Black Friday earned its monicker when Jdimytai Damour, a 34 year old son of Haitian immigrants and retail employee, was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in Long Island New York. He had opened the doors at 5 am to allow a crowd of 2,000 into the store and was knocked to the ground in the ensuing stampede. The shoppers also tore the sliding doors of their hinges, and kept store employees and police from reaching the dying man.
Amid the chaos in Valley Stream, shoppers were asked to leave by other store workers, some of them crying, said (Kimberly Cribbs, a shopper who arrived after the initial melee). Others ignored the pleas that they stop shopping, move to the front of the store and exit, she said. “They kept shopping. It’s not right.”
Ms. Cribbs also used the term “savages” to describe the crowd. Given the mindless brutality shown by people within the crowd it’s an apt use of the term.
Shoppers at the Long Island Wal-Mart surge into the store. The man in a yellow jacket is attempting to help up a shopper who has fallen.
The shoppers had waited outside the store for several hours. In some countries similar scenes are witnessed when food or aid is handed out after a war or natural disaster. In still others stampedes are common during religious festivals. But the throng was not waiting for food, clean water, or bedding; nor were they rushing thoughtlessly forward as part of a religious ceremony. Instead they waited for hours to pay $598 for a LCD HDTV and $2 for the movie Rush Hour 2, both of which could be had elsewhere for similar prices (anyone there ever heard of eBay?) without the wait in the cold.
This being America, of course it’s not anyone’s fault.
“... (I)ndividual judgement can melt away as people react to being jostled in a crowd, which in turn can shatter individual notions of personal space. Mary Kirby-Diaz, a sociology professor at Farmingdale State College, said average Americans need a space “bubble” of 27 inches.
“What happens is one’s individual identity becomes erased and you become part of the crowd,” said Danielle Knafo, associate professor of clinical psychology at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville.
And Rebecca Curtis, a psychology professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, said bargain-hunting can get out of hand.
“The desire for material goods is so strong and probably most of the things people were buying [at Wal-Mart] were not things that were like food,” Curtis said.
“In effect, people are giving up their identity and becoming part of the crowd,” said Dr. John Kane, vice-president for behavioral health services at the North Shore- Long Island Jewish Health System. “As a result, they might do things and participate in things that they would not do on a regular basis.”
Rather it’s the Big Evil Corporation’s fault:
Shoppers echoed the sentiments of the Nassau County police detective supervising the investigation, who told reporters in the aftermath of Damour’s death that the store could have and should have better prepared for the large crowds that camped out as early as 9 p.m. the night before for the post-Thanksgiving bargains.
Bibi Raffik of Jamaica, Queens, a frequent Wal-Mart shopper, said she always feels safe at the store.
The 41-year-old said, “I’m very shocked by what happened.” She added: “There should have been more security here.”
Wal-Mart has defended its security, noting that it hired additional personnel—of whom Damour was one—and put up barriers in anticipation of the Black Friday rush.
Police are reviewing video of the crowd to find the identities of those who trampled Damour. I think there’s a better way. According to a 2005 survey by the Association for Financial Professionals, credit and debit cards are used in 47% of retail purchases, while checks are used 22% of the time. All three of these methods are traceable, meaning that roughly 7 out of 10 of the shoppers at the store that morning could be identified by name. That percentage is undoubtedly higher than the percentage of shoppers identified by police using closed circuit video.
Everyone who shopped that morning at the store is responsible in some way for the death of this man. At the very least each shopper should be identified and publicly humiliated for their loss of humanity that lead to this man’s death. A respect for life should not be so easily disregarded for a mediocre Jackie Chan comedy or substandard LCD TV set (the $598 set isn’t even full 1080P HD). Long Island prosecutors should subpoena Wal-mart’s receipts for that morning and force credit card issuers to divulge the names and addresses of those whose credit cards were used in the first few hours there. A public airing of the names along with some high profile meetings between the dead man’s family and those who so callously stomped him would do more than any lawsuit to prove that our society does not tolerate such behavior.
But unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. Wal-Mart will be sued by Damour’s family while the true perpetrators of this crime are free to enjoy their bloody Christmas loot. I suppose that’s what the true spirit of the season has become.