Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crowd Management Must Be Proactive, Not Reactive

For whatever reason, celebrity appearances seem to bring-out the hysteria in fans, photographers, and sometimes even in those assigned to protect them.  Current pop icon Justin Beiber seems to fill that role today, as a string of appearances has left many injured in his wake.  Perusing the internet will reveal numerous press items that describe crowd management issues that should not have occurred.

In Santiago, Chile, Justin was to stay at a hotel prior to a local appearance.  His trip was delayed a day, but the crowd outside the hotel didn't know it.  Something triggered them to believe he was on premise and they pushed past a weak perimeter to swarm forward and overwhelm the hotel staff.  The event was captured on tape by someone in the hotel.

At an autograph signing appearance in a Macy's department store, an undercover policeman perceived the throngs of fans to be a threat, and attempted to move Mr. Beiber away.  Due to lack of security coordination and the plain clothes dress of the policeman, the private security company and Mr. Beiber fought-off the policeman thinking he was the threat.  Eventually, the policeman identified himself and charged one of the private security guards with interfering with police business.  The charges were later dropped.
A recent appearance in Norway on May 30, 2012, lead to Oslo police nearly declaring a state of emergency as tens of thousands of teenage Bieber fans descended on the city, mobbing the streets.

Mayor Stang said it got so chaotic that he had to hide behind a tree at one point to avoid getting trampled.

After 49 teenage girls were injured in the fandemonium, and 14 were taken by ambulance for emergency care, Oslo's mayor launched an investigation into the near-catastrophic event.  No one was seriously injured, but Mayor Fabian Stang complained: "I have already called on the Emergency Planning Agency to examine the entire event from the planning stage to its implementation. We have to find out what went wrong and why it happened.  No state of emergency was ever declared." Camilla Bjorn, a VGTV reporter in Oslo, told E! News. "However, there has been a ton of critique towards official police and Universal Music [Bieber's label] because they were not prepared.  They had not taken into consideration the chaos that could occur."
When you have guest appearances of pop stars or controversial people, it is vital that security and crowd management be closely coordinated and advised of the types of behaviors that might manifest themselves.  Review of prior event issues with the celebrities' advance team is helpful, as they can help local officials to better understand what to expect.  There can always be a gap in perception between older administrators and younger fans, and between city or state officials and those parties that may hold strong emotions about issues related to the celebrities, whether they are artistic, political, or even criminal (hooligans bent on anarchy or property damage or theft under the cover of crowd chaos).

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