|A woman pepper-sprayed 10 shoppers at a Los Angeles Wal-Mart store in a race to get a bargain [Reuters]|
Shootings, fights and a pepper spray attack marred the Black Friday stampede of bargain hunters that traditionally kicks off the US holiday shopping season after the Thanksgiving holiday.
In one of the worst incidents, a woman pepper-sprayed other shoppers at a Los Angeles area Wal-Mart store to beat fierce competition for sought-after electronics merchandise during a “doorbuster” sale.
The woman was “trying to get advantage over the items being sold on sale,” when she turned a can of mace on the other customers, said Sergeant J. Valle from the Los Angeles police department.
He said at least 10 customers, including children, were injured during the incident at a Wal-Mart store in the Porter Ranch neighbourhood.
A fire department spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times newpaper that 20 people were treated for injuries from the incident, many complaining of burning in their throats and skin and eye irritations. The woman slipped out of the store before police arrived however, and authorities were still trying to identify her, said Valle.
In another Black Friday incident, a shopper was in “critical but stable” condition after would-be robbers shot him in the parking lot of a San Leandro, California Wal-Mart, police Sergeant Mike Sobek told AFP.
The man and his shopping companions were approached by “several” assailants after 1am as they walked to their car. One suspect was arrested but it was unclear whether he was the shooter, and the gun was not recovered.
A pair of attackers shot a 55-year-old woman in the foot at a parking lot near a Wal-Mart in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, during another apparent robbery attempt, Sergeant Janet Hardee said.
They also hit her son over the head with a gun as he tried to defend his mother. The attackers were driven off by the woman’s sister, who fired shots into the air from her own gun.
Police also were looking for at least two suspects who fired shots at a Fayetteville, North Carolina mall, causing chaos, The Fayetteville Observer newspaper reported.
In Kissimmee, Florida, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper said a man was arrested after taking a swing at police officers as they wrestled him to the ground to stop a fight at a Wal-Mart jewellery counter.
Occupy Black Friday
People participating in the Occupy movement, which has explicitly targeted US consumerism as an issue they are fighting against, protested Black Friday in various US cities.
In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a group of Occupy activists were arrested and jailed after a demonstration inside a Wal-Mart store. One of the participants said that 10 people were arrested after conducting a group chant inside the store in an Oklahoma City suburb.
He said the the group was protesting wage disparity of store workers with that of corporate officers, and protesters were jailed on charges of disorderly conduct.
He also contended that police used excessive force by tackling and handcuffing participants who were heading toward the exit after being asked to leave by store personnel, although a local police liutenant disagreed.
In Eugene, Oregon, police say that Occupy protesters chanted and used a bullhorn during early shopping hours on Friday at two Wal-Mart stores. One person there was arrested for alleged trespassing.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a member of the local Occupy group was arrested and charged with trespassing after they dressed as a zombie and refused to remove facial makeup after asked to do so by mall security.
Organisers say that activists dressed as zombies to protest the consumerism of Black Friday, explaining that protesters walked peacefully through the mall early on Friday and did not disrupt shoppers.
In Seattle, Washington, activists say they are promoting homemade gifts and local businesses as an alternative to what they call “rampant consumerism that plagues society, destroys the environment and supports the one per cent” that controls most of society’s wealth.