Pro-tip: Don’t actively film and publish videos of yourself mid-crime. Because apparently that needs to be said.
An Instagram and TikTok personality who goes by the username “Meatball” is going viral after livestreaming her participation in the recent looting sprees ransacking several Philadelphia neighborhoods. Dayjia Blackwell, aka “Meatball,” publicly streamed to Instagram Live footage of her and dozens of other people descending upon an Apple store, a liquor store, and other small businesses.
“Tell the police they either lock me up tonight or it’s gonna get lit,” she says in one video earlier in the evening.
“Get one! Get one! Free iPhones!” she can be heard exclaiming while people around her run into and loot an Apple store. She then posts footage of herself holding an iPhone that appears to be possibly stolen as well as footage of her holding a bottle of liquor that also seems to be possibly stolen.
Then, towards the end of the video footage, viewers can see her approached by police, claiming, “we don’t got nothing to do with this.”
Looks like the police weren’t buying that. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “She was charged Wednesday evening with six felonies and two misdemeanors, including burglary, conspiracy, riot, and criminal use of a communication facility.” While “Meatball” originally seemed nonchalant about facing arrest, she can be seen with tears rolling down her cheeks in her mugshot.
“Meatball,” like any American, deserves due process as far as all charges against her are concerned. But… it’s not looking good for her. She’s on video encouraging people to participate in this looting and seen holding merchandise. If she really did participate in this senseless stealing rampage, she should be punished to the full extent of the law.
Yet “Meatball” was just one of dozens of people arrested in Philadelphia for looting this week, and countless hundreds more got away from police during the chaotic scenes. And this all comes in the context of a political conversation in recent years where progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, activists involved with Black Lives Matter, and even media outlets like NPR have defended looting.
We not only need to more consistently punish stealing through our legal system, we need to re-establish a social stigma against this antisocial, destructive behavior. In Meatball’s videos and the countless others like them spreading across social media, a jubilant, comedic attitude toward property theft is on full display. Millions of social media viewers, while not participating in this kind of conduct themselves, at least not yet, seem to either condone this behavior, or find it funny and not really that big of a deal.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Victimizes the innocent and hurts the entire community
Looting victimizes the innocent. It’s often done by cynical people taking advantage of chaos during real protests. Yet even when it’s supposedly being done in response to some alleged injustice, it targets not the actual perceived “oppressors,” but rather, random neighbors and business owners.
Not all businesses have insurance that covers looting, and some people have had their entire livelihoods and dreams destroyed overnight by looters. Even when insurance does cover the damage, it still puts innocent business owners out-of-business for weeks if not months until they can reopen, meaning many employees won’t get paid in the meantime. And then, after looting occurs in a given area, insurance rates for local businesses skyrocket, hurting them and the local economy and leading to higher prices for customers.
Sabotages important social causes
Importantly, looting almost always distracts from whatever cause is supposedly motivating it and ultimately leads to less support for that movement. In this case, the looting is occurring after a judge just dismissed murder charges against a police officer who killed a man named Eddie Irizarry during a traffic stop gone wrong.
I don’t know enough about this specific case to have a firm stance on its merits, but regardless, police brutality is a serious and pressing issue in this country. Yet destruction and chaos only sabotage public support for reforms and set back the movement.
You don’t have to take my word for it, we’ve just recently seen exactly this play out. According to Pew Research, support for the Black Lives Matter cause cratered among the public between June 2020 and September 2020 after a summer of intensive violent rioting in response to the death of George Floyd. That’s right: the riots left 25 people dead, inflicted a record-breaking $1 billion in property damage, and only sabotaged support for the criminal justice reform movement.
Ultimately, people who loot aren’t “stealing to feed their family,” as AOC once argued, unless children can now digest iPhones and Bacardi. People who loot aren’t rising up against injustice. They’re just cynically exploiting tragedies to victimize the innocent—and it’s long past time for society recognize looters for the toxic influence they are.