Archive for the ‘Crowds’ Category

Service of Crowds II

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I am crowd averse as I’ve written previously, most recently about the impact of the pandemic on Manhattan that eliminated swarms of citizens who normally congregate at certain times and places. I was caught in a mass of people all trying to exit a courtyard at once through a narrow opening in a gate when I was 10. I had no control over the direction I wanted to go or whether I could stick near my mother and I didn’t like that feeling.

That’s why I’m amazed that people scramble to fill stadiums that hold over a hundred thousand fans. Madison Square Garden has almost 20,000 seats which seems like a lot. Friends flock there to hear their favorite singers, pay exorbitant prices and consider themselves lucky to snag tickets.

It’s remarkable that the dreadful event, that happened in Houston last Friday at the sold-out Astroworld music festival–50,000 people attended–hasn’t happened more often.


Image by Vishnu R from Pixabay

This venue holds 200,000+ reported J. David Goodman and Maria Jimenez Moya in The New York Times

They wrote: “The most common cause of injury and death in crowds is compressive asphyxia, when people are pushed against one another so tightly that their airways become constricted, said Steve Adelman, a lawyer and the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, an advocacy group. This happens most often during a ‘crowd crush,’ when the audience is packed together so tightly that people cannot move, but it can also occur during a stampede.”

They added that “Houston police chief, Troy Finner, said that officials worried that cutting off the concert could make the situation worse. ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals,’ he said. ‘We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young.’”

Eight died in the third year of this event, from ages 14 to 17.

According to the Associated Press, as reported in usatoday.com, “‘The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,’ the [Houston] fire chief [Samuel Peña] said. ‘People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.'”

“The deadly surge was the most deaths at a U.S. concert since the 2003 Station nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island.

“Eleven people died and about two dozen were injured in 1979 at a concert for The Who as thousands of fans tried to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.”

I’ve happily attended concerts and performances in Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera and Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and concerts at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College as well as at sold-out performances in theaters here and abroad. Security checked handbags for bombs and firearms after 9/11 but I didn’t stress about the possibility of an explosion. Issues of Covid-19 aside, am I naive to be unconcerned in these places?

Does attending a crowded venue–even a place of worship with a modest capacity–give you pause? Are some seats– stadiums and concert halls–safer than others? Have you been in a crowd that worried you?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Crowds

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Photo: ny.curbed.com

New Yorkers were used to crowds. Before the pandemic hundreds of us would routinely enter a concert, game or theater at once, while others would similarly board rush hour subways, commuter trains and buses daily.

I don’t like crowds so if possible I’ve been strategic to avoid them. When I depended on a subway to get to the office I’d leave early or late and always missed rush hour at day’s end by working until well after 6:00 pm. Even if at a protest, I’d go alone and plant myself at the crowd’s edge so I could leave promptly.

In line for discount theater tickets @ TKTS Photo: en.wikipedia.com

In addition to a feeling of loss of control created by walking among a mass of people, these days there’s the potential danger of exposure to virus-infected droplets if marchers, ignoring social distancing, wear masks or not. That’s why I was alarmed when I couldn’t cross 50th Street and Second Avenue on my way home on Tuesday afternoon. Vehicular traffic and bicycles were stopped at the street as if at the starting line of a race, backed up for blocks making a giant parking lot.

We–me at a distance from them and other pedestrians standing appropriately apart–watched an enthusiastic throng of mostly youngsters protesting against police brutality and racism who only by the virus and their proximity to one another posed any danger. There was nothing to do but wait or come face to face with marchers by struggling past a tight line of them to reach the other side of the street. Finally there was a slight break and we raced through it to continue downtown on fairly empty streets.

Washington State June 2020 protest Photo: en.wikipedia.com

I empathize with the marcher’s goal of solidarity but NYC isn’t theirs alone. It’s mine too. I didn’t like feeling trapped. This morning on WOR 710 radio Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, warned in an interview that the marchers must take care not to block ambulances from reaching the hospital which he said has happened.

The Democratic National Committee, which moved its convention from July to end August, is exploring some kind of virtual convention. In “If Democrats Hold a Big Convention, Will Anybody Come?” in The New York Times Reid J. Epstein wrote: “Interviews with 59 members of the Democratic National Committee and superdelegates who will formally nominate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in August found that the vast majority of them don’t want to risk their own health or the health of others by traveling to Milwaukee and congregating inside the convention facilities.”

With the uncertainty around the spread of Covid-19–we’re now hearing that the heat of summer may have no impact on lessening it as hoped–I wondered if anyone has asked the some 50,000 Republicans, of which 2,550 are delegates, that the president expects to attend the August convention if they still plan to stand shoulder-to-shoulder for hours under one roof?

Do you hope as I do that there will not be an uptick in Covid-19 cases as a result of the marches in spite of dire predictions by many in the medical community? That would be a big relief to both parties and all Americans.

Republican 2016 convention. Photo: politico.com

 

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