One New Yorker's sleepless night as lawlessness and disorder took over the city

One New Yorker's sleepless night as lawlessness and disorder took over the city

I didn’t sleep very well last night. After spending several hours watching the looting and attacks on police, I tried to go to bed but was still up until almost 2 am. I wasn’t worried about my family’s safety I was just wound up. This morning I read a story written by Sohrab Ahmari, an editor at the NY Post. His restless night was, shall we say, somewhat different than mine. He spent a lot of it downstairs with the doormen, watching and hoping the looters would decide not to break in the glass front doors and, perhaps, make their way upstairs to where people including Ahmari’s children were sleeping:

I felt the insecurity of lawlessness and disorder more acutely than I ever had before — and I’ve filed datelines all over the Middle East, including from the front line of the Iraqi Kurdish war against the Islamic State.

But I wasn’t the hero of these four hours. That role belonged to our two doormen, whom I will call Alfonso and Johnny — unarmed, upright, working-class people of color who were all that stood between the families in our building and the savagery of a depraved mob below…

They won’t come to our block, I thought. We have no sexy stores to loot.

My optimism was misplaced. When I went downstairs that second time, Alfonso looked alarmed: “Unless you absolutely have to go out,” he said, “please stay inside.” He needn’t have said anything: Instantly, I spotted more of those roving packs walking, sometimes running down our block, some heading west, some east — and some staying put and observing us through our glass entrance before moving on.

After a break to head upstairs and check on his family, Ahmari returned to the front door at 2 am.

At 2 in the morning, it couldn’t be denied that one particular roving gang was roving no more; its members were obviously staking out our building. Now cackling, now going ominously silent. Should I race upstairs and bring a kitchen knife? How would this scenario play out? Would they just smash our lobby and leave? What could stop them if they wanted to take the elevators up to our homes?…

Johnny was frozen to his chair. I could feel him holding his breath. Then, after a beat, one of the youths waved his hand contemptuously at our lobby, as if to say, This isn’t worth it. And then he said out loud: “Nah, f–k this place.”

And that was it. The looters moved on and eventually went home with their loot. But they clearly thought about it. And that makes me wonder if this is really over or just getting started.

Mayor de Blasio has vowed New York won’t tolerate this and Gov. Cuomo has called him a failure but that doesn’t guarantee a peaceful Tuesday night. Will the looters return to the already looted stores, many of which have been stripped of everything of value? Probably not. Maybe they’ll find new part of town to rob.

And just as important, will there be more of them tonight or fewer? Not just in New York, but everywhere. A lot of people saw thieves get away with a lot of free merchandise last night. They also saw how few of the looters were arrested. How many more gangs out there are planning to try their luck tonight, maybe on Rodeo Drive or the local mall or wherever the shops are open to anyone with a hammer and a prybar.

It will matter a lot what the police are doing tonight. Last night the NYPD seemed stunned and outnumbered. But in the midst of the George Floyd protests, getting tough with lawbreakers has its own risks. However many of us had sleepless nights last night, I think it’s fair to say that police around the country had it far worse.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023