NYC Councilman: Revoke Benefits for Anyone Arrested for Looting

For those of you not familiar with New York City, Staten Island is a rare oasis of common-sense conservative thought.

Granted, there are secret conservatives scattered throughout the five boroughs — the New York Post has to make a profit somehow, after all — but Staten Island feels a world away from Manhattan and the kind of liberals who wonder whether their morning latte is both fair trade and sustainable.

So leave it to New York City Councilman Joe Borelli, a Republican who represents the South Shore neighborhood of the borough, to propose a way to deal with the looting we’ve seen in the city recently: To “immediately revoke” the $600 federal supplemental unemployment insurance benefit of anyone arrested for doing it.

According to the Staten Island Advance, Borelli says he’s asked President Donald Trump to suspend the benefit amid turmoil in the city, already hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a curfew on Monday amid what could charitably be called “problematic” elements in the protests over the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

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“The mass looting of commercial property along 5th Avenue and throughout significant swaths of Manhattan and Brooklyn is doing irreparable damage to the sense of safety in New York City,” Borelli said, according to the Advance.

“Witnessing looters emptying Apple stores and exiting the store only to be violently assaulted and robbed by other criminals has shaken the confidence of everyday New Yorkers who are afraid to travel to work, hospitals, and shop for necessities.

“It is unfair and unacceptable that people who are furloughed from retail stores are receiving the same supplemental benefit as those who are smashing and looting retail stores and I hope this can be addressed immediately.”

On Saturday, de Blasio announced he was lifting the curfew early after protests remained largely peaceful, according to Fox News.

“Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart. Keep staying safe. Keep looking out for each other,” he tweeted.

This comes, however, after several nights where the arrest numbers in Gotham piled up.

According to the New York Daily News, in the city alone, about 700 people were arrested Monday into Tuesday, the worst night of the protests. Another 280 were arrested Wednesday and 270 on Thursday. It’s unclear how many of these arrests were for looting.

The additional $600 weekly benefit for those on unemployment had been one of the key elements of the so-called Phase Three COVID-19 relief bill — and also one of the most criticized, with Republicans arguing that many individuals would make more staying unemployed than looking for work.

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Should additional unemployment benefits be taken away from looters?

While taking the $600 away from the number of people looting across the country isn’t exactly going to pull back much money from the trillions we’ve already spent, it’s also worth noting the number of people arrested for looting nationally isn’t insubstantial, and those are just the ones the police were able to catch up with.

Pretty much everyone has condemned the riots from both the right and the left. The question is how we’re willing to deal with what happened in the aftermath.

Part of the issue isn’t just that the riots and looting essentially overshadowed not only the death of Floyd but also the peaceful protests. That’s bad enough, particularly because there wasn’t any cultural disagreement that Floyd’s death was the result of police brutality.

There’s the additional difficulty that the riots came as the U.S. tried to economically rebuild from the coronavirus lockdowns. It’s a bit more than a speed bump in that process when whole neighborhoods in major cities are turned into glass-strewn hulls.

Will taking the $600 benefit away from those who were arrested for looting do much? Probably not after the riots occurred, no. Still, it seems only fair, although there would obviously have to be a mechanism by which those found innocent or who had their charges dismissed could claim their money.

Let’s face facts, though: It also has zero chance of actually becoming public policy, given how Washington works and the multifarious ways in which can and will be stopped in its tracks, if Trump even considers it. (The White House didn’t return requests for comment, according to the Staten Island Advance.)

Whatever the case, however, Borelli’s resolution is a sign that when you need to find some rational thought in New York City, your best bet is to take the Staten Island Ferry — even if that rational thought doesn’t find its way off of the island.

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