In recent weeks, the US was rocked by waves of massive protests, following the police killing of George Floyd, and later additional citizens (but of course fueled by and concerned with much more than that).

In some of these protests - or perhaps while they were occurring - there has been reporting of looting. Here's an example article (I don't know the website, just web-searched and found it) showing a picture of a damaged cashier lines "super-market"-type store, and listing dozens of businesses which were either damaged or looted.

My question is: What is known about the extent to which the actual protests devolved into, or involved, looting? Let's say - how many looted establishments x days? How many towns/localities x days in which looting by the protesters occurred? And how high is the fraction of that last figure out of the localities x days of protest overall?

My motivation for the question is trying to form a view of whether the looting has been a marginal phenomenon or a major one.

Note: This question was closed with the claim that it isn't about political processes. I emphatically reject that claim - the protests are a political process themselves, they are the results of political processes and actions (e.g. w.r.t. organization, deployment, training and arming of police forces), and has wide ramifications of political processes, both electoral and otherwise.

  • 5
    I've voted to close this question because: 1) it isn't about politics or the political process, 2) It asks for a value that can be readily calculated in the current day the battle damage assessment will be long in coming. Jun 20, 2020 at 22:23
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    How are mass protests against police violence not politics?
    – einpoklum
    Jun 20, 2020 at 22:34
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    The question isn't about the protests impacts on political action, motives, or such. It's aim is to capture an unidentified statistic, x of y protests resulted in looting/burning that had z financial impact. Jun 20, 2020 at 23:22
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    @DrunkCynic: These protests are politics actions, with political motives and political demands.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 21, 2020 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


It may take time before someone really studies this and comes up with meaningful numbers, especially on the national level.

One helpful way of approaching the question would be through insurance claims. According to The Real Deal, as of early June:

Verisk Analytics subsidiary Property Claim Services declared the civil disorder in Minneapolis to be a “catastrophe” — implying at least $25 million insured losses — and had extended that designation to over 20 states a few days later.

That implies a minimum of at least $500 million in property damage, which is significant but not off the charts. To give a point of comparison:

The most damaging civil disturbance on record was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which led to $775 million in insured losses at the time, or $1.4 billion adjusted for inflation.

The other kinds of data you are asking for will probably be harder to compile because it is tracked by individual local police departments. Here is an article that looks at Chicago police reports and tries to interpret the impacts of looting, and you can see that it's a messy process.

Early information from the Chicago Police Department shows 116 burglaries on May 30 and 31 have been reported in the CPD districts that protect the downtown area.

By comparison, the two previous weekends combined saw just one burglary in the same districts.


In addition to the burglaries, another 89 criminal damage reports have been filed in the downtown police districts for May 30 and 31, according to CPD data. The same districts received a total of 10 criminal damage reports during the two previous weekends combined.

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    Insurance claims will not help distinguish between protests, and looting that happened synchronously with protests.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 22, 2020 at 12:44
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    @einpoklum Point taken, but given the fact that these events are designated catastrophes, I take it they are way over and above the baseline of normal claims. So yes, ideally we should deduct the unrelated claims, but the difference would likely be small. I expect it will be months before anyone is able to say for sure.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 22, 2020 at 12:49
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    I'm not sure I understand the question anymore, but you seem to be making a distinction between property damage caused by "protests" versus property damage cause by "looting"? If I have that right, I don't think its reasonable to expect you will find any data that measures such a distinction.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 22, 2020 at 13:15
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    There's protests against police violence; there's looting by protesters; and there's looting not by the protesters, engaged in opportunistically. I'm interests in the first two kinds of things. I've edited my question and will edit my last comment to clarify that, my comment certainly was somewhat confusing.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 22, 2020 at 13:32
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    "The difference would likely be small" - 1. That's the whole motivation of my question. Will the difference be small? How do you know that? 2. (deleted) 3. I actually have a hunch that most of the difference between this period and the baseline will be accounted for by looting which is not part of the protests. But I don't know.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 22, 2020 at 13:33

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