Widespread looting in New York City was planned advance by a coordinated group seeking to target wealthy neighborhoods, the head of the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit said on Sunday.
A number of stores, many of them in the upscale Soho neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, were looted on Sunday evening during protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. One witness told the New York Post that “hundreds” of looters were “going systemically from store to store.”
“Before the protests began, organizers of certain anarchists groups set out to raise bail money and people who would be responsible to be raising bail money, they set out to recruit medics and medical teams with gear to deploy in anticipation of violent interactions with police,” John Miller, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, told reporters on Sunday.
“They prepared to commit property damage and directed people who were following them that this should be done selectively and only in wealthier areas or at high-end stores run by corporate entities,” Miller continued. Looters “developed a complex network of bicycle scouts to move ahead of demonstrators in different directions of where police were, and where police were not, for purposes of being able to direct groups from the larger group to places where they could commit acts of vandalism, including the torching of police vehicles and Molotov cocktails, where they thought officers would not be.”
Stores including Nike and Gucci were targeted in Soho, while other areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn also saw looting on Sunday. Dozens of suspected looters were arrested.