President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his use of the controversial phrase, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," by citing former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, who in 1978 urged the city to "vote white." Speaking with Fox News' Harris Faulkner, the president denied having knowledge that the phrase had been used by former Miami police chief Walter E. Headley, who had used it as a threat against civil rights protesters.
After Faulkner pointed out that Trump's usage of the phrase "frightened a lot of people," the president inaccurately attributed the quote to a "very tough mayor," referring to Rizzo, stating that "he had an expression like that" and he had "heard it many times." Rizzo's most well-known expression, however, came during his 1978 campaign, during which he said that he was "asking white people and Blacks who think like me to vote like Frank Rizz. I say vote white," according to the Huffington Post. Trump went on to state that his words were not meant "as a threat," stating, "that's really just a fact because that's what happens."
Faulkner: Why those words?— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 11, 2020
Trump: So that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years
Faulkner: Do you know where it comes from?
Trump: I think Philadelphia. The mayor of Philadelphia.
Faulkner: It comes from 1967 pic.twitter.com/J8EgoVXcqX
Trump had used the phrase in a May 29 tweet, in which he reacted to the sometimes violent protests prompted by the police killing of George Floyd by stating that he had informed Minnesota's governor that the military is "with him all the way." He concluded the tweet by writing, "any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter eventually flagged the tweet due to its "glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today," as the phrase had been used by Headley. Announcing a "get tough" campaign in 1967, Headley said that "we haven't had any serious problems with civil uprising and looting, because I've let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts." He added that he didn't "mind being accused of police brutality."
While Headley's legacy has largely been condemned, Rizzo's hasn’t fared much better. In fact, amid the ongoing protests, which have stretched across the globe, and cries for an end to systemic racism, a statue of Rizzo outside Philadelphia's City Hall was removed following attempts from protesters to topple it. According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, the move was supported by the statue’s sculptor, who said that “it had to come done.”