an arm of the Russian government.[47][48]”


      Remember this guy? What a terrible accident.


      In the United States, we have allowed just about anyone to buy these media outlets and broadcast anything they want. We have American philanthropists who have given millions of dollars to pay for Chinese propaganda in mainstream American newspapers. Russia and China have a vast network of spies and informants in the United States and I daresay they know more about the fault lines in our society than just about anyone else.

  11. I anticipated that we’d bungle the coronavirus response much worse than countries like China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, but I didn’t anticipate we’d manage to come up with the worst possible response where not only do we shut down businesses for months (which I think was the correct thing to do), we would completely and utterly fail to use this time to manufacture surgical and respirator masks, or set up contact tracing in any reasonable time period, or figure out a way for sick people to not have to stay at home and infect everyone they live with, and finally reopen the economy and say “every man, woman, and child for themselves” and let most of the restaurants in the country go bankrupt because just because it’s legal to go out for a meal, doesn’t mean it’s remotely safe or people want to do it.

    Basically everyone in the country has a reason to be pissed off at this point. For me, it’s because I pay a substantial portion of my income to a federal government that nonetheless fails to provide basic services to people, for example a functioning public health health system to prevent the spread of infectious disease, and instead spends a bunch of money on foreign wars and militarizing police forces. I used to make fun of Pakistan for spending money on nuclear weapons while people there are still dying of polio, but that’s basically the situation the US is now in. Other people are pissed off that they spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a worthless college education that fed them propaganda in how to destroy a nation but didn’t help them find a job. Friends and family members of over 100,000 people are pissed off that their loved ones are dying preventable deaths from coronavirus (maybe not preventable in the US, but certainly preventable in a functioning state like Vietnam or Mongolia).

    If you think everyone would be happy-go-lucky and gone about their business as normal had we completely ignored coronavirus and let hundreds of thousands of people die (which it looks like we’re going to do anyway now), a disproportionate number of which are black, I think you’re sorely mistaken. People are literally watching their family members die, and thinking, “man, if I lived in China, grandma would still be alive, and I’d be taking my family to Shanghai Disneyland right now.” Insanity.

    • Here’s how Sweden’s do-nothing, let everyone get sick strategy is working, by the way:


      > Like Panarese, people who feel they have been affected adversely by Sweden’s policy — or who would rather the country took a different tack — have started forging plans to move away once the pandemic is over.

      > “The aftermath of the pandemic will see a hemorrhage of foreign talents,” predicts Emanuelle Floquet, a project manager at the Swedish think tank Working for Change Matters, which focuses on cultural diversity in business.

      > The government expects unemployment to reach 9% this year, the highest rate in more than 20 years, which would mean half a million of the 6.4 million people of working age in Sweden would be unemployed by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, foreigners who hold a work permit must find a new employer within three months if they lose their jobs, according to Swedish law.

      > “Every school all over the world worries about the safety of their teachers and pupils … except for Sweden. Every hospital or care facility worries about the health and safety of their healthcare workers, patients and residents, except for Sweden. Nobody takes responsibility, nobody takes the blame. Nobody seems to care.”

      The Prime Minster announced that Sweden will launch an inquiry into its mishandling of the situation:

    • Ryan: Thanks for the links. I wish the Swedish government had mishandled the Massachusetts outbreak. We would have had less than half the death rate and our children wouldn’t have been denied their childhoods (schools, playgrounds, friends, museums, etc.).

      9 percent unemployment in Sweden is bad? The real U.S. rate (includes some people who are discouraged and have dropped out of the labor force) is about 23 percent. See https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/U6RATE

    • I’m not sure the unemployment numbers are directly comparable because most European countries (not sure about Sweden in particular) have been structuring their economic assistance programs to pay businesses to keep people employed, rather than providing extremely generous benefits to unemployed people that actually pay more than working.

    • “Swedish think tank Working for Change Matters”

      Lol, that sounds rather Swedish doesn’t it? I’m sure they have produced many deep thoughts.

  12. The instigators of the urban riots had their activities planned for this point in the election cycle long before the COVID-19 mass hysteria started. I would believe that the lockdown added in many ways to the efficacy of their tactics.

  13. With ever increasing disparity in wealth and income, what other conclusion is there, besides civil unrest? The pitchforks are coming. Either the wealth gap will have to reverse course, or the government become more authoritarian to control the disenfranchised. It will only get worse as the trickle down charade becomes exposed with COVID, which has revealed the notion of “producers” and “job-creators” be complete nonsense. It’s the commoners that drive and prop up the economy through labor inputs and spending.

    • All the billionaires are Democrats so evening things out should be an easy matter. Just start giving with an easy hand.

    • I get a kick out of this nonsensical proposition every time I hear it. I have a better idea: how about all the republicans stop using government services, and then we can shrink government and lower taxes with all the savings? No driving on roads, no flying, no stock trading, no emergency services, no judges, courts, enforceable contracts, patents, trademarks or copyrights, no incarceration, no safe water, sewer, food or medicine, and they can pay their children’s expenses to be trained for military service, paying to rent whatever fancy military equipment is needed while volunteering to serve for no wages.

    • You didn’t build that train of thought, senor, someone else did. Now go out and get yourself a new TV, you deserve it.

    • Tom – oh no? Kindly provide a source? I can’t recall where I might have heard something like that, and I’d like to go back to the well since it’s such a swell rebuttal.

    • Senor, I’ve heard it brayed by morons a thousand times.

      “You didn’t build that, somebody else did” was written not by Obama but by somebody else. I don’t know if you caught the reference, but just to be sure.

  14. So, has MIT burned yet? Have shadowy figures plundered the Coop of their expensive treasure, textbooks? Wassup in Boston?

  15. A report from the lawless streets of Manhattan. I had to go to Manhattan because Forest Hills in Queens is so peaceful. The subway car I rode on was clean, smelling mildly of disinfectant and had enough room for riders to sit far apart. About half of the riders wore masks. The man sitting six feet away from me spent the ride dealing with a very runny nose and cough. He would keep his mask on unless he need to blow his nose. He spent most of the ride with his mask off. He had to blow his nose a lot.

    Two knuckleheads (one black rastafarian and one white armed with a homemade cardboard box and pillow riot shield) got on at Forest Hills and got off with me at 63rd and Lexington. They were the only protestors I saw for the next 40+ blocks, until I got downtown.

    Walking through Central Park was pleasant. What was most noticeable walking down Broadway was the homeless. The closer one got to the protests at Union Square, the more you saw stores boarded up or in the process of being boarded up.

    Once you got to Union Square, the scene was pretty mellow. The biggest law-breaking was people smoking cigarettes in the park. Do not discount this act of petty lawlessness — smoking in parks was not just illegal but socially taboo prior to the corona lockdown.
    There were about five hundred people loosely clustered around a central point where people would make speeches. The overwhelming feeling was ENNUI. People are bored out of their minds.

    The crowd was a mix of black and white, but the blacks and the whites were in increasingly self-segregated groups as you got farther away from the center. There were a lot of cops lounging around in various riot gear enjoying their triple overtime.

    It was definitely a big pick-up scene. Black Midriffs Matter!

    A natural observation. New York pigeons are currently in their mating season.

    A human observation. It seems to me that the parks and open spaces of New York are being used now more than ever, even as the city’s streets and sidewalks are less busy.

    I was just an observer, not like Rex Kramer, Danger Seeker.


  16. George Floyd’s autopsy report shows he had COVID-19. His toxicology report also shows that he was on fentanyl, norfentanyl, methamphetamine and marijuana. No alcohol.


    The drugs may or may not be interesting to anyone, but the COVID-19 is – because there are at least some black people who think COVID-19 was brought to their city as a “set up” to kill them, and now the National Guard has been sent in to “finish the job.”

    From Louisville, KY:

    “Understand that there’s an agenda. I would like the public to pay attention to House Bill 6666 and what other house bills because this is set up. There were no COVID cases in the West End for a month and a half before they opened the testing site in Shawnee Park. COVID didn’t get us, so they sent the national guard to finish the job that the virus couldn’t start or finish.” – Sahura Bast Nefer Ka, Parkland side of 26th & Broadway”

    H.R. 6666 is the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act sponsored by Bobby Rush, (D-1-IL)


    Bobby Rush co-founded the Illinois branch of the Black Panthers.

    I would guess that a lot of people in black communities think COVID was designed to exterminate them and that even the riots were triggered by Floyd’s deliberate murder so the U.S. could call in the National Guard and wipe them out. I don’t know whether anyone from the media has asked Bobby Rush: “Do you think COVID-19 is a plot to kill black people?”

    • You see, this is the problem:

      A lot of black people don’t trust the police. They also don’t trust the CDC, the Trump administration, their governors, the national guard, epidemiologists, testing centers, hospitals, or any other branch or organ of the white supremacist power structure – even when the people they see on TV as representatives of that power structure are nominally members of their ethnic or racial group. They see people dying of COVID, losing their jobs, see the national guard, and think: “They’re destroying us. They’re coming to get us. This is a setup.”

      Just like there are a lot of white people who think Jews control the media and international finance, that the government is run by the Illuminati, the earth is flat, men never walked on the Moon, 5G towers spread COVID, and any number of countless conspiracy theories extant in the world and active on the interwebs.

      There are also a lot of people in the Chinese Communist Party who would love black Americans (and everybody else around the world) to think that SARS-CoV2 was spread by the American military. They want to destabilize our society and diminish American influence everywhere in the world.

      This is the world we live in. Human beings are irrational. Lots of people who, for one reason or another, lack the educational attainment or intellectual ability to separate fact from fiction believe all sorts of crazy things that map to their fears and prejudices. And now we have an internet that spreads those fears faster than ever before in history.

  17. > Police departments in the U.S. murder citizens on a regular basis (and why not, since they are generally immune from being fired). The typical police murder does not bother too many Americans or even make the news.

    BLM is way ahead of you philg: Defund the police!


    “Defunding the police is the first step in a much broader historical transformation that I’m hoping you’re seeing broad-based support for on the streets today.” “

    • Cutting police budgets would actually make things worse, because in the US police can legally fund themselves by robbing people (when cops do it they call it “asset forfeiture”). Currently this accounts for only a relatively small portion of their budgets, but if city governments cut the cops’ budgets without taking away any of their power, the cops will just get much more aggressive about robbing people to make up the shortfall.

    • @Ken Hagler:

      That’s great! Worse is better! The idea is to make people hate the police more than they already do. Then Antifa can set up patrols and we’ll be living the revolution! They’ll do the asset forfeiture as wealth redistribution.

      Lock and load, folks. It’s coming.

  18. Sweden never locked down? That’s strange.
    As we all know they had a partial lockdown. A little less strict than the other Scandinavian countries. A little less smart. But a partial lockdown it was

    As for the economy: a less strict lockdown didn’t help Sweden one bit. Sweden’s current unemployment figures are slightly higher than those in Norway and Denmark and Sweden is now expecting to lose 9% of GDP due to the pandemic. Not faring better than Denmark or Norway.

    What can truthfully be said is that citizens of Sweden, when faced with Coronaplague, fared a little better than the citizens of Massachusetts. The clear advantage of a mature society

  19. Thread modeling is inherently probabilistic. Did I predict specific riots and looting like this? No. Did I stockpile on essentials? Yes.

    Ironically, a lot of people I know either bought guns or are trying to buy guns. Why now? Prepping should be done in advance!

    Anyway, in US liberals have this bizarre idea that police will protect them when all historical precedents (including today) demonstrated that police is the first to run. In any serious calamity you are on your own or, at best, with the previously established safety net. Thus the need to be prepped and armed.

    • Anyway, in US liberals have this bizarre idea that police will protect them.

      This is something that right wingers write on the internet a lot. Black Americans are famously quite liberal. It’s unlikely that they have a lot of confidence that the police will protect them.

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