Commentary Magazine


Law and the Looters

To the Editor:

I have little to add to the many admiring letters [November 1977] on Midge Decter’s article “Looting and Liberal Racism” [September 1977]. But I do wish to report an incident described to me by a trusted and meticulously reliable friend who, finding himself in the neighborhood, went to offer his assistance at Lincoln Hospital, toward which ambulances and police cars were bringing victims of the self-inflicted violence of the July 13 riots.

The account is simple. A young black man’s arm had been severed by falling plate glass which he himself had smashed, as he admitted, to get a television set. Upon seeing two (also black) policemen entering the emergency room, the would-be looter alternately sobbed and shouted at them, “You should have stopped me.” The moral is simple, too: the need for order and restraints is undeniable, not least for the benefit of those most tempted by the momentary lures of chaos.

Martin Peretz
Editor, New Republic
Washington, D.C.

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