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Where does the phrase 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts' come from?

NBC News logo NBC News 5/29/2020 Rebecca Shabad
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WASHINGTON — Twitter said early Friday that a post by President Donald Trump about the protests overnight in Minneapolis glorified violence because of the historical context of his last line: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

The phrase was used by Miami's police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department's "crackdown on ... slum hoodlums," according to a United Press International article from the time.

Headley, who was chief of police in Miami for 20 years, said that law enforcement was going after “young hoodlums, from 15 to 21, who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign. ... We don't mind being accused of police brutality."

Miami hadn't faced "racial disturbances and looting," Headley added, because he let word filter down that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

a man wearing a suit and tie: Image: Rev. Theodore Gibson, right, active in fostering smooth interracial relations in Miami, Fla., tells the Miami City Commission he favors strong action against crime, Dec. 30, 1967. He added he believed Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, left, (Jim Bourdier / AP file) © Jim Bourdier Image: Rev. Theodore Gibson, right, active in fostering smooth interracial relations in Miami, Fla., tells the Miami City Commission he favors strong action against crime, Dec. 30, 1967. He added he believed Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, left, (Jim Bourdier / AP file)

The phrase was considered to have contributed to the city's race riots in the late 1960s, according to The Washington Post.

Headley, who died only a few months later in 1968 and had been denounced by civil rights leaders, was described in an Associated Press obituary as the "architect of a crime crackdown that sent police dogs and shotgun-toting patrolmen into Miami's slums in force."

Later Friday morning, hours after Twitter noted that Trump's initial tweet violated rules, the White House official Twitter account posted the same tweet with the "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" phrase.

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