The current (summer 2020) occurrences of looting and rioting are targeting stores and businesses, so I am wondering if houses and apartments might potentially become targets at some point. In previous American riots (eg 1968, 1992), did looters ever enter residences in the affected cities?

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    – MCW
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 5:57
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    I don't have sources to back this up so I'm putting it as a comment, not an answer, but consider that many businesses in urban areas have apartments in their upper floors, so just because the looting is confined mostly to commercial districts doesn't mean no residences are being looted.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 21:37
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    NB, all the examples of civil unrest given (1968, 1992, 2020) concerned minority rights, while both examples of looting that we have so far (1849, 1921) were committed against minorities. Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 21:44
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    Why go back into history. There were failed home invasions this weekend.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 0:44
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    My grandfather once owned a mom-and-pop-style movie rental, and because it was in a different state from his house (which he changed later), he had a cot down in the basement and would sometimes sleep in his store. His business was one of his residences. If rioters had come by, hoping to bring justice to "fascist" mega-corporations, they would've instead hurt a mom-and-pop operation and invaded a residence. I have to imagine there are many instances where this has actually happened to someone, which would lend a "yes" to your question. Businesses and residences are sometimes the same. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


To pick just one notorious example, 99 years ago to the day, black people's homes were heavily looted by whites in the Tulsa riots of 1921. As this article describes, at least 65 looters were arrested. In addition to taking basic goods like sacks of flour, they opened up safes in people's homes to take gold and silver.

EDIT, July 2020: I should have made clear that the looting was not the central aspect of this event. It was a massacre and (as @T.E.D. pointed out in a comment) the total destruction of a prosperous black neighborhood called Greenwood. Excavations of a potential mass grave recently began in Tulsa. The Washington Post reports

Historians believe that as many as 300 black people were killed, and 40 square blocks of what was known as Black Wall Street were destroyed by fire. The destruction included more than 1,250 homes, churches, schools, businesses, a hospital and library.

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    Deleted my similar answer and upvoted. The neighborhood was also burned to the ground. The estimate was that about 10,000 black Tulsans were left homeless. There were also reports of rich white residences being invaded by the armed rioters in search of black servants.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 13:08
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    Similar: in 1906, shortly after the San Francisco earthquake, there was a string of arson attacks in California in which Chinese communities were destroyed. One example was in Pacific Grove: sfgate.com/news/article/…
    – user2848
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 20:13
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    This excerpt details anti-Chinese murder and extortion from 1850s to the 1906 Ben mentioned. books.google.com/… It is page 182 from "Making of the American West: People and Perspectives edited by Peter Mancall, Benjamin Heber Johnson" Huge irony with the laundromats is at that time laundry took months as it was considered womens work and was shipped overseas. The Chinese were literally making their lives better as they burned them trying to run them out. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 4:41
  • Wow, what a lovely country to live in. Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 15:11

Yes. In San Francisco, 1849, a gang called the "Hounds" looted and destroyed residences in the district of Little Chile:

"The Chileans in large numbers are living in tents on the outskirts of town. About 10 o'clock at night the Hounds made an assault upon them, tore down more than a dozen of their tents, broke open their chests, stole their money, tore their clothing and scattered their property, and fired upon them with pistols intending to kill as many as they could."

By the next night 17 suspects had been detained by a volunteer police force, a forerunner of the famous Committees of Vigilance.

(There has been debate in the comments about whether the episode was a "riot". This was actually one of the criminal charges brought by prosecutor Hall McAllister. Here is the Alta California's reporting on the charge of Riot from August 2, 1849:

Alta California

Secondary sources also calling the event a riot include Soulé's "Annals of San Francisco", Ellison's "A Self-Governing Dominion", and Monaghan's "Chile, Peru, and the California Gold Rush of 1849", which devotes a whole chapter to what it calls "The Anti-Chilean Riot".)

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    How is that a riot?
    – pipe
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 9:42
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    @pipe, riot, n 1: a public act of violence by an unruly mob. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 15:19
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    A named gang executing a planned action is not an unruly mob.
    – pipe
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 15:20
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    Oh, I disagree, but if you don't like definition 1, try number 2: a state of disorder involving group violence. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 15:23
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    Please see my last edit adding authorities that described these actions as "riot". Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 1:25

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