Watch CBS News

The Dark Past Of President Trump's "When The Looting Starts, The Shooting Starts" Tweet Starts In Miami

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The battle between President Trump and Twitter heated up Thursday night after Twitter flagged one of the President's tweets as promoting violence.  The tweet, with an historical connection to Miami, was about protests overnight in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody.

President Trump's tweets called protesters in Minneapolis "thugs" and vowed "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." It's a statement originally made by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967, during civil rights unrest.

Trump posted his tweet after protesters, angry about Floyd's death, torched a police station.

This was the full tweet:

"I can't stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

Trump Tweet
(CBS News)

The second part of that tweet, beginning with "These THUGS", was flagged by Twitter for "glorifying violence" and hidden in Trump's feed, the latest move in an ongoing fight between the President and the social media giant.

About 13 hours after the president's provocative tweet, Trump took to Twitter again to claim that he wasn't suggesting the shooting of rioters. Instead, he said he was referring to gun violence that has been spurred by the unrest.

When 20-year Miami Police Chief Walter Headley used the phrase, he was addressing his department's "crackdown on "Negro slum hoodlums."

According to a United Press International article from1967, Headley said 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. They haven't seen anything yet."

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

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

Headley died in 1968 and was denounced by civil rights leaders, and 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."


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.